Antinatalism vs. The Non-Identity Problem

The non-identity problem backfires against opponents of antinatalism

Non-Identity and the Consent Argument

One of the most commonly cited philosophical grounds for rejecting antinatalism is the so-called “non-identity problem”, which posits that procreation cannot be an unethical violation of consent due to the fact that a person does not exist in order to be imposed upon prior to the act of creation, and therefore no ethical trespass has been committed. If you were to read or listen to any rebuttal of antinatalism, the chances are that this is one of the first arguments that you will encounter. The normally excellent Philosophy Tube did a disappointingly cursory video about antinatalism and summarily concluded that the non-identity problem is fatal to antinatalism; as there was no person suspended in the abyss who had any desire not to come into existence, and to find that state of affairs preferable to being born.

This rebuttal misses the point that antinatalism is about preventing a harm, rather than bestowing a benefit. It also seems to be something of a straw-man argument. As an antinatalist, I am not concerned with preserving the non-existent in some blissful ethereal antechamber where they will enjoy their perpetual state of protection from suffering. My ethical concern does not relate to the void that precedes the existence of the person. It pertains to the person who will come into existence in the future. As Youtube philosopher inmendham analogised it best, procreation forces a person onto a tightrope strung out over the pits of hell, and one misstep or gust of wind can send you hurtling down to be impaled on the daggers below. If procreation is prevented, then this prevents an individual from coming into existence who may find that existence to be burdensome, and may resent the imposition. They won’t enjoy a benefit from that prevention; however prevention need not confer the experience of relief in order to be valuable. The value of the prevention is in the fact that we do not create suffering. As the person never comes into existence, the “benefit” of relief from suffering, is never needed.

The Principle of Maximin Reasoning

I believe that most people would agree that consent is often an important pre-requisite to permit you to make decisions on behalf of others. However, as opponents of antinatalism have correctly pointed out, there are numerous scenarios in which the ethically appropriate course of action may involve violating the consent of another. Such examples could include decisions being made on behalf of a dependent child, such as deciding to take them to the dentist, or having them vaccinated. As young children have insufficient life experience to know what is in their best interests all of the time, it is incumbent upon a responsible adult (usually a parent) to make decisions on their behalf which may not coincide with what the child wants at the time, but which are likely to be in the child’s long term interest. Thus, we have compelling ethical grounds to allow us to violate the child’s consent in the expectation of having served their long term interests to avoid suffering. As an antinatalist, I would not dispute that this is often the case, and would not aver that one can never act without the consent of a living person regarding decisions that can have profound ramifications on their future wellbeing.

However, this counterargument ignores a key distinction between examples such as the one above, and decisions taken on behalf of a person yet to exist. Namely, the person who already exists already has a present welfare state that must be protected, and because they exist in the present, they will have a future welfare state which is going to be determined by the decisions made today. Consequently, when you are making a decision on behalf of a young child, or an elderly adult, you must perform a cost-benefit analysis in order to determine whether the short term detriment (i.e. acting against the person’s will, or without their knowledge) is going to be more harmful or less harmful in the long term than abstaining from making that choice.

Because you can prevent your as yet in-existent child from coming into existence, and from having any future wellbeing state at all, you cannot appeal to the same line of reasoning that would enable you to make decisions on behalf of an already born child. That’s because, unlike in any of these scenarios in which the person has already been born, you have an option available to you that would avoid any risk of future harm to the child. Namely, you can abstain from bringing the child into existence in the first place. An entity which never comes into existence, can never be harmed, and it can never want for the pleasures that existence could afford them. In other words, you must invoke maximin reasoning here; which means that; rather than take into account the full spectrum of probability regarding the outcome of that child’s life, you may only consider the worst possible outcomes. If those worst possible outcomes result in serious harm, then you cannot ethically justify the act of procreation. Abstaining from procreation would result in a perfectly harmless outcome for the hypothetical person who would have come into existence (i.e. they will never exist, and will thus never form an identity or a set of interests that can be benefitted); thus in order to justify your imposition, you must restore symmetry by explaining how procreation will also be perfectly harmless. This must be true not only for the child you create, but for all of their descendants as well. And arguably also for any sentient beings whose welfare state they will affect.

Unlike the child who may get sick because they weren’t vaccinated, the child who was never born cannot be identified, and thus no meaningful comparison can be made which would allow one to assert that the child was worse off for never coming into existence. Therefore, the non-identity problem not only fails as a refutation of antinatalism; it actually backfires against the pro-natalist side of the argument and becomes, in my opinion, one of the most robust and devastating weapons in the antinatalist arsenal.

The Asymmetry Between Pleasure and Pain

The only way that natalists can salvage the non-identity problem would be to radically subvert civilisation’s normally agreed-upon rules of ethics and instead of consent being required; an explicit refusal of consent would be required in order to prevent the 3rd party from acting, as opposed to the normal situation in which the absence of verbalised consent would mean that consent has not been obtained. Otherwise, special pleading would be needed to justify why the rules of consent could be violated in this particular instance, despite the fact that a non-existent entity could not be at any danger of being harmed.

Baked into this exercise in ethical subversion is the assumption that life itself is a profitable endeavour, and that the existence of pleasure constitutes a just reason to introduce the risk of suffering. This would therefore constitute the grounds for special pleading being presented in defence of procreation.

Under the normal ethical rules of civilisation, there is first an obligation to do no harm; and no obligation at all to give someone pleasure. If you can give someone pleasure without foreseeably causing them serious harm, then it is optional to give someone pleasure without asking for their consent first. You could illustrate this with the example of an unsolicited birthday gift. The gift would be anticipated to satisfy existing desires or needs, and therefore enhance the quality of life of the recipient, in some way. When shopping for a gift for a friend, one would normally be expected to take pains to ensure that they are not going to be burdening their friend with the burden of maintenance that they may not be prepared to accept (hence a live animal such as a dog would not usually be considered an appropriate choice of gift, unless this had been discussed with the recipient previously, or unless you were already aware that the recipient wanted a dog, and what type of dog they wanted). A considerate gift giver would also take into account the needs and desires of their friends, and tailor their choice accordingly. The recipient must always retain the right to refuse the gift at the point of receipt, or to dispose of it.

In praise of life, you will undoubtedly have often heard it said that life is a precious gift that is bestowed upon us by our parents. But the problem with this claim, is that the “gift of life” seems to fall foul of each one of the criteria listed above.

And the problem is compounded by the fact that the opponents of antinatalism cannot even seem to keep their story straight. No sooner have they invoked the non-identity problem to wave away the ethical concerns of antinatalists, than they have started to impute needs and desires onto an as-yet inexistent individual (or even the universe itself) in order to justify the creation of that individual. The natalist is proposing to create a problem that needn’t exist in order to allow for the chance for the problem to be solved to a satisfactory degree. That is to say, they want desires to be satisfied, even though those desires can only be satisfied up to the extent that a yawning cavern of desire was opened up within that individual’s psychology to begin with, constantly demanding to be filled in; never satisfied for long. Whilst desire is not an intrinsically negative experience itself, it is always a liability. For as long as you have a desire, you run the risk of failing to satisfy that desire, which will result into falling into a state of deprivation. And as is observed from the psychological phenomenon of the hedonic treadmill effect, you can’t just satisfy a desire once, and then remain permanently satisfied with what you have gained. As soon as that one desire is satisfied, then another one arises to take its place.

In order to further illustrate the problem of desire; I would liken desire to the poles of a magnet. There is a negative pole of suffering, and a positive pole of pleasure. Only the negative pole exerts a magnetic pull on the individual, which reflects the fact that striving is usually required to secure pleasure; whereas if you exert no effort at all, then you will inexorably be drawn into an ever deepening pit of suffering. This needn’t even require a lapse on your part in actively attempting to maintain forward movement towards the pole of pleasure. It may be that a barrier outside of your control gets in your way and trips you up, and you hurtle backwards towards the pole of suffering until you are able to gain your footing once again and resume your forward motion. These barriers which may impede your progress may be so manifold that you could never possibly anticipate every one of them. Even if you consider the human body itself; your comfort and pleasure depends on maintaining a minimum standard of health, with every organ functioning as it should be, no significant damage to any muscles or bones, and so on. If you develop a significant injury or malady in even one of the vast number of constituent parts of your body, then the pain or discomfort from that is likely to be sufficient to vitiate any pleasure that you might have been experiencing, as you will become focused on relief from the suffering. This suffering must be ameliorated as a precondition before you can even start to attain pleasure.

As I hope to have illustrated; by following the line of reasoning opened up by the non-identity problem, we find profound weaknesses in the pro-natalist position, and in an honest debate, it would be difficult to assess that the natalist argument has gained any traction in the debate whatsoever. The only reason that it is still winning, is because people were already disposed towards favouring life to begin with, and in the example of suicide prevention for example, are willing to use state sanctioned coercion to silence opposition and ensure that life-affirming philosophy carries the day. Unfortunately, as is the case with suicide, this debate has not been a fair one, to date, and much like the Philosophy Tube video linked at the start of the post, opponents of antinatalism are quick to shuck off challenges to their worldview with superficial arguments, seeming to uphold the virtue of life, but which collapse upon further scrutiny.

Please feel free to add your comments below, or discuss on Reddit at r/DebateAntinatalism or r/BirthandDeathEthics for uncensored debate. As always, all perspectives are welcome. More posts exploring different rebuttals of antinatalism and efilism (and perhaps expanding upon some of the topics touched upon here) will follow in due course. Please also subscribe using the form below, and visit the homepage for an index of all the blog’s published content.

existentialgoof – 19th September 2021

88 comments

  1. Interesting post man, I’m not familiar with the debate, so I have a few questions I want to ask you, and see your opinion on them, since you are more into the discussion.

    1. Why not taking into account probability and only focus on the worst possible outcomes? There’s the possibility that I may get into a car crash, every single time that I drive off the road, however I believe that very few people actually do get into them in contrast to the people that drive safe to their destination. Now from the antinatalist perspective, (if I got this straight) Why even bother to make the choice? if you could just, work at home for example. Maybe because the destination is worth the risk, since I’m going against favorable odd’s (in the case of a flat road for example). Now while even with a good background you are still gambling against all sorts of risks both physical and emotional, you won’t get every bad outcome possible, leave alone, the worst of them all. So you can prepare yourself to face one terrible fate, like for example: physical disability, while it is awful to suffer such fate, people still have found a happy outcome in the end or joy in it. Now I’m not gonna talk for everyone here, you can still apply my own logic and put into probability how many people with an awful event have actually got a good outcome in the end. But then again, that’s even on the case that you are gonna get a terrible condition at all, and humans certainly do not live forever, so you are not gambling forever.

