Sunday, July 11, 2021

Means and Ends- The Red Button Revisited

Just a little survey, folks, for both antinatalists and efilists. So, I recently purchased a nifty little gadget from World Extinguishers Inc., a small box displaying only a single red button and nothing more. The instructions state that pushing the button will cause the entire Earth...along with everything and everyone else, naturally...to instantaneously un-become, disappearing into absolute nothingness without a trace. Nobody will see it coming, and nobody will feel a thing. Shall I push the red button?

Now imagine the same scenario, the only difference being that all living beings will suffer excrutiating pain for 10 seconds. Shall I push the red button now?

Same deal as before, but the excrutiating suffering lasts for 5 minutes. Shall I push the red button?

Same deal again, but now it's an hour of suffering. Shall I push the red button?

Again, but now it's a day of suffering.

A month.

A year.

One hundred years.

One thousand years.

One million years.

You can also choose 'under no circumstances'.

No wrong answers here, folks. Just make your choice and explain your rationale as best you can in the comments section. Thanks in advance for your participation. Comment moderation is off for the present time so you can talk amongst yourselves.

ADDENDUM: I probably should make everyone aware that I'll be pushing pretty hard here at times, friend and foe alike. All I can do is assure y'all that there's a method to my madness which will become clearer as we roll along. Nothing personal.

31 comments:

Karl said...



Not sure I'd be willing to press that one. A button that sterilised all humans would be far more tempting.

metamorphhh said...

Hey, Karl! So you're in the none of the above camp, then? This means that you are willing to let the death machine continue rolling over every living thing, generation after generation, rather than push a button that would immediately end all suffering on this planet now and forever. It would basically be like going to sleep and never waking up. How do you justify your position?

Also, thanks for being the first person to respond. I should come up with some sort of little prize. I'm in the middle of making jewelry for wedding my daughter's attending. Would you like a bracelet? Hmmm...? lolol!

Karl said...

Hey, Jim!

I guess in essence I don't have the chutzpah to impose my will/feelings on an unconsenting majority. To commit the greatest act of homicide in the cosmos is not really my style. I do have a respect for the liberty of others' to continue their lives if they wish, even if they get up to activities such as procreation that I cannot condone.

Also, I don't subscribe to the view that life is nothing but endless suffering. While structurally shot through by suffering, frustration and entropy the majority claim to enjoy it and find it worthwhile, so I'm not going to impose some form of Marxist "false consciousness" view on the opinions of others. My AN is of the prudential variety: procreation is a risk I cannot justify.

Also, the essence of AN is a certain kind of withdrawal and "non-action", ie desisting from the activities of the majority. To step in with one super-duper form of activity, ie ending all life seems oddly dissonant to me with the spirit of AN.

Hope that clarifies!

metamorphhh said...

Karl- What would you say is the basis of your moral perspective? Would you consider yourself to be a 'subjectivist' in such matters? As opposed to, say, what I understand to be the efilist's deotological position of objective moral states and their concomitant obligations?

How do you feel the existence of good in the world, or the fact that the majority of people ostensibly enjoy their lives, mitigates against the basic AN position that life is ultimately not worthwhile? Also, are you making an argument against the existence of optimism bias here, or just the idea of asserting it?

I'm not sure I follow your last paragraph. I understand your position where it particularly addresses procreation, but I'm not sure how that extends to the OP.

Above all, thanks for playing along, Karl. I'd like to think that this dialogue has the potential to bear some tastly philosophical fruit, and I apologize in advance to anyone choosing to participate if I come across as overbearing in my questioning. Like I said before, there really is a method to my madness. :)

Karl said...

Hey, Jim.

Over the past few years my position on morality has become more sceptical, I must admit. A sort of combination of subjectivist and social custom.

I'm a bit more sceptical also about Benatar's asymmetry, and the assigning of values he gives to the various presences and absences of pleasure and pain.

I guess that's why, as I was saying, my position is fundamentally prudential AN: I simply haven't got it in me to take the enormous risk and responsibility for launching a new life into this very uncertain, death-guaranteed shitstorm of a universe. I can't do it, won't do it, and can only shake my head when I see nearly everyone else at it. (And equally I wouldn't press the red button for similar reasons. Who am I to decide such a thing?)

