My Gripe with Antinatalism
Got this question on the ask.fm and I thought I made a pretty good answer to it. It's something I've been thinking a lot about lately. (Those in the know, know why.) Thought I would put the answer under a single link here.
"What exactly is your gripe with antinatalism? I don't mean strong, empowered womyn forcing themselves into not wanting children, but the actual ethical/philosophical stance. (No "it's creepy/unnatural" pls)"
First, an ethical & philosophical stance that can't make sense of universal human feels of "creepy" has a huge strike. What is philosophy but love of wisdom? And what could that wisdom be ABOUT but reality? A failure to make sense of actual lived reality therefore is a major mark against any proposed ethical view. Spherical cows in a vacuum-n-all that.
What's the basis of "creepy"? Let us agree that bacteria, bats, & bears have no concern for ethics. They keep on reproducing as do most humans. Why? Because nature seems to "desire" it. I happen to believe it's a transcendent good that species go on propagating: bacteria, bats, bears, as well as humans. But even if one's Transcendence Detector is broke, there is a very strong force in biology (even if we deem it a "cruel trick" played by "meaningless universe") to promote propagation of species. So is that force-call it gnon--normative? To suggest there's a force greater than gnon (nature and nature's god) that overrules what EVERY species is BEST FITTED TO DO is creepy--literally foreign to normal human exper: Creepy.
Ethical argument for hard antinatalism (i.e., conscious beings shouldn't exist, ipso facto wrong to bring one into the world) seems to rest on one (and only one) moral axis of ethics: harm/care. And a particular sort of maths on this axis where actual harm vastly outweighs a potential pleasure. Putatively moral beings ergo obligated to not do a harm, but not correspondingly obligated to provide a pleasure. Any child brought into the world will suffer *some* harm, which cannot be made up for by any amount of pleasures paid. Cannot do wrong that good may come. Ergo wrong to bring a child into the world.
I consider the line of reasoning bollocks for a few reasons:
First, why is harm/care axis so privileged to carry entire weight of the question? What of fairness/cheating, loyalty (!!), authority (!!), sanctity (!!!!), liberty/oppression? If these are all ways most humans think/feel about ethics, then it is unreasonable to derive ethical answers (ostensibly universal moral obligations) along one axis only. Only autists wld think that way. They might be brilliant, but still wrong. In this case not EVEN wrong.
Perhaps one could argue that harm/care is the most "rational" axis upon which to base one's ethical views. But if you believe that all axes of moral reasoning are illusions, then why privilege one illusion over another illusion? If the Universe really is a cold uncaring meaningless place, foisting evil illusions on us, then it certainly doesn't give a fig about harm/care, to say nothing of the illusion of "rationality". Why should you or I care?
Second: harms & pleasures do not sum by this simple acctg method. Most harms whether consented to or not, add up to future pleasures, often in unimaginably complex ways that cannot easily be traced. Suffering is usually (I happen to believe always ultimately) redemptive. I can't prove always. But I can prove "usually".
Also, no one experiences the sum total of all their harms plus pleasures at one instant of time-space. This calculus of weighing the sum of all perceived harms and pleasures and finding out whether "utility" is greater than "zero" is an activity in which only a tiny fraction of humans participate, or even think to participate. More importantly, for even the few who would attempt this sum, it would vary in individuals (at least in theory) from one moment to the next. The only authoritative measure of human utility is therefore purely subjective, and attempts to use proxies like "those people sure don't *look like* they value their lives very much" are quite implausible for a number of reasons.
So if I didn't know any better, I'd believe such thinkers started w/the conclusion ("it is wrong to procreate") and worked backward to the strongest possible argument, ignoring not only other moral axes, but even the very way the harm/care axis itself works in human experience.