    2. I dont agree with your magnet analogy, I do believe that a lack of pleasure can create suffering, more specific boredom, or the pain of loss. But I also think that in order for that to be, you have to introduce pleasure first, it doesn’t happen on its own. Thats the reason why animals dont get bored as often as humans do, since they lack the reasoning and experience to desire something more than the pleasure they get from food, sleep or sex. Same thing goes with humans, you cant be dependant on a drug if you haven’t taken it first. Now I also dont believe that pleasure is only desirable on the face of pain. You need food in order to overcome hungriness, but even if someone’s not hungry, he still gets the desire to eat a pizza, now even if said person doesn’t get to eat pizza tonight, for whatever reason, he won’t fail into crippling depression, or even slight annoyance. I believe this is relative for each individual, my point being that pleasure is not merely an answer to suffering, it can be, which is fine, but desire’s create themselves alone, if they ever get experienced, and the need to renovate said pleasure, if it fails to do so, won’t necessarily create pain.

    3. The risk of losing a desire or pleasure, or not meeting a goal, is not that high to begin with. This again is subjective for the individual, probably the most subjective point I’m going to make, but so is the general human experience. If a person’s sources of happiness are not hard to meet, then the risk of losing them won’t be high in the first place, thus it can maintain itself for a long period of time. As this is relative to a person’s interests, personality and past, I cannot talk for everyone, but me for example, my only conditions for happiness are limited to taking a walk and seeing the beautiful enviroment where I live, sharing time with my wife, and enjoying my usual pleasures like food, entertaiment and water, etc. I have bigger desires, yes, but wether they get realized or not, really won’t change my state of being, since I’m honestly happy with what I got, and dont need much else. All of this still runs the risk of loss, which can create great pain, but is on the account of minimal probability, so I dont get fear of any bad outcome. Despite all of this, if I suffer the fate of losing permanently any of these, I have the hope of eventually overcoming said outcomes, since I believe that people get stronger with pain, as I have done the past. So yeah, there would be great suffering, but worth taking as I’ll get through it, and get better. This again is entirely subjective, even then, I cant be 100% sure that each negative scenario will be solved as I plan to, but with probability on my side, I have not much to fear, and lots to enjoy.

    However I do believe, that a palinless death can come handy to an individual thats suffering a great deal of pain, and cant get out of it, despite his efforts, thats why I support the right to die, and humanity should create more method’s for accomplishing that goal, since while its more likely to get a good outcome, it’s not a certainty.

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    1. An apology if any part of my comment suffers from bad grammar or poor redaction, english is not my main languague

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    2. 1. The reason for making any decision whilst you’re alive is that the benefits seem to outweigh the risks and the drawbacks for not deciding. As long as you are alive, you can be disappointed with your choice, and may suffer. But that isn’t the case for the unborn. Since non-existence is perfectly harmless, then you have to guarantee existence will be perfectly harmless, as the only ethical grounds for imposing risk of harm would be if you were saving them from a harm that would probably be greater.

      2. Humans have a more complex psychology, and I think that’s why we have more complex desires and needs than other animals. As well as the basic needs, we have higher level needs for entertainment, we have more complicated relationships and so on. I think that the extent to which you’re going to suffer deprivation of a pleasure is going to be proportional to the extent to which you coveted the desideratum in the first place. So if it was just the case that you wanted a takeaway pizza, but all the shops were closed so you had to do without, then that isn’t going to lead to a crippling depression, because the desire for pizza was a passing whim. I don’t think that you can really say that you have to introduce pleasure first, because the need for pleasure is inextricable from the liability that you’ll suffer if you don’t receive enough of it. And of course, the same goes for things like live, relationships and so on. And I believe that the degree to which you can suffer deprivation of these things is actually more intense than the amount of pleasure you’re actually going to get from them; at least in most cases.

      3. If you’ve managed to keep your needs minimal, then that’s probably the best way to live. It seems like you have a high hedonic set-point, which is always beneficial. But that doesn’t represent the situation of everyone, and many people are unable to obtain in life even the relatively modest requirements that you have for a good life. Even if you’re happy with the odds for yourself, that doesn’t really mean that you can ethically impose life on someone else, as their psychology may not be calibrated to be satisfied as easily as you are, and you may not be able to protect them from the ravages of harm that you can barely imagine. It’s true that suffering makes one more resilient, but then that still doesn’t mean that the suffering itself is good, but merely necessary in order to be able to withstand suffering. And also, if your kids are never born, they won’t need to become resilient for anything.

      Your grammar and everything for the most part are fine.

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  2. An excellent post. Loved the ending!
    > The only reason that it is still winning, is because people were already disposed towards favouring life to begin with, and in the example of suicide prevention for example, are willing to use state sanctioned coercion to silence opposition and ensure that life-affirming philosophy carries the day.

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  4. Good evening there,
    Re:
    The issue is with imposing life on those who cannot consent and who may not share the same value system and might not find life to be worth the cost. That’s what has to be prevented.
    ….and that it wasn’t an extremely harmful imposition.
    There should be no more impositions of life…

    You seem to argue that not producing a child is somehow a safer, more warranted choice. That’s simply false:

    1. You can’t ask an egg if it wants to be fertilised, so it can neither consent to being fertilised nor to not being fertilised. If anything, not producing a particular human being is a decision you can never undo. Producing a human being is something that person can easily undo at their own leisure. Just don’t throw yourself in front of a train because that’s a dick’s way to go.
    Efilism is a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron: they are promoting life ending but they are still around and finding excuses for keep leaving their lives and keep threatening the whole world blowing it up when opportunity arise out of resentment and selfishness.
    2. You are predicating an action: “to impose” over a non existing predicate/subject: a personhood.When parents procreate there isn’t any personhood grew up to ask about.
    3. we can introspect the child or adult about if it was a good thing they come alive and guess what is mostly the answer coming around: “they enjoy the life”, “they manage the suffering”, “they want to leave and share the gratitude”, “life is a gift” etc
    Once you get it from schopenhauer that poeple do what they want and what they want is to procreate you get the answer to your philosophy(you can not change want you want)

    in the other post you are affirming “”It pertains to the person who will come into existence in the future””.

    But you are in no logical ground to represent a priori the interests/right of something non existing, even more the future person most likely will not need your consent or careness about his/her suffering
    The efilists have problems with ontology because they are cryptoplatonist materialists, because they believe that good exists outside of human communication, that eudemonia or anti-eudemonia, suffering, good, evil, can crystallize in the universe itself that this can be a characteristic of the universe outside of communicating sentient beings.

    Re:”all of the evidence of my senses leads me to believe that I am not the only entity in existence that experiences suffering”.
    That’s where you are actually imposing your believes system a posteriori, see your comment
    The whole premise is wrong that suffering is the only game in town is to prevent it:

    No one cares about life just because of the feeling of pleasure and pain. Those aren’t the only things that matter. We appreciate life because of the opportunities to learn, the reaches of sensations and nature beauty, to create, and to experience new things. People are fighting in live to conquer new technologies, to shine and share their love with their descendants.
    If life is terminated, all those goods go away. True, no one would be around to miss them, but neither would anyone be around to appreciate the lack of pain.
    With nano and biotechnology around the corner the suffering will be terminated and even the brain state which leads you to suicidal mental states will never be an available option to start with.

    Re: I’m not sure what you’re saying is a logical fallacy. I don’t want to end the existence of sentient life because I’m suicidal personally. I want to do it in order to prevent the problem from being perpetuated onto others who didn’t have a say in being dragged into it.

    Producing a human being is something that person can easily undo at their own leisure. Just don’t throw yourself in front of a train because that’s a dick’s way to go.

    There’s something hyperfeminine and decadent about this antinatalist line of argument. We’re more pampered than ever in our developed societies, thanks to technoscientific and political progress, and antinatalists are still saying there’s too much pain—and indeed so much pain that our species should be shut down. This is like the woke progressive who says someone should be cancelled for committing a mere microaggression. This is unmanly.

    And I don’t credit the utilitarian conceit that the antinatalist is a moral purist. Far from being so moral in wanting to end every trace of pain, the antinatalist feels burdened by troubles, and wants to drag everyone down to his or her level out of resentment and selfishness. He/She feels like he’s nothing and she wants everyone else to be just as negligible (as in extinct). This is a contradictory, deranged argument that gets by on Orwellian doubletalk.

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    1. Sorry for the delay in responding to you. I’ve been without Internet for a couple of days. You cannot get consent for procreation, but that doesn’t mean that, by default, it must therefore be perfectly ethically acceptable to impose dreadful risks (harms which you would find unacceptable if you had to face them yourselves) without getting consent from the person who is going to be experiencing the consequences of your imposition. Your argument about imposing on a person yet to come into existence is mere semantics, and is a way to deflect from the real ethical question, which is whether it is ethical for you to undertake an action that is going to originate all of the harm that befalls a person who will have to suffer those consequences. And not only do you open the door to those consequences for your own children, but all successive generations which branch off from your children. And you’ve failed to address that. Even if the majority report that they are happy with their lives, that does not justify creating the bad lives that will never be enjoyed by their victim. People wanting to procreate does not justify allowing them to create a slave to their desires, who will have to bear untold consequences.

      Nobody needs the “goods” of life when they don’t exist, and the only way to assign value to life is based on the way that one feels. Therefore, there is no inherent value to life. There isn’t anything good in life other than satisfying a desire or a need that didn’t have to exist, or obtaining relief from avoiding a harm. There is no way of describing a “good” without reference to feelings, and then once you’ve referred to the goodness of those feelings, you’ll invariably come back to the fact that the “good” was mere fulfilment of a desire, and the cost of failing to fulfil it would have been to suffer a deprivation.

      Regarding your point about “undoing” the harms of life via suicide; this is where I can tell that you aren’t interested in discussing this with a shred of intellectual honesty, and frankly on that basis alone, I should not be allowing your comment to stand at all. It doesn’t take much imagination at all to understand how badly wrong a suicide attempt can go. You even mention suicide by train. Why do you think that people do end up resorting to dying by jumping in front of a train? Because that’s the most reliable method available to them, and due to the legal status of suicide, only the methods that are fraught with risk are available to a suicidal person. If you’d taken 10 seconds to perform an Internet search on the lethality of suicide methods, you would understand that failed suicides outnumber successful ones typically by a ratio of around 20 to 1 (and that’s from the US, where they have access to guns), and there are some terrible consequences to be paid by some of those who have failed at using one of the more violent suicide attempts that have a higher lethality rate. And that’s not even getting started on the fact that we have a powerful instinct towards self-preservation, for which intellect and philosophy alone are no match. It’s also absolutely disgusting that you would think that you’d done nothing wrong if you put someone in a situation where they’d need to kill themselves to get out of the harm that you’d landed them in, and that you would trivialise not only the act of harming them, but also the difficulties that they would face in trying to extricate themselves from that peril.