But as I said before I think the so-called 'optimism bias' doesn't quite do the work a lot of ANs think it does. If people are happy, they're happy. And people's enjoyment and positivity are just as much facts and realities of the universe as are the shitty parts. The dwelling on the optimism bias can be massively overdone and as we see with Gary and various other online ANs they could equally be accused of a pessimism bias, where every single thing humans claim to enjoy is tagged as a 'delusion' or 'just chemicals' or some such. But they rarely apply such reductionism to their own extreme position.

I guess there's plenty more to be said, but that's all I got right now!

Weirdo said...

Hello. I tried to submit a comment here yesterday but did so on my garbage mobile browser, so it wasn't clear if the submission in fact happened. Did you get a comment from me?

Weirdo said...

Oh, well I see that comments go directly through and don't need approval, so clearly my comment from yesterday didn't make it.

Here's the gist of what I wrote:

I'm an ex-AN, so I'm not sure if I should be participating. (A small part of the reason I'm not an AN anymore is that there is something about the "movement" that attracts the most odious people I've ever had the misfortune to encounter in any context, the most repellent of all being inmendham--btw I'm really glad to see that you've been going to town lambasting that utter POS moron--and I take seriously the teaching "by their fruits ye shall know them." To be sure, I think you're a gem, Jim, and a striking exception to the AN rule.)

I still think life on earth is basically a pile of shit, though I'm much more conscious than I used to be of the degree to which this perception is colored by my own fucked-up personality. The difference is that now I'm a Christian, after many years as an atheist and naturalist, so I don't see AN as the right answer to my negative outlook anymore. If I became convinced again that there is no supernatural justification, for want of a better word, for this life, I would welcome its disappearance. So in principle I'd be committed to pressing the button. But being realistic, if I were actually given the opportunity to press it, I think my conscience would prevent me from going ahead with it. From my counterfactual self within this scenario, I would see that failure as lacking a rational basis, but I'm pretty sure it would still happen.

Back to what I'd do "in principle," I don't think I could accept imposing more than 30 seconds of agony on everyone. Why 30 seconds? I don't know. Just one of those "moral intuitions" that has no obvious foundation.

metamorphhh said...

Karl and Weirdo- Would it be fair to say that both of your answers to the OP reflect a decision made according to emotional sensibilities, rather than being informed by any kind of transcendent value state (or intrinsic, if you prefer...maybe we'll get into that later)? Especially the kind of value state that brings with it a binding obligation?

And yes, Inmendham is an ignorant, self-servig piece of shit. He's also obviously a sadist as well as a flaming misogynist, which is a terrible and quite scary combination. I feel awful that I ever gave him any credence, though I suppose the truism of broken clocks holds here. Fact is, many of us in the AN community could relate to the emotional pain he expresses. That's where he gets his hooks into people, via the shared feelings of suffering he expresses with such passion and bombast. Ironic considering his constant claims of personal rationality, since really he's never quite managed to break out of his emotional diapers.

He also turns out to be a rather pervy exhibitionist, which seems to appeal to some of the more feeble minded of his tiny little flock. But I digress...:)

metamorphhh said...

Btw, recently there have been some terrific YouTube exposes about our favorite tinfoil hat wearing Ted Bundy wannabe that I've been meaning to post on my YT channel, but I can't figure out how to make it work on my tablet, so until I get around to firing up one of the old pcs, I'm afraid you'll have to find them yourselves if you haven't already. If anybody has the links readily available, feel free to post them here. I'll always make time to slap the runt around a little bit :)

Weirdo said...

I'd say that's right in my case. Moral realism, and normative realism more generally, without God has never made any sense to me. So if my theism went, I'd be back to my old atheism and nihilism. It'd be hard to imagine much of a basis for pressing the button under those circumstances other than my own sense that things on Earth are pretty horrendous. Obviously it'd be a sense informed by my knowledge of others' discontent, suffering, etc., but I'd also be setting aside all the happiness and good shit, this being where the personal judgment very clearly comes in. All this dependence on my own stance on things and little else would definitely play into my failure to have the nerve to in actuality press the button.