      The reason that people are more likely to be antinatalists now as opposed to the past when there was more raw suffering involved in day to day life, is that back then, people were basically narrowly focused on survival, and they were uneducated and had religion to provide a handy rationale for why they must toil so, and to put their struggles in the context of a greater meaning. People living comfortable 1st world lifestyles are still on the same treadmill of trying to keep up with need and desire, but they are equipped with an education that enables them to see the religious narratives as being lies and fantasies, and capable of understanding that there is no destination in sight.

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  5. Hello existentialgoof and appolgyse if my commment on suicide was not very much thought through. As I mentioned elsewhere, there are safe and non painful method and at least in Switzerland that is supported by state .
    So again, apologies for the train analogy passed through so misfortune . I am fully with your reasoning there

    Re:
    Nobody needs the “goods” of life when they don’t exist, and the only way to assign value to life is based on the way that one feels. Therefore, there is no inherent value to life. There isn’t anything good in life other than satisfying a desire or a need that didn’t have to exist, or obtaining relief from avoiding a harm.

    from your first arguments has two joins premises
    “Nobody needs the “goods” of life when they don’t exist – tautological true, needs but also pleasure are in life, outside life there are no personhoods, no requesters…TRUE(tautologicaly)
    you can not assign or derive any value actually outside of life. It is a moot point, it says nothing so far as an a priori proposition.

    If you want to validate a posteriori if people think that their life is valuable as it is, go and ask them, as I mentioned elsewhere most do not regret their lives, even some enduring pains and suffering

    “and the only way to assign value to life is based on the way that one feels.” –
    I repeat here “the way that one feels” – You must exist, to leave(LIFE), that is a prerequisite to any value based/philosophical system and self assesment
    (to talk about the personal value system, feelings and pursuits – life timeframe. and needs are important prerequisites here) I will not name only suffering since certain needs release dopamine in the brain and give different sensation then the pain you are interested in.

    Your Conclusion
    Therefore , there is no intrinsic value of life. –
    – That translates to there is no feeling as value of life(since the first proposition is tautologically true you can not derive anything logicaly , any conclusion from a definition of non existence, otherwise you will say that because NON existence is TRUE , LIFE is False),
    – But in your second proposition you defined VALUE as “and the only way to assign value to life is based on the way that one feels”(2nd part of the premises) you raised a contradiction.
    So from your premise you did not reach to a sound or valid conclusion but to a logical falacy: False diachotomy

    Then:
    “There isn’t anything good in life other than satisfying a desire or a need that didn’t have to exist, or obtaining relief from avoiding a harm.”
    scientists are the ones who tell us what’s intrinsic in our sensations, and neurologists don’t posit the rightness or the wrongness of the firing of our neurons that equals our sensations of pleasure and pain; so it looks like the normative evaluation of our factual sensations is optional; and how could it be otherwise? Just list the facts and see for yourself whether they have any normative implication.

    No one cares about life just because of the feeling of pleasure and pain/needs. Those aren’t the only things that matter. We appreciate life because of the opportunities to learn, to create, and to experience new things. people argue that talk of pain and pleasure misses the point: even if life isn’t good, it’s meaningful.
    If life is terminated, all those goods go away. True, no one would be around to miss them, but neither would anyone be around to appreciate the lack of pain.

    So if the you or antinatalist truly cares about people who are in pain, she’d have to care about the existence of personhood in general and all that the anomaly of life represents in the lifeless universe. Obviously, that means she’d have to be vehemently opposed to life’s extinction.
    There’s honour and heroic courage in carrying the torch from one generation to the next, despite all the hardships. Of course, we want to minimize those hardships, and many people are overwhelmed by them. But we also want to learn to get over them, to man up, to face dangers heroically like our ancient ancestors did who had hardly any of our luxuries. That is what most people life value

    Re:
    “and the cost of failing to fulfil it/desires would have been to suffer a deprivation.”
    It’s true that desire/motivation indicates an unsatisfactory condition. That’s how the emotional mechanism generates action: by creating emotional problems that can be solved by action to produce satisfaction. But desire/motivation is not pain. The same desire will generate experiences of both pain and pleasure.
    Motivation causes both pain and pleasure, and to explain: Basically, an increase in motivation is experienced as pain, and a decrease is experienced as pleasure. You are calling motivation “suffering” (pain), but motivation is not the same as the subjective experience of pain.
    It is not always true that pleasure comes from a pain or a need, it can be an increased value of fa ealing of pleasure too, a gradient transition
    For example, I can be taken by surprise by a phone call from a relative or a visit or a gift or whatever event that brings my feeling to a higher pleasure state compared with the previous

    I will come back with more comments, I really hope I found you well and try an enduring life and see above logical fallacy you raised above.
    Very late here, come back next time if you allow me to extend this conversation .
    Thanks!

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    1. Thanks for your apology regarding the suicide issue. Even in Switzerland, as far as I’m aware, you can’t just choose to die for any reason (I was chatting with someone who was denied due to their age) and there is still a hefty fee payable to whichever organisation whose services you are using. But Switzerland is in no way representative of the rest of the planet, in any case. Here in the UK, we haven’t yet even attained the stage at which we’ll allow the mercy of death even to the terminally ill in the final months of their lives, who are in constant agony.

      I found the rest of your comment rather difficult to understand, so you’ll have to correct me if I’ve misconstrued anything, or failed to understand anything. We don’t need to assess what proportion of people are enjoying their lives “a posteriori”. If we accept physicalism as being true, then we know that we haven’t deprived any of those people of their enjoyable existences by failing to bring them into existence. Therefore, if we imagine that antinatalism has prevented 1 million people from coming into existence (at the moment, this would seem to be a lofty aspiration to be sure), and we can assume based on the surveyed responses from those currently alive that 900,000 of those people would have probably been happy to be alive, but 100,000 were struggling with their existence and were finding it difficult to find much joy in it, then you would still have to take the side of the 100,000 simply on the basis that you would be preventing that suffering, and not paying any cost for that prevention (in terms of harming people who could have come into existence, rather than the ones who already existed) because not one of the counterfactual 900,000 who hypothetically could have come into existence would be suffering any kind of deprivation from the fact that they were prevented from coming into existence. Moreover, you cannot demonstrate why those 100,000 could have done anything that would warrant such unfair distribution of the goods and bads of life. You would fail to justify why you’re going to run a lottery and force a minority to pay a heavy price for the pleasure of the majority. The only way you could rationalise such a deal would be if the 900,000 were going to suffer in some way if you failed to incarnate them into a body, because that would mean that you were reducing the amount of harm that you would be causing.

      I don’t see where I have presented a contradiction, although perhaps I wasn’t quite as clear as I could have been. There is no actual value to life itself. Whilst we are alive and sentient, we are capable of perceiving value. But what we would call “good” value (good because it elicits pleasurable emotions) is only really good because it satisfies a hunger that came into existence when our sentience was formed. If you take away that hunger (by ceasing to create it), then the concept of “good” ceases to exist. And that isn’t a problem, because the universe itself does not seem to be crying out for these goods. Drinking water is good for a human, because human beings need hydration, and being thirsty is bad. That doesn’t mean that you have a rationale for creating more humans in need of hydration, because you’d create more of the “good” of people being hydrated. You’ve created a problem (the need to hydrate all of these humans) and actually hydrating them just solves the problem that you’ve needlessly created. As an antinatalist, I’m saying don’t create the problem, and then nobody is being deprived of the solution. Nobody would be around to appreciate the fact that nobody is going thirsty, but the simple fact is that the most efficient, rational and humane thing to do is to cut our losses, not to continue chasing after a gain which is illusory (due to its apparent value being predicated on having to create a problem to be solved in the first place).

      I’m not following quite why you think that an antinatalist would have to be opposed to life’s extinction. I see “personhood” as a tragedy and a liability. And that’s what life is and what value is. A liability that should be eliminated. Your argument for it being heroic to carry on the torch seems as though it has come from a Jordan Peterson book or lecture. Would I be correct on that? As an atheist, I cannot see how the existence of sentient life is accomplishing ANYTHING productive, and therefore I cannot endorse the price that is being paid for it. Especially when the cost is being levied so inequitably, based on no principle of fairness.

      Regarding your point on scientists not being able to quantify the goodness or badness of sensations, I think that you’re missing the point. Suffering is an intrinsic bad which is subjective, because bad is a concept that can only arise out of subjective experience. So if the subject experiences a sensation as bad, then it IS bad. The subjective badness isn’t counterbalanced by any objective good which is being accomplished by it, and the fact that the universe isn’t feeling the pain, and the pain isn’t quantifiable by a third party observer does not cancel out the subjective experience of that pain, which is decidedly negative. Why would I need an external authority to classify my pain as bad, when the proof of its badness arises from the fact that it is repulsive and I crave relief from it? Does this mean that you would endorse the creation of torture chambers (with yourself as one of the victims) based on the premise that it’s impossible to quantify the badness of the experiences that would be generated?

      I agree that desire is not intrinsically bad, because anticipation can be pleasurable in itself. Desire is a liability, because it sets you up either for the pleasure of having your desire satisfied, or the deprivation that would arise from having it thwarted.

      The element of surprise can heighten the positive valency of a pleasure, I would agree with that, but the only way that can happen is for you to have a hunger that exists, even if you’re not consciously focused on that hunger immediately prior to receiving the pleasure. The only way for you to value that surprise phone call is if the social bonds that you have in your life are insufficient to meet your needs. Just like a surprise meal is only going to have value if you’re actually hungry. If you’ve just eaten and you’re absolutely stuffed full, then you’re probably going to struggle to appreciate the additional meal, even if it happens to be your favourite food.

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  6. Hi existentialgoof

    almost sick here, are you willing and motivated to move the conversation on ? https://rantswithintheundeadgod.blogspot.com/2014/02/debate-with-youtube-antinatalist.html?m=0

    I feel very tired and almost empty to continue the debate, my last 2 cents left, lets move to redit or use the above link for continuity:
    Regarding your epistemology of pain and pleasure:
    ” what we would call “good” value (good because it elicits pleasurable emotions) is only really good because it satisfies a hunger that came into existence when our sentience was formed,
    ….if the social bonds that you have in your life are insufficient to meet your needs.””

    is not at all as obvious and general.
    I can anticipate the sensation of hunger, thirst or cold and take an informed decision to drink or feed myself before the sensation kicks in.
    But you aren’t always hungry for food. Yet, eating something good, when you’re not hungry, leads to pleasure.
    The claim that those neurotransmitters lead to pleasure because they reduce some discomfort can be falsified by introducing to the organism this chemical, when the animal (human or not) is not in discomfort. The pleasure will be felt strongly, even though no discernible negative had been felt by the subject before.
    Is pain the only thing related to the increase of desire? Can’t pleasure motivate desire too? Particularly, the anticipation of a pleasurable experience can motivate action. Also, the anticipation of a painful experience could also take away motivation to do something. These last points break away from your assertion that “good” or pleasure is a compesantion or a fix of pain.

    Another way this claim does not seem to be justified is by looking at the strength of the feelings. I may not feel hunger now, but if I ate something really tasty, I would feel very good. It’s not clear why a lack of hunger would, after eating something good, transform into pleasure. And same goes to the thirsty , I can drink something now by anticipating a sensation of discomfort and I can drink something tasty that brings me more pleasure. I still think memories can play a part in motivation (this includes anticipation, as anticipating an experience ultimately depends on one’s memories of past experiences), culture and family inheritance and not last the science to back up motivations and assessments.

    As you agree above, the value and experience of life is subjective, it is how we see the world in this life and it is linked to motivations, we are driven by those since we are born.
    Viewing anything from an “objective” standpoint makes value disappear, because value is subjective.

    Last but not least, this all approach that pleasure is fixing a pain or need is missing the point about human behaviour:
    No one cares about life just because of the feeling of pleasure and pain. Those aren’t the only things that matter. We appreciate life because of the opportunities to learn, to create, and to experience new things, to strive and cherish and flourish. If life is terminated, all those goods go away. True, no one would be around to miss them, but neither would anyone be around to appreciate the lack of pain with the prospect of nanotechnology and biotechnology, AI and intelligence.

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    1. Hi there, thank you for your further response. I’ve already read that guy’s blog, and wasn’t impressed with what I saw. I’ll have a more detailed look at that later on, and consider responding. As a point in fact, I’m certain that I have interacted with that guy before. Perhaps it was on his blog, or perhaps it was on Reddit or Youtube. Anyway, back on to your ‘points’…

      I too have eaten when I wasn’t hungry, and it has been my experience (perhaps this isn’t true of yourself) that I can only enjoy food to the greatest extent when I’m hungry, and sometimes it has actually been quite frustrating when I’ve wanted to go to a fast food outlet that I like when travelling, only to find that I can never seem to generate the hunger that would make eating the food satisfying. I can eat things like sweets and snack foods and get gratification for them when I’m not actually hungry, but even in these instances, I have observed that there is some kind of need for stimulation. And those types of food aren’t really to be eaten in order to satisfy hunger anyway, but to satisfy that craving for gustatory stimulation. But in my experience, if I lacked even the craving itself, then I wouldn’t even enjoy eating sweets, crisps or chocolate, or drinking tea. I do need to have either a hunger or a craving. Nonetheless, the more important part of my point is that there isn’t some disembodied soul floating around the ether who is worse off for not enjoying the goods of life. You cannot say ‘this person is in a sub-optimal state because we haven’t given them the gift of life’, because as I discuss in my blog, there is no person that you can identify. So that would render your arguments about neurotransmitters moot, because all you’re doing in any case is creating an addiction and all of the ‘good’ is still just derived from satiating the addiction. But it is not good to impose ruinous addictions on to people. It’s not good to force someone to need something, or force them to want something. It is only good to satisfy needs and wants. It’s virtuous to “make people happy” but criminal to create the person under the belief that you are “making happy people”.

      Also, if you’re anticipating a pleasure, the simple fact is that if you don’t obtain the pleasure that you desire, then that’s going to cause an experience of deprivation that you’re going to want to avoid. Regardless of your framing of the issue, the goodness of pleasure is inextricable from the badness of suffering. One step towards the pole of greatest pleasure is always one step away from the deepest suffering. The question of whether there is some kind of middle ground where you’re not really enjoying pleasure, but you aren’t really suffering either is kind of an interesting one philosophically. But it probably isn’t a very common state in the most part, because if you sit and do absolute nothing, you’re going to get hungry, you’re going to need to go to the toilet, you’re going to need to stretch your legs. That’s just inherent to life itself. And if you actually need to overcome an obstacle in order to experience happiness, then you risk the threat of tripping up on the obstacle and harming yourself, or that the obstacle will be an impassable barrier.

      Value IS subjective and cannot be anything but, because it’s impossible to imagine what “objective value” could even mean. The only way that anything can be important is in its effect on the wellbeing of a feeling organism. So that’s why I advocate for eliminating the liability of sentient experience. The chair in which I’m sitting is most likely not mired in some kind of sub-optimal state that could be improved with pleasure (due to the fact that pleasure isn’t even a concept that exists outside of the realm of sentient experience). So if the entire universe was just as impervious to harm, then that would seem to be the least bad possible outcome, in that we have eliminated all bad. You certainly haven’t demonstrated how the chair somehow needs to experience pleasure, and therefore this would apply to a universe without a single sentient being in it or observing it. The chair doesn’t need any of the goods that you list, and the universe cannot be quantifiably measured to be in any way deficient for the lack of them (referring back to your point about how value cannot be measured objectively). And this is why I argue that the non-identity problem is an issue for people who advocate in favour of procreation, not an issue for antinatalists.

      I think that if you tried to apply your point about nobody being able to appreciate the absence of pain to any real world scenario that involved real people, then people would think that you were a monster. The onus isn’t on the person who wants to prevent the torture to demonstrate that the would-be victim is positively enjoying not being tortured. The onus is on YOU to explain why your goals are so important that you’re going to cause torture. That’s because you’re the one trying to fix something that isn’t broken, with a solution that could prove disastrous and whose effects will be experienced by an entirely different sentient entity who had no say in being put in a position of peril.

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  7. existientialgoof , Many people say
    “Life is short” but for countless suffering people life is Not Short Enough, and they are Afraid, Very Afraid of the future.
    Probably Many Christians suffering from Mental illness and other Sufferings can’t wait to pass away Peacefully in their sleep and go to Heaven, the Afterlife, they want to be alive, but in Heaven where there is No Suffering of any kind

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  8. I ᴡas curious if you ever thoᥙght of changing the
    layout of your ƅlog? Its very welⅼ written; I love what youve got to say.
    But maybe үou could a little more in the way of content so peopⅼe could connect with іt better.
    Youνe got an awful lօt of text for only having 1 or 2 pictures.

    Maybe you could space it out ƅetter?

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  9. Fundamentally, the question is whether we can compare nonexistence and existence with counterfactuals.
    You seem to do this in your comments, i.e. you say the unborn get an outcome of “perfect harmlessness”, we could add that the outcome is pleasureless, or devoid of well being. The point is, if we can say “the absence of pain is good, even if it isnt experienced by anyone, then we can logically also say that the absence of pleasure can be bad in the same way.

    You seemed to suggest in your post that none of these comparisons is appropriate, but you seemed to do such a comparison in the comments. Now you might say, that nonexistence cant be compared at all to existence, but that would imply that somebody cant be “worse off” or “wronged” by coning into existence. So in the end antinatalists have to use the concept of potential persons, and assessing the value of existence from the “point of view” from nonexistence.

    About the latter part of your argument, I honestly dont think it matters much – what I am interest in is what the quality of life is for many people. And it seems to be pretty high, both in self reports and our attempts to assess it more objectively (see nussbaum and hdi). Also the concept of depressive realism and optimism bias in this extend has been heavily contested recently.

    Generally, your post didnt convince me that the nonidentity problem is an issue, and I think its possible to evaluate procreative choices based of potential persons and counterfactuals, i.e. to say something like a possible world where more new people experience pleasure is better than another possible world where they are not born.

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    1. Thank you for your response. Trying to find the right words to explain this is very difficult, because obviously the state or non-state of non-sentient matter isn’t something that lends itself to descriptive words. However, what I mean to say is that inanimate objects cannot be harmed. The matter and energy that may go on to form a person in the future is not being harmed by the fact that it doesn’t exist in the form of a sentient person. It isn’t suffering a deprivation from the lack of the pleasure that it would have been experienced. Preventing unnecessary suffering is ethically desirable. It’s “ethically good”, if you will. But there is no actual state of “good” that obtains as a consequence of the prevention. To say that there was a “good” state would be a category error, because “good” only exists within the realm of subjective experience.

      A clump of matter that lacks sentient perception, such as a chair, or the matter and energy that could potentially have gone into forming a future person, cannot wish that it possessed sentience. But a real person who has not been prevented from being born can resent the fact of their being born and being put in to harm’s way. And therefore, it is incumbent upon those who choose to bring that person into existence to have a robust justification for allowing that undesirable state of affairs to come about. It doesn’t matter if the majority of people are genuinely enjoying their life, because the fact is that if the person wasn’t created in the first place, they wouldn’t have lost the opportunity to experience that enjoyment, nor would they exist in some kind of void to be making the comparison to the alternate reality in which they had come into existence. So you cannot go wrong with preventing that birth, no matter how high the probability is that they’d have been enjoying a wonderful time (and I do believe that natalists heavily overstate the evidence that people are overall happy with their lives). Whereas no matter how small the minority of people who don’t enjoy their life actually is, all of that suffering is unnecessary – we don’t need that as collateral damage in order to secure necessary goods for others, because if we don’t create those other people, then the goods aren’t necessary. Therefore the principle of Maximin Reasoning applies.

      I’m not a “potential person”, I’m a real person. And I exist as the consequence of procreation, and I resent that fact. If I don’t prevent others from being born, then there will be others in the same position as me in the future, and I feel that there is an ethical responsibility to at least make arguments that could prevent that from happening.

      So far, I do not think that the opponents of antinatalism have ever managed to produce any such justification.

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      1. Okay, now I see. Well, to say that state A is better than state B doesnt always require a harm or a direct experience of being “in a better state”, I would say.

        So it seems you are under the impression that a person cant be “better off”, never been born, since no comparison can be made (i.e. not even a comparison between a state of 0 value for not being born and negative value for being born). But then its hard to see for me how preventing this persons suffering by not creating them is “ethically good”, or how actually creating the person is doing something wrong. This seems similar to Heidts person affecting view – i.e. if you cant say that an action made stuff worse for someone, or made someone worse off, you cant say its wrong.
        Also it seems unclear to me how you can then rationally resent the fact that you have been born, if no existence comparability can be made.

        Now, to make one thing clear. If you hold an ethical framework (and I suspect you might do so) that focuses only on the prevention of suffering in consequence (like NU), this does justify antinatalist conclusions to a large extend (although humans might then choose to procreate to reduce wild animal suffering and so on).

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        1. Again, it’s a tricky one to explain with words, but the comparison can be made by someone who is alive. It cannot be made by someone who was never born, and antinatalism seeks to prevent someone from coming into an undesirable state where they would wish that they’d never been born. I don’t see why as someone who exists right now, I cannot say that it is bad that I did come into existence. If I hadn’t come into existence, there wouldn’t be any “good” that I was enjoying and I wouldn’t be able to say it’s “better”. But there would be an absence of any bad. And absence of bad is “better” than presence of bad. As someone who is alive now, I can say that possessing sentience can be a massive liability, but nothing can go wrong for the chair in which I’m sitting as I type this (no matter what I do to it), as the concepts of “bad” and “good” don’t exist outside of subjective experience.