Weirdo said...

The reason I say this "Obviously it'd be a sense informed by my knowledge of others' discontent, suffering" is to indicate what would pretentiously be called an "intersubjective" aspect in the process of deciding to press the button. But, as I go on to point out, obviously the intersubjective considerations would only go so far since I'd also be discounting all the happy people and nice stuff that people like. I think it's fair to say that this discounting happens because of an intuition that is at the root of AN and other anti-life views: the bad is more bad than the good is good.

It's strange. I sometimes find myself torn between the thought that certain things go on in this world that are so horrendous it'd be better for the whole planet to blow up so they can never happen again. But what pulls in the other direction is the impression that the aggregate goodness in the world is sufficient to make such a blowing up very tragic, sometimes but not always seeming intolerably tragic to me.

Weirdo said...

Jim, I hope you don't mind if I ask a difficult question in return :)

I'm not sure why this has only just occurred to me, but now that it has I thought I should bring it up. Someone has probably asked this at some point in the past, so forgive me if this is going to make you repeat yourself.

I'm having difficulty seeing how pro-red-buttonism can be made consistent with opposition to what you appropriately call inmendham's evilism. I think we're all in agreement that inmendham's psychotic shit about how he'd deal with pregnant women who won't abort their kids is completely repulsive and evil. But if doing that to spare the unborn children the harms of life is beyond the pale, shouldn't the red button be also? Even if we posit a whole bunch of stuff--the pregnant woman is, uhh, neutralized in a painless way, she's socially cut off so no one will be harmed by her death, etc.--I would still insist that what inmendham advocates is disgustingly evil, and I imagine you would too. If that's all correct, though, how does exterminating everyone via the red button fly?

metamorphhh said...

Weirdo- For the time being I'd like to put your question on the shelf and remain the inquisitor. I imagine I'll eventually write a post outlining what I've learned here, as well as the conclusions I've drawn, however tentative they may be (I'm a man in flux...:). Along the way I plan to continue exercising my poison pen hand now and again, since insult and ridicule seem to be the only language Mosher understands.

Honestly, have you EVER met anyone as absolutely oblivious in your life? It's getting tough for me to follow along any more, I find him so intellectually vulgar. It actually feels pretty silly giving him any attention at all, like arguing with a bush or something. However, I also see a lot of the same shit in him that informed the leader of the xtian cult I was in for over 7 years, and that gets me to thinking about the desperate people who hang on his every word. For as much as its true believers would protest, evilism is really nothing more than a personality cult with maybe a thin veneer of common sense gleaned from the larger AN perspective.

Karl said...


Jim, I'm not quite sure what you mean by "transcendent value state". My thoughts about morality and so on have become more chaotic as the years have advanced.

I'm in danger of repeat mode here, but roughly I admit to the fact that for want of any overarching infallible Judge if someone thinks their life is worthwhile and meaningful then therefore it is. Who am I or anyone else to say otherwise?

I also believe people casually think Benatar's AN is a form of utilitarianism, but it isn't. it hinges on the asymmetry, with some empirical suppositions added on to strengthen the case.

But I've come to doubt the asymmetry, and think that the absence of pleasure and absence of pain can validly be described as neither good nor bad, given that there is no moral agent to which such states can be ascribed. (I'm referring here to the "X never exists" in the asymmetry graph in BNTHB).

We're then left with X exists, and the presence of pain (bad) and the presence of pleasure (good) cancel each other out and the value of life becomes a contingent dependent experience. I would also say that purely in terms of judging a life it's pretty crude anyway, given that for many people one source of pleasure is enough to justify a life even if the rest of it is boredom or suffering.

There may also be a deeper supposition of value anyway in the asymmetry, as it asumes the potential life is an agent worthy of protection from harm, in which case it seems that human life may have an intrinisic value regardless of the contingencies of pleasure and pain. In which case, non-birth due to potentiality of pain may indeed become a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.

Weirdo said...

No problem, Jim.