          Prevention of suffering is really the only goal that there is, because once you’ve achieved that then that EITHER means that you’ve managed to attain optimal pleasure, which would be good for all concerned, OR the need for that good would have been eliminated in which case you cannot really say that is sub-optimal, because there’s nobody hankering after a superior state of affairs.

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          1. I dont see how the absence of bad when you dont exist would be better.

            Better for whom?

            It seems we have to either open the door for impersonal values (i.e. pleasure and pain of somebody being impersonally good) or comparative evaluations based on possible worlds (if I exists in this world and in another I dont, I am better/worse of in this one because I can actually compare the two).

            If both of those arent possible, so if good and bad only exist for someone, I dont see a possibility how you were harmed by coming into existence, as there is no other course of action that could have been taken that would have caused you to be better off.

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            1. I do exist, and the presence of suffering is bad. If my mind did not exist then the suffering that I experience wouldn’t exist. My mind wouldn’t be floating about thinking that the situation was better, but the concept of better cannot be applied to a realm in which good and bad do not exist.

              The point is that procreation does create the conditions to allow the concepts of “good” and “bad” to enter the universe. The “bad” can be extremely bad, and whilst the “good” does indeed feel good, it wouldn’t be necessary or hankered after if you hadn’t created the possibility of bad by creating the person.

              There are some people who will exist in the future, but who do not exist now, who are going to come into an unimaginably terrible existence which is going to be nothing but constant suffering from birth until death. Are you really saying that if we could identify which lives are going to be these worst possible lives, then there’s no value in taking any kind of step to prevent them from becoming reality, because before they exist they cannot desire the absence of the suffering? Because that is the logical conclusion of what you’re arguing – that the prospect of future suffering isn’t worthy of ethical concern because all the people who will be enduring that suffering in the future don’t already exist in order to beg for its prevention. Are you comfortable following that logical thread to its inevitable conclusion?

              If a person never exists, then there’s never any possibility of them being better or worse off. Why does that mean that we may just as well knowingly create torture victims? Because tomorrow’s torture victims cannot beg for and enjoy prevention today, before they even exist? That’s preposterous reasoning, and I really think that you’re trying to make a semantical argument in order to obfuscate the ethical one.

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              1. To quote you:
                “Are you really saying that if we could identify which lives are going to be these worst possible lives, then there’s no value in taking any kind of step to prevent them from becoming reality, because before they exist they cannot desire the absence of the suffering? Because that is the logical conclusion of what you’re arguing –”

                To make it clear, thats not my personal opinion. My opinion is that states of nonexistence and existence can be compared with the use of counterfactuals. But that is not my point, and debating this would wreck my time limit.

                Im just trying to understand how you, in your view, manage to say that never coming to existence is better for someone, while staying logically coherent.

                So in the first paragraph you said the conception of better cannot be applied. I think thats all that needs to be said here. Therefore, under a strong person affecting view, it is always neither wrong nor inherently beneficient to bring someone into existence. I havent seen a logical reason yet why somebody was wronged in any of these instances under your view, because as you said, we cant say anyone is better off.

                Again, thats not my view, I think we can compare via counterfactuals (as does benatar, for example), and Im open towards impersonal conceptions of value.

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                1. A person who is already alive can contemplate the fact that they came into existence and thus were thrust into harm’s way via the act of procreation, and be unhappy about that fact. Thus they were wronged, as their parents knew that their actions would result in some harm coming to the person who came into existence as a result of their choice, and possibly someone who would be suffering so much that they’d be unhappy about being alive. I just don’t see where the logic of that breaks down. That same person can also wish to prevent the existence of someone in the future by preventing that person from coming into existence. This is just the basic concept of prevention – if you prevent something, then it never happens. The logic is as straightforward as can be.

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                  1. to me its rather obvious that for someone to say that they were wronged, harmed, or are worse off, you need a counterfactual comparison, i.e. I would be better off never been born, therefore it was bad for me to have come into existence.

                    But you claimed that it cannot be said that never been born would have been better for anybody, or that any comparison can be made whatsoever, so I dont see a reason (under your view) why anybody is wronged here by the act of procreation. If you were a deontologist or a virtue ethicist you might find reasons why the act is intrinsicially wrong, but with person affecting consequences I really dont see it, and I guess thats why people who hold such strong view (dont allow existence comparability) even hold the view that miserable people arent wronged in academia (see heyd, “genethics”, its an awesome but little disturbing book)

                    It just seems like you conflate two views and apply them with some sort of double standart, if generally the occurence of suffering is bad and parents should stop its ocurrence impersonally, it seems we introduced a concept of impersonal value.
                    In a person affecting view, the creation of a new person cant harm anyone, because we cant point to any person who is worse off. the same is true when people resent their own birth, so it seems to me you do believe in existence comparability (that nonexistence can be axiologically compared to existence with countrfactuals), impersonal value based off wellbeing, or you are stating a contradicting view.

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                    1. Once I’m alive, then I can say that it’s bad for me to have come into existence, and bad is worse than not bad. A universe teeming with suffering is worse than one with no sentience at all, because one universe is infested with many different subjective sensations of “bad”, whereas the other isn’t.

                      I am wronged because I didn’t need to exist and suffer harm as a consequence of coming into existence.

                      You really are trying to make a semantical argument in order to obfuscate the cause and effect creation of procreation leading to suffering. I don’t think that preventing torture is an ethical good only if the relief from torture is enjoyed by someone. I think that it can be an ethical good just to prevent the torture, even if nobody gets to enjoy the relief. Because in ensuring that the prevention occurs, you obviate the need for a benefit (namely the relief).

                      The idea behind this isn’t as complicated as you’re trying to make it sound (presumably motivated by the desire to use some form of semantical legedemain to try and wriggle out of the ethical implications of creating suffering out of thin air, and imposing it on a new entity who didn’t consent to be subject to those terms).

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                2. Yes, it does seem logical (to me), that if the absence of every single moment of happiness isn’t a massive problem due to the fact that nobody needs it when they don’t exist, then the lack of the negatives simply cannot be good for better for insentient matter that gains no satisfaction from the aforementioned absence. But if the prevention is still good as far as the harms is concerned, then the elimination of the opportunity for innumerable positives cannot be seen as an ethical act.

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      2. The fact that it takes me a billion years to even open the website and that moderation takes even more time (coupled with the fact that we have discussed this issue numerous times before) means that I have no predilection for an unnecessarily lengthy discussion. However, I did wish to say something here at least once.

        Inanimate objects cannot benefit from lack of existence either. It’s not feeling any satisfaction from the absence of the harms in the void. It’s indeed a category error to talk about something being good/bad for someone if there isn’t any person (assuming a physicalist worldview to be true). Nobody desires the absence of life when they don’t exist. The absence of desires can be of use to those who exist, but when being itself isn’t there, other factors appear to be of little significance. However, if preventing harms is still ethically desirable, then preventing/eliminating all the goods is undesirable.

        Everything isn’t about regret or desire. Those who don’t exist cannot be glad about their lack of existence, but those who do exist can certainly celebrate their lives. It is the responsibility of those advocating for the end of all good to justify why a valueless state of affairs.is universally preferable. It does matter that many people do find more than sufficient value in their lives despite facing significant harms, since the positives are genuinely good. Not losing the opportunity to experience enjoyment can be good for the well-being of those who exist, not for the nothingness that doesn’t benefit from this absence. If it’s not necessary that one should be glad about the state of affairs they have avoided or benefit from the one they are in for one to be able to say that the absence of the negatives is good, then there isn’t any need for desires in order for one to be able to reasonably claim that the lack of all happiness is problematic. Ignoring the negativity bias that affects many people and the reality of the ineffable value of happiness that exists in the lives of many people, including those who have suffered (such as the many happy kids in the slums or the content monks who calmly sit whilst being on fire) makes me think that the idea that no life is worth living is untenable. Preventing all positives will never be right (presuming that preventing the negatives is so). If preventing suffering is necessary, then preserving and creating happiness is also necessary. In reality, I don’t think that the creation/prevention is necessary (for those who don’t exist), but I am willing to accept this idea if one is consistent about it. Maximin reasoning should not blind us from the value of creating optimific outcomes. Unlike Omelas, I don’t think that we live in a world where one needs to directly harm someone in order to live a happy life. If anything, innumerable individuals acquire contentment from helping others. Those who cannot find happiness are a lot more than”collateral damage”. They are our responsibility and everything that we can do must be done to ensure that suffering is reduced and a liberal RTD is provided to all. I merely disagree with the idea that the positives can be sacrificed on the altar of preventing the harms. In my view, there is no possible way to logically justify the claim that the elimination of the negatives is ethically desirable, but the creation of the positives isn’t.

        I wish I could transport my happiness to you. After all, there are few things that are as valuable as making someone live a better life—a life they truly deserve. There should have been more options available for you, and I remain optimistic that they will eventually become reality. As for me, I believe that there is great joy and good in the world that is worth preserving and promoting. Even if I fail to find happiness in my life, I don’t think that I would be able to reject the truth that preventing/eliminating the positives cannot be ethically justifiable.

        The justification does exist. Hopefully, more people would be able to find the right framework (and significantly better lives!) that would enable them to accept it.

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        1. Hello my friend. Good to see you finally make a comment on the website after all of the back and forth that we’ve had down the years. Yes, you may be sending us down a very well worn path indeed, but since this may be the first time that readers of my blog have seen us interact, I need to make sure that it doesn’t appear as though I’m ignoring your post for lack of an adequate response. I’m sure you’ll understand! 😉

          Inanimate objects indeed cannot benefit from the absence of sentient experience, but you are committing a category error by invoking the concept of benefit when referring to the condition of objects that do not possess sentience. There can indeed be no possibility of a benefit for my chair (or the matter and energy that could one day form a thinking and feeling person), but neither is there any need for a benefit. So that cannot be inferior to the scenario in which that matter and energy does coalesce into the form of a person that can think and feel, because the matter itself cannot hanker after any type of pleasure or gratification that could exist for a living person. Therefore there’s no deficiency of any positive state. Positive can only exist once you have created the possibility of negative. And once you’ve done that needlessly and unprovoked, then you’ve committed a grave ethical error.

          People who do exist can celebrate their lives, but that means that the die has been rolled and that particular individual has happened to be lucky. If the die was never rolled to begin with, there would be no state of deficiency that would need to be corrected. We couldn’t really say that an opportunity was missed, because by creating the person, all you would be doing would be creating the very desire and need for joy in the first place. As to whether that joy would be achieved; that would be down to chance. It is unethical to subject anyone to the terms of that lottery unless they already have a state of deficiency that needs to be improved upon.

          Because nothing can or needs to be optimised for this chair in which I’m sitting (it doesn’t matter to the chair whether it gets coronavirus on it, whether it gets damaged, whether it gets a lot of sun and gets frequently used, or whether it gets put into my storage room and collects dust), you cannot say that things could get any better for this chair than they already are. And that includes conducting experiments on it that would cause it to become sentient and possibly experience joy (and suffering). So there’s no need to contrive the possibility of “positives” existing in the realm within which this chair exists. But if there’s a possibility that you could suffuse it with the ability to think and feel AND you’ve failed to fully safeguard against the possibility that doing so could result in a surfeit of suffering, then you have done something for which there is no conceivable ethical justification that would make any sense. Much the same applies to procreation, because the matter in the universe which could or could not become a person is also not in a state that needs to be optimised in any way.

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          1. Quite understandable. I just didn’t want to drag this out because posting comments here is a rather arduous task (still not enough to outweigh the positives though).

            There isn’t any category error on my part. If one suggests that non-existence is preferable, they are essentially claiming that it is good in some sense (even if the terminology being employed is different, such as “harmless”). However, if the absence of harms is good even though those who don’t exist don’t need it, then the absence of the positives is also bad, irrespective of whether or not there is a desire for it. The negatives also require the positives to exist and be depleted. Not having a deficiency can be good for you, but it has no worth for your chair.

            The fact that everybody couldn’t be “lucky”, whilst deeply tragic, does not give us adequate justification for giving approbation to ending all good. If the die was never rolled, there wouldn’t be any fulfillment either. There isn’t some state of perfection in the void that would be marred by the creation of people. Creating unnecessary desires is indeed bad for beings who are already satisfied and happy, but this is inapplicable to those who don’t exist. The desires aren’t the opportunity—the positives are. It is unethical to choose a valueless state of affairs over one that could have indescribable value.

            The absence of the listed harms is of no significance to the chair. Any value it has is simply a projection from those who already exist. In reality, that chair never had a state of satisfaction that has somehow been preserved for eternity by its lack of existence. And, if we can say that the absence of the negatives is good/better for the chair, then one could also say that things couldn’t possibly be worse for the inanimate object, since it cannot ever experience a good and neither does it need non-existence. Eliminating/preventing all happiness whilst failing to demonstrate that nobody would experience beatific moments that also matter renders efilism an ethically unjustifiable position. Not requiring optimisation can be good for sentient beings, but it isn’t better for rocks or chairs. The silence of the matter of the universe may as well be a plea for avoiding impetuous annihilation that leads a state of affairs devoid of any value.

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            1. It seems that some of your responses were filtered into the ‘spam’ folder, hence they didn’t get posted. I think that my other response to you addressed these points.

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              1. Yup, this is why I don’t wish to prolong this for much longer. It’s taken me about fifteen attempts to even select the reply option. Thank you so much for looking into this.

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          2. Lastly, I hope that the presence of a free and fair right to a graceful exit alongside advancements in healthcare and technology would help ensure that people simply wouldn’t have to endure a valueless existence. I’ve shared a few of your RTD posts with the people I know. From what I could tell, they seemed sympathetic to the idea.

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          3. Perhaps my reply didn’t go through. This is why I don’t like commenting here :p

            Quite understandable.

            There isn’t any category error on my part. If one suggests that non-existence is preferable, they are essentially claiming that it is good in some sense (even if the terminology being employed is different, such as “harmless”). However, if the absence of harms is good even though those who don’t exist don’t need it, then the absence of the positives is also bad, irrespective of whether or not there is a desire for it. The negatives also require the positives to exist and be depleted. Not having a deficiency can be good for you, but it has no worth for your chair.

            The fact that everybody couldn’t be “lucky”, whilst deeply tragic, does not give us adequate justification for giving approbation to ending all good. If the die was never rolled, there wouldn’t be any fulfillment either. There isn’t some state of perfection in the void that would be marred by the creation of people. Creating unnecessary desires is indeed bad for beings who are already satisfied and happy, but this is inapplicable to those who don’t exist. The desires aren’t the opportunity—the positives are. It is unethical to choose a valueless state of affairs over one that could have indescribable value.

            The absence of the listed harms is of no significance to the chair. Any value it has is simply a projection from those who already exist. In reality, that chair never had a state of satisfaction that has somehow been preserved for eternity by its lack of existence. And, if we can say that the absence of the negatives is good/better for the chair, then one could also say that things couldn’t possibly be worse for the inanimate object, since it cannot ever experience a good and neither does it need non-existence. Eliminating/preventing all happiness whilst failing to demonstrate that nobody would experience beatific moments that also matter renders efilism an ethically unjustifiable position. The silence of the matter of the universe m plea for avoiding impetuous annihilation that leads a state of affairs devoid of any value. Torture doesn’t need to exist for its absence to be good, since a person would still be in a state of affairs they find value in. However, if a being is necessary for the absence of pleasure to be considered a harm, then I don’t think that the lack of the negatives can be good for nothingness, since the universe has no need for it and isn’t left better off from this absence. Denying this would involve semantic smoke and mirrors.

            I also wanted to mention that your RTD articles are quite good. I shared them with a few people and they seemed sympathetic to the view. Hopefully, this right will become a reality someday, which, alongside advancements in healthcare and technology, could help ensure that one wouldn’t have to go through a lot of harms.

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            1. I’m sorry if your last post didn’t go through. I certainly haven’t removed any and will check. Once I approved you once, all of your comments ought to appear without needing to be screened, I think. Providing that you’re logged in with the same account, that is. I’m claiming that if creating the necessary conditions for suffering is ethically bad (which it is), then preventing those conditions from arising is ethically good. There’s no tangible good to be enjoyed as an outcome, because good only comes into existence as a concept because there is bad to be prevented. If you prevent the bad, then you don’t need good. You don’t need anyone floating in the void, imagining what it would be like to exist, and feeling that they’re better off without that experience. Although absolute bliss just constitutes the state that arises when the desire for good is met by the provision of good, and non-sentient matter is already occupying a condition where there is no deficiency in the provision of good compared to the desire for it. So my armchair is effectively occupying paradise, in a sense, without the need to actually suffuse it with the sentience to enjoy pleasure.

              Things couldn’t be better or worse for my chair whilst it remains an inanimate object. Once sentience exists, then there is always some kind of sub-optimal state requiring improvement. And one should never force a mind to exist in a situation where it is desiring an improvement that cannot be guaranteed.

              Creating sentient life is ethically unproblematic upon the conditions that it can be absolutely guaranteed that these entities will experience no suffering themselves nor cause suffering for anyone else. If it is not possible to ensure that these condition cannot be met, then not creating sentient entities will result in the matter which would have gone into forming the sentient entity not needing or hankering after the bliss anyway, and thus the absence of it wouldn’t be something for which one needed to ethically account. Allowing the sentient being to come into existence without being able to ensure that the stipulated conditions set out above are met is ethically indefensible, as you would be guaranteeing that there will be a deficit of pleasure actually received when compared to the amount of pleasure desired by the entity. Moreover, if one knows that the only way of preventing these wellbeing deficits from popping up in the world is to ensure that the biosphere is sterilised, then in the absence of a concrete plan as to how to secure perpetual and unalloyed bliss for all sentient beings, that is the course of action that should be pursued.

              I’m glad that you’re enjoying my right to die articles. There should be another one coming soon in which I will be petitioning the UK government to end, or drastically roll back the practice of coercive suicide prevention (included in which is laws against the right to die). It’s actually been in the works for quite some time, but I have just been procrastinating horribly.

              A note for you just in case you don’t see the option of replying to this post; it isn’t because I’ve blocked responses. I think that WordPress has a setting where there is a maximum thread length. Despite being the blog author, I myself am having to actually come onto the blog in order to respond to this comment. If you want to continue the discussion, then start a new thread. Someone else has already come up against this.

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              1. Something is ethically bad because it results in a state of affairs that is bad for someone. Of course, people could have different intuitions regarding whether or not this badness requires the person to exist in order to be relevance. The cardinal point is that if it’s ethical to prevent harms, it’s unethical to prevent all happiness. Good and bad both come into existence after a being begins to exist. Their presence and absence can be a benefit/harm for those who exist, but it has no value for chairs or tables. I am afraid that claims about the chair being in paradise are merely imaginary, since being fulfilled can feel good, which isn’t something that chairs can enjoy.

                When one says, “And one should never force a mind to exist in a situation where it is desiring an improvement that cannot be guaranteed”, they are really suggesting that not being “forced” (the truth is that nobody is forced/helped when they are created) is good/better/least bad for a person, and that is why this is supposedly preferable. Inanimate objects aren’t in some blissful antechamber that is going to be damaged by one’s creation. Existence also has positive states that are worth conserving. Creating unnecessary desires is indeed bad for those who are already happy. Fortunately, nothing is being taken away from those who don’t exist. And, once again, if preventing suffering is good even though nobody benefits from its absence, then the lack of happiness is also problematic.

                Well, I should probably mention that plans of annihilation (aside from being unethical!) are also extremely difficult to achieve and aren’t acceptable to most. The risk of things going wrong is also there. Serendipitously, there are many people who are actively working towards using technology to wipe out most and even all forms of suffering (including relatively minor forms of suffering, such as boredom). This, combined with the RTD, would help ensure that there wouldn’t be any need to contemplate destruction. Having said that, I don’t think that an absolute guarantee of no harms is required for suggesting that life can be worth it, just as an absolute guarantee of no positive occurring and nobody helping each other isn’t required for saying that some lives aren’t worth creating. Creating people doesn’t just create desires; it also creates fulfillment that does have immense value. In addition, if the absence of happiness wouldn’t be bad because non-existent beings cannot hanker after it, then the absence of suffering cannot be said to be better either, since nobody can feel satisfied due to its absence. The absence of the desires can have value for those who exist, but not for those who don’t. I don’t think that there is a guarantee that the deficits would always be greater than the fulfillment (though I am not saying that this is never the case). There are many good moments that people often experience that cannot be taken away, sometimes concurrently with the harms (such as occasionally finding the very process of striving to be somewhat pleasant). Ending all positives is what is really ethically indefensible and claims to the contrary cannot be salvaged, in my view.

                I look forward to that article!

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                1. “The cardinal point is that if it’s ethical to prevent harms, it’s unethical to prevent all happiness. Good and bad both come into existence after a being begins to exist. ”

                  It’s only unethical to prevent happiness if someone will be deprived of that happiness, and they could have attained it without causing undue suffering to others. The prevention of harm is its own justification – if it would have happened, it would have been bad, and preventing it ensures that it doesn’t happen.

                  “I am afraid that claims about the chair being in paradise are merely imaginary, since being fulfilled can feel good, which isn’t something that chairs can enjoy.”

                  The feeling of goodness can only arise in response to desire or the capacity to desire. Something is “good” to the extent that it is desirable. The chair isn’t having an experience which can be qualitatively described as good. But nevertheless, it has exactly as much goodness as it has desire for; just as the mind inhabiting paradise would do.