And yeah, inmendham's lack of self-awareness has to be worthy of a Guinness World Records entry.

In all my vituperating of him here, I'm going off of my memory of videos from the Neanderthal throwback that I saw years ago, because not long after that I refused to subject myself to any more of his bilge, and consequently I haven't seen anything more recent. So maybe some of what I've got to say isn't that relevant anymore. (Does the idiot change at all though? Every one of his shit vids that I saw was the same.) But I distinctly recall one video in which he declared himself the greatest philosopher in human history. We're talking about a moron who thinks repeatedly screaming "suffering is bad" is an argument for the objectivity of his preferred "morality." We're also talking about an idiot who proclaims himself a die-hard uncompromising utilitarian but then puts out garbage rambles where he insists on the objective importance of rights, consent, and other deontological concepts.

Weirdo said...

Oh btw Jim, whatever happened to the interview you did with the psycho?

Andrew McIntosh said...

I settled my mind on this question on the basis of imposition. My views of Life are subjective. They can be defended rationally, but the outcome is still subjective. I don't think any living, feeling and thinking being can be utterly objective about Life, for various reasons.

That being so, I keep in mind that other conscious beings have the same subjectivity. However, I also keep in mind that all of us, regardless of views, are driven on by urges beyond reason. Living organisms evolve to exist, and not from any rational perspective, however subjective. But I'm prepared to state that the majority view, not just of humans, is to continue their existence. Personally, I don't have to like it any more than hate it, because my view is just my own.

So - if I had the kind of power under discussion, ie, the power to end all Life, I wouldn't do it, and I would justify it on the basis that, to the best of my knowledge, the majority of living, feeling things don't want to die and want to keep perpetuating. I'm taking a position of what I suppose is both respect for other opinions and understanding the limits of my own.

I understand the Mosherist position is that consent is not necessary if the overall objective is the total elimination of suffering. More than twice I've seen the example of an animal trapped in a trap, but would resist humans trying to free it out of fear, and therefore not being aware the humans mean to do it good rather than harm. It's far from a convincing argument and in my view just goes back to the kind of personal hubris they usually have. These are people that say it's okay to kill a pregnant woman who want have an abortion because you've told her to. Their concept of morality is not worth considering reasonably.

Andrew McIntosh said...

I should also point out - World Extinguishers are not a repetitional company. They had to recall their Reality-Detonator 500s because of flaws that made them dangerous. It's a matter of time before one of their products gets someone hurt.

Antiantinatalist said...

i am an anti-anist. i personally believe that an raises some pertinent concerns. the alleviation of suffering, and the creation of a more humane society is something that we need to emphasise a lot more. however, i simply don't see how the absence of the negatives can be a positive but the absence of the positives cannot be a negative. nonexistent beings don't desire nonexistence either, so the argument that nonexistent beings don't want happiness doesn't seem to hold much value. some would say that most people are "biased" and that life is "objectively bad". however, i believe that this idea ignores the nuances of human perspective. a lot of people can find their lives to be deeply meaningful despite of suffering horribly. furthermore, a "bias" which actually helps a person live a valuable life isn't necessarily problematic. lastly, i don't see how the concept of consent could be applied to nonexistent beings. people routinely give the example of harming an unconscious person here. but i don't think that this is a fair analogy. firstly, it would be myopic to believe that creating the potential for having a meaningful life is the same as harming a person. secondly, violating the consent of an existing person can decrease their well-being. but that's clearly not the case with people who don't even exist yet. in light of all this, i believe that universal an is (ultimately) an untrue philosophy that should not be imposed upon others. but i have a lot more respect for traditional an when compared to the unethical and irrational mess that evilism is. hopefully, we would be able to create a truly civilised world for all once things such as transhumanism and the right to die become more popular. hope you have a wonderful day!

Antiantinatalist said...

Wise words, Andrew. But you and I both know that they are too far gone to realise that. I am afraid that the harm they have unleashed upon the world hasn't even begun yet. But the signs are there. I saw a video where this efilist/promortalist was casually filming this accident site from her house and talking about how amazing it was that the person lost their life. This is an unimaginable darkness of irrationality and misery.