                  “Fortunately, nothing is being taken away from those who don’t exist. ”

                  Once I do exist, I’m constantly being threatened with having things taken away from me, and I have to strive in order to preserve them (if they’re even attained in the first place). So by creating new minds, you are enabling the theft of good. And since good itself was something that you created a dependency for, then you’re effectively causing someone to be addicted knowing that you cannot guarantee a continued supply of what will be needed to satisfy the addiction. Procreating isn’t a gift of goodness, it is theft of goodness, by forcing someone to become dependent on something which will then be taken away (if they ever had it in their grasp to begin with).

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                  1. In that case, it’s only ethical to prevent harms if it would lead a person to live a life filled pervaded with more satisfaction. This is patently not the case for inexistent beings. If the prevention of suffering is its own justification, then the creation of happiness is also its own justification.

                    The desires also arise from a reduction of satisfaction. Furthermore, even if the good comes from fulfilling desires, the point is that this is the only state that can have value for a sentient being. Non-existence has no value. However, if it’s still good to prevent suffering, it’s also unethical (by a greater magnitude) to end all current as well as future happiness. The chair has nothing—and that has no worth for it.

                    It would only have been a “theft” or an act of creating an unnecessary dependency if the individual already enjoyed the benefits of a good they had. However, non-existent beings aren’t delighted by the fact that they don’t exist. Once people exist, they also have an incessant supply of opportunities for improvment and experiencing positives. Having a grasp is necessary for losing something, but there is no absolute certainty that one couldn’t regain the goods to an adequate degree. Nobody in the void is forced it exist. But if such concepts are still applicable, then procreation can also be an act of beneficence that bestows a good one didn’t possess and couldn’t have asked for prior to their existence. Preventing the positives cannot be ethical (if preventing suffering is).

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          4. I have to reply to you under this comment unfortunately, since im not allowed to reply to your last comment directly for some reason. But now its clear to me where the inconsistencies in your view are. If you dont like me to respond anymore and caused the reply button to disappear intentionally, please let me know, because then i will abstain from commenting further.

            Let me quote different parts from your reply
            “Once I’m alive, then I can say that it’s bad for me to have come into existence, and bad is worse than not bad”
            Bad is in fact a worse state than an axiological state of “not bad”, but an alternative action doesnt lead to a “not bad state” for you. It seems you are trying to smuggle in a comparative badness where none can be applied. Of course, a miserable person is in a bad state, and it would be better for that person if it was in a neutral state, but this doesnt warrant an assumption that not being born would have been a better state, or a better outcome generally **for that person**. So resenting their own birth would be irrational if the person believed that nothing was impersonally wrong with their birth and that the state of nonexistence cant be axiologically compared to existing for that person.

            “I don’t think that preventing torture is an ethical good only if the relief from torture is enjoyed by someone.”
            The argument is not about someone enjoying the consequence. Its about the definition that something being good means that it has to be good for someone. That doesnt mean they “enjoy” relief, it just means that it made somebody better/worse off.

            ” A universe teeming with suffering is worse than one with no sentience at all, because one universe is infested with many different subjective sensations of “bad”, whereas the other isn’t.”
            Now this one is very interesting – note how you said “a universe with … is worse than one with …” Now it should be clear here, that what you are applying is an impersonal and reason giving conception of value in this point, i.e. that a universe loaded with suffering is worse than one that isnt, full stop, and without pointing to individuals for whom this is worse or better. I understood that you earlier (or at other points in the debate) denied the existence of impersonal value. Impersonal value can exist appart from personal needs or the question who would be benefitted.

            “I think that it can be an ethical good just to prevent the torture, even if nobody gets to enjoy the relief. Because in ensuring that the prevention occurs, you obviate the need for a benefit (namely the relief). ”
            I dont see how the latter follows. There doesnt seem to be a need for prevention without some appeal to impersonal value (or allowing value comparisons for potential persons between existing and not existing) because nobody would be wronged, or worse off. In the same way there is no need to benefit anybody not yet existing. If you however allow impersonal value (as you did by claiming some universe was better than another), you open yourself for the possibility that the opposite side pulls the argument that a universe with wellbeing is better than one without it, without saying **for whom** this is better, so then the argument that there is “nobody in need of pleasure or well being and therefore its not better to cause those things” can be thrown out, if the existence of impersonal value has been admitted (and I think you just did so)

            “(presumably motivated by the desire to use some form of semantical legedemain to try and wriggle out of the ethical implications of creating suffering out of thin air, and imposing it on a new entity who didn’t consent to be subject to those terms).”
            I would say its inappropriate to accuse somebody who stated two times in the debate to actually hold different priors (i told you twice that my own views arent grounded in such an understanding of the NIP), and is just trying to explore your view and check for inconsistencies, which, as it seems to me, happen to be there.

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            1. I can assure you that I did not block further replies. It appears that WP has a setting which limits the maximum thread length (which I’ve experienced myself), and I think that my response to this very comment hasn’t gone through. Which is extremely frustrating, because I spend a fair amount of time composing it and now have to rewrite it on the blog page itself.

              “Bad is in fact a worse state than an axiological state of “not bad”, but an alternative action doesnt lead to a “not bad state” for you. It seems you are trying to smuggle in a comparative badness where none can be applied. Of course, a miserable person is in a bad state, and it would be better for that person if it was in a neutral state, but this doesnt warrant an assumption that not being born would have been a better state, or a better outcome generally **for that person**. So resenting their own birth would be irrational if the person believed that nothing was impersonally wrong with their birth and that the state of nonexistence cant be axiologically compared to existing for that person.”

              If I don’t exist, then there is no me to be inhabiting any state, if “state” is to be understood as pertaining to wellbeing. The problem is that I do exist, and I can lament the fact that I have a fragile and vulnerable wellbeing state which needs to be protected against harm. I don’t see how I’m logically contradicting myself by saying that it’s bad for me to be experiencing suffering, without implying that I’d be enjoying the absence of harm if I didn’t exist. It may be possible to prevent similar harms from befalling others in the future, and if so, then it would be ethically desirable to prevent it, so that future beings will not be comparing their current sub-optimal circumstances to a counterfactual reality in which they didn’t exist. Those who do exist can imagine and compare to counterfactual realities and can project impersonal “goods” onto the universe itself, but asymmetrically, if the barren universe ever obtains, then there are no entities conjuring up counterfactual realities in which the universe is improved by the presence of joy.

              “The argument is not about someone enjoying the consequence. Its about the definition that something being good means that it has to be good for someone. That doesnt mean they “enjoy” relief, it just means that it made somebody better/worse off.”

              Preventing the need for compensations means that good cannot exist, and that it is also unneeded. It’s the ethical act of preventing the suffering which is virtuous, when compared against failing to prevent it.

              “Now this one is very interesting – note how you said “a universe with … is worse than one with …” Now it should be clear here, that what you are applying is an impersonal and reason giving conception of value in this point, i.e. that a universe loaded with suffering is worse than one that isnt, full stop, and without pointing to individuals for whom this is worse or better. I understood that you earlier (or at other points in the debate) denied the existence of impersonal value. Impersonal value can exist appart from personal needs or the question who would be benefitted.”

              Whilst I exist, I can conjure up counterfactual realities in my head in which I wasn’t born and wish that events hadn’t conspired to bring me into existence. If I had never been born, then I wouldn’t be able to do this. Whilst I do exist, it is true that a sub-optimal state of affairs does obtain for me (even if merely compared to all of the more positive wellbeing states that I could be inhabiting). If I didn’t exist it would not be true that a sub-optimal state of affairs obtained for me, because there would be no me. Whilst I exist, there are things that hypothetically could improve my wellbeing state, but in reality I will not have access to these things, thus yielding an undesirable outcome. The same couldn’t be said of anyone who doesn’t come into existence.

              If one were to follow your reasoning through to its logical conclusion, then this would result in preposterous conclusions. For example, let’s imagine that there is a scientist who has found a way to simulate consciousness, and plans to create billions of minds which will experience an eternity of torture. If prevention of this suffering isn’t ethically good, then there’s no reason to stop the scientist from following through with the plan, as preventing it would not yield a benefit to any of the minds that would have existed, because these minds are non-identities – counterfactuals that could be conceived of, but which are never actually realised. The NIP says that if we cannot ensure that there is a benefit actually enjoyed by the minds that would have existed, then there’s no point in preventing the torture. Therefore, the scientist’s own curiosity would be sufficient warrant to allow the experiment to take place.

              “I would say its inappropriate to accuse somebody who stated two times in the debate to actually hold different priors (i told you twice that my own views arent grounded in such an understanding of the NIP), and is just trying to explore your view and check for inconsistencies, which, as it seems to me, happen to be there.”

              There are no inconsistencies in my views. As a sentient being, I find myself with a fragile wellbeing state that requires constant improvement. My chair does not need or desire any improvement, because it lacks a wellbeing state, and there is no such thing as better or worse in the realm of insensate physical matter.

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            2. Regarding “preposterous conclusions”, I think that there could hardly be a better example of this than the claim that ending all life is an ethical obligation! People could always reach strange conclusions by thinking about extreme scenarios disconnected from reality. The harm would still be bad for the people once they exist, so the scientist, providing he is an ethical person, would have to spend a long time and effort trying to fix a problem he didn’t need to create (which would probably cause more suffering to him), since he could have created benefits instead. Also, if preventing harms is all that matters, then it would be bette to create a world where a few people experience significant individual harms than one where a much larger number of people experience a slightly greater amount of total harms, but also experience many positives. This hardly seems to be an intuitive idea. Finally, even if an idea doesn’t seem pleasant, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s false. As things stand, I believe that there is simply no decent reason to accept the claim that the absence of harms is good/better for non-existent beings, but the lack of happiness is not bad.

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              1. “The harm would still be bad for the people once they exist, so the scientist” – That’s why it would be unethical to create those minds and there is an ethical obligation not to create them. The absence of pleasure isn’t bad for non-existent people while they don’t exist, which is why there is no corresponding obligation to create them.

                “Also, if preventing harms is all that matters, then it would be bette to create a world where a few people experience significant individual harms than one where a much larger number of people experience a slightly greater amount of total harms, but also experience many positives. ”

                If there’s no end goal in sight and the harm is to be perpetuated into the illimitable and indefinite future, then it would be unfair to force a small number of people to pay the price of the pleasure of a larger number. That’s why the pleasure of those who aren’t unhappy about being alive doesn’t justify creating those who are unhappy, even if the former outnumber the latter. On the other hand, if we were imagining a scenario where we could extinguish all life right now, but could only do so by subjecting those currently alive to unspeakable harms, then the situation would be different, as you would only be imposing that price in order to ensure an end to the problem of suffering altogether. You would be adequately justified to impose the harms today in order to prevent that cost from being paid many times over in the future, and a vastly greater number of victims subjected to it.