Yours sincerely
Ani

Anonymous said...

What if one has learned to enjoy the suffering in the world? For some it provides endless amounts of entertainment and schadenfreude. Watching humans get ravaged by natural disasters, after they have all but wrecked the biosphere could be the greatest show on earth!

Anonymous said...

"Especially the kind of value state that brings with it a binding obligation?" Is/ought problem?

Button Pusher said...

Speaking of big Red Buttons, each time when I go this blog there is a big Red Button which says:

This blog may contain sensitive content. In general, Google does not review nor do we endorse the content of this or any blog. For more information about our content policies, please visit the Blogger Community Guildelines.
[I UNDERSTAND AND I WISH TO CONTINUE]

Does anyone else have this problem? It was not like this before. Maybe the blog author needs to change some blog settings.

Anonymous said...

It is not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger. - David Hume

Anonymous said...

One 'expert' after another has predicted a 'cure for cancer' since 1971. Despite huge expenditures and great increases in knowledge about cancer, and serious successes in a few categories, we are nowhere near a total cure nor a total prevention for those thousands of diseases lumped under the name 'cancer.

Anonymous said...

School is for suckers, work is for suckers, voting is for suckers, getting old is for suckers, life is for suckers.

Anonymous said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMcwD0-YGgA

Anonymous said...

Don't have children: they deform women's bodies and turn into an enemy 20 years later. -Marquis de Sade

Unknown said...

I would never push it under any circumstances as I firmly believe that we can alter this reality back to Paradise where all beings will have ONLY ever increasing pleasure and never any pain aver again, even in potential form. I agree that it is best to not take birth in this temporal cosmos of misery and as long as misery is here. But I have a solid view that there IS an eternal Paradise realm beyond this one and beings should STAY in that state as long as they want to. I'm a Formfulist and I have a view similar to the Gnostic view.
That the being behind and running "this" particular world is malevolent and indifferent (indifference and even randomness I see as still being 2 types of malevolence)
The only way it would ever get pushed by me is if someone forced my hand or tortured me into pushing it. But then it would not have been my actual choice to do so.
So my actual answer would be I would never CHOOSE to push it under any circumstances OF MY OWN ACCORD if not forced to do so. But I would have to if forced to as I would not voluntarily allow myself to be tortured of course. As it would eventually have to get pushed by me anyway if the torture was bad enough for me obviously.


To me literal "nothingness" is almost as bad as excruciating pain. Inability to feel ANY pleasure whatsoever is ALMOST as bad as torturous pain in my opinion.
Not quite as bad but ALMOST as bad.
I DO NOT believe that pleasure "requires" pain as a counterpart for it to exist in the first place
To me that is a bullshit concept. Maybe it is that way in "this" world, but not in actual deeper reality beyond this world.

I think the major difference here is that I have a solid belief that is reasonable about Paradise beyond this world that we CAN attain or rather "re-attain" beyond the grip of the malevolent being "demiurge behind this particular world of suffering and pain.

So although I do agree it is best to not be born into "this" particular world, I do not agree with the idea of "nothingness" or anything of that sort.
That's almost as bad as this shitty world set up is.
"Nothingness" is NOT that much better than suffering.

Now if someone does not believe in an actual Paradise of ever increasing pleasure then sure I can see why they would assume nothingness is the best possible option.
But I do not agree with the "nothingness" premise.

In fact just like I would have to verify Paradise, you would have to verify that an "actual" nothingness is even possible in the first place.
If you are considering it to be like an "indefinite deep sleep" then that is different from an ACTUAL nothingness and indicates that you could potentially wake up from it at some point in eternity.

Anonymous said...

I can imagine a dystopian future where all children come from artificial wombs. They will be sterile, and raised with the values of the state. They will have a relatively short lifespan, only their productive years will be considered useful. They will be accustomed to living in an incredibly small spaces, getting minimal sleep, and eating very little. Taking care of their basic needs will be more than offset by their productivity. It appears that people in developed parts of the world are breeding at below replacement level. I don't think most AN's have given this possibility much thought.

Anonymous said...

https://www.themycologist.com/the-blessing-of-extinction