                “Finally, even if an idea doesn’t seem pleasant, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s false. ”

                I don’t know if ethical claims can be considered “true” or “false”. It’s more the case that if I’m considering what my own interests are as a sentient being (avoidance of suffering), then logically I am compelled to extend those rules to all harmable beings. Since the only way to have prevented me from being harmed was for me to never have existed, then I must logically accept that others must be prevented from existing in order to ensure that future minds do not come to harm.

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  10. That doesn’t mean that non-existence is better. If it is, then it’s also worse due to the fact that it contains no positives.

    There is no possible justification for imposing unspeakable harms onto existing people for the sake of achieving a valueless void. Non-existent beings don’t benefit from this act, and the only thing it would ‘accomplish’ would be to cause grave harm and unethically eliminate all positives. Innocent lives cannot be sacrificed on the altar of an act of pessimistic prevention.

    People’s experiences are diverse. My suffering doesn’t negate the happiness of others (and this would remain true even if my emotions would tell me otherwise). It’s also in people’s interests to care about the good experiences that matter quite substantially for innumerable people. The prevention that comes by virtue of the absence of being itself has no value/disvalue for you or anybody else. But if it can be good, it can also be bad.

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    1. The above is a reply to “no end goal in sight” comment.

      I believe that there could be certain other goals that are possible and don’t entail ending everything.

      Ethical claims could be “true” in the sense that they can correctly claim that a particular action could have more value/disvalue for sentient beings.

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      1. I’m now experiencing problems trying to submit a response to the post that I wanted to respond to. Anyway, I thought that you were not wanting to “drag this out”? Or was that just a tacit request to me to allow you to have the last word sooner than I normally would? 😉

        Consider the following equation where “y” = the actual amount of joy actually experienced, “z” = the amount of joy desired and “x” = the total utility value. Thus x = (y-z). In the scenario in which procreation is prevented then y = 0 (there’s no joy being experienced by someone who doesn’t exist) and z = 0 (there’s no joy desired). Thus x = (0)-(0)= 0. Now let us consider a hypothetical scenario where there is a soul in the void that is experiencing unalloyed bliss as a consequence of preventing their bodily incarnation. Heaven is characterised by the fact that no desire ever goes unfulfilled, and if we suppose that 100 units is the highest possible value for either y or z, then x= (100)-(100) = 0.

        You’re obviously focused exclusively on the 100 units of joy signified by y, however if we hadn’t created someone with 100 units of desire, then we wouldn’t need the 100 units of joy as a compensation. If you argue that it’s better to have the 100 units of joy being experienced by someone than the 0 units in any case, then creating a mind guaranteed to go directly to paradise would not be problematic because there is no deficit being generated. As long as you can guarantee that you are able to perfectly meet the demand for the need that you’re creating, then there’s no ethical issue concerning consent. Providing that allowing for this mind’s experience of absolute bliss didn’t cause a deficit to crop up in some other mind, that is.

        Now let’s compare this to a real world scenario. A person comes into existence . They desire 100 units of pleasure, but only receive 60. That’s because, by the very nature of our evolved psychology, we are almost constantly striving for something more than what we have (commonly known as the hedonic treadmill effect). And that’s before we’ve even gotten started on all of the serious misfortunes that could be awaiting this person. Thus x=(60)-(100)= -40. Thus you are creating an unnecessary deficit in the universe. You’re creating a demand for more units of pleasure than can be provided, and the resulting deficit is imposed on someone who does come into existence and didn’t have any pre-existing interests that were being advanced by causing the deficit to be experienced.

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        1. Why would I needlessly annoy you with requests? I am just not a particularly massive fan of having to type my responses multiple times—something I’ve had to do again for some inexplicable reason. Of course, there is also the fact that this tends to get repetitive.

          I don’t think that non-existence can have any value, not even 0. Even if the positives and the negatives balance each other out (and I don’t think that this is necessarily the case, since I believe that there could be greater value generated from the satisfaction than disvalue that manifests from the need that comes from its loss, such as 50-45 = 5), the value of “0” for an existing person entails them experiencing both good and bad things, something which isn’t possible for those who don’t exist. Due to this ineluctable fact, non-existence cannot be better/worse than existence (I acknowledge that there could be extreme conclusions that could come from this, but that could apply to many other views as well). However, it can certainly have value/disvalue for those who do exist, which is why there is a necessity for ensuring greater flexibility in the way life is viewed. A good way of doing that would involve providing a liberal RTD.

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          1. I simply don’t believe how bugged the comments system here is. I would suggest always copying and pasting your comments before submitting them, as I’ve just had a second one that has disappeared into some kind of digital void.

            There is no such thing as value within the realm of inanimate objects; but because of that fact, there can never be any value deficits. To be a sentient being is to be in a perpetual Sisyphean state of trying to prevent or correct for value deficits. That’s a problem which doesn’t exist for this chair. It’s a problem which only comes into existence when you create something that can feel.

            There is no such thing as an overall positive utility, because the goods of life are only good to the extent that they can satisfy a desire. No desire = no good. A person incapable of desiring anything would never experience true pleasure.

            The most perfectly happy life is characterised by coming as close as is possible to breaking even. Breaking even is the best that can be done, because you cannot enjoy pleasure to a greater extent than you desire enjoyment. To be within sight (even just momentarily) of th break-even point feels absolutely amazing when the default state of existence is to be sustaining an onerous deficit. Just like if you were forced to participate in a gamble where the typical loss was £1billion, and you only lost £100.

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            1. Believe it or not, I’ve actually been doing that. Despite that, it’s taking me more time to post the comment than it to write it.

              Not having a value deficit only has worth for an individual once they exist. Something cannot be an imposition if it doesn’t violate one’s prior interests.

              No, I think that overall positive utility does exist. The desires are also only bad to the extent that they lead us to lose the positives that result from satisfaction. Not having desires is what amounts to perfection for an existing being, but for those who don’t even have the capacity to experience a positive, the absence of the negatives has no significance. If it does, then the lack of happiness is also problematic. Conserving the good and finding it again can indeed be worthwhile.

              We can go beyond merely “breaking even”, because the deprivation of the positive need not outweigh its value (not to mention the fact that it can also be regained). Losing $10 when one had $20 can still be a net gain. The positives will always matter.

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              1. “Not having a value deficit only has worth for an individual once they exist.”

                Therefore we shouldn’t bring them into an existence whereupon they will be dependent on minimising that deficit and will struggle with that throughout their life, like Sisyphus rolling the boulder up the mountain.

                ” Something cannot be an imposition if it doesn’t violate one’s prior interests.”

                Once they do exist, they have their interests violated all of the time. And if you actually believed this, then you wouldn’t see anything wrong with bringing people into existence even when it was known beforehand that it was going to be torture for them.

                “No, I think that overall positive utility does exist.”

                There is the perception of positive utility. But that perception of positive utility isn’t sought-after by non-entities.

                “The desires are also only bad to the extent that they lead us to lose the positives that result from satisfaction.”

                So therefore the satisfaction is a double edged sword due to the fact that losing satisfaction will yield suffering.

                “We can go beyond merely “breaking even”, because the deprivation of the positive need not outweigh its value (not to mention the fact that it can also be regained). Losing $10 when one had $20 can still be a net gain. The positives will always matter.”

                I’ve already explained why there cannot be profit. You have to create the desire and good can only be measured by how well it satisfies desire. “Good” and “desire” are concepts that are only applicable within the realm of sentient experience. So to bring someone into existence for the sake of allowing them to experience good is akin to infecting someone with a disease for the sake of curing them.

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                1. This is starting to get quite vexatious. I’ve been trying to post this reply for hours. Hopefully, it will go through this time.

                  Not bringing them into existence isn’t going to leave them in a superlative state where they can experience satisfaction without depending upon anything. Reaching the crest of happiness can certainly have value.

                  Only once they exist—when it isn’t possible for them to be created again. People believe in many things and many conclusions, but practical considerations alongside epistemic uncertainty can act as countervailing factors. Creating unnecessary negatives can still lead to harms. Also, if creating suffering is bad, then creating positives is good.

                  Neither are the non-existent on a quest to discover the safety of the void.

                  It isn’t a double edged sword, since it is positive. The fact that it doesn’t last forever doesn’t negate its value (not always), just as the fact that people aren’t constantly suffering doesn’t change the fact that not all lives are worth creating.

                  If good and bad are only applicable to sentient beings, then non-existence cannot be better or worse for them. If it can be better, then it can also be worse. The experiential power of the positives can still be greater than the negatives (and the latter also result from losing something of value, which is why they aren’t necessarily fundamental). I simply don’t think that preventing/eliminating everything in order to bring about valueless state of affairs can be ethically justifiable.

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                  1. Conserving the state of being healthy to a satisfactory degree isn’t exactly about infecting anybody, particularly because non-existence doesn’t provide a superior alternative. I do think that people should be given the right to find a way out, since that could act as a source of comfort for them whilst they exist. In the end, I would say that if preventing harms (which can also “only” exist to the degree they reduce our satisfaction) can be good, then it is also problematic to prevent all the positives. However, I genuinely hope that people would stop mindlessly stop procreating and perhaps put some of their precious time in advocating for worthwhile causes (like the RTD). Nevertheless, I remain optimistic that things will eventually change for the better and society will reach a point (before people find it necessary to annihilate everything) where people would be able to enjoy the beauty of life as well as be able to depart peacefully when they need to.

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          1. Sorry, I did start typing up a response to him on this blog, but never got round to finishing it. Thank you for letting me know that he has submitted further posts. I will look into those. I’m going to be releasing a new post on the right to die soon, so I’ve mainly been focusing on that.

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  11. Yeah I thought about it after submitting and realized it was probably a WP – error or function.
    Also my last comment didnt go through I think, at least the page bugged when I tried to submit it – I changed my username a bit and reply now as a top level comment, but this comment is aimed towards the last reply you gave to my username (p-trick)

    okay so lets start at the top!
    “I don’t see how I’m logically contradicting myself by saying that it’s bad for me to be experiencing suffering”
    I never said your axiological state/value was not “bad”, I denied that it was comparatively “worse” to you never existing, if you deny that comparisons can be made.

    “so that future beings will not be comparing their current sub-optimal circumstances to a counterfactual reality in which they didn’t exist.”
    I thought you were thinking this was not possible, since there is no possible evaluation for them in the counterfactual? Its been a long discourse, but I’m quite sure you denied that such comparison could be made previously. If there arent the same people in two possible worlds, it seems incoherent to say “this world is better for X” when X doesnt exist in it.

    “Those who do exist can imagine and compare to counterfactual realities and can project impersonal “goods” onto the universe itself, but asymmetrically, if the barren universe ever obtains, then there are no entities conjuring up counterfactual realities in which the universe is improved by the presence of joy.”

    I dont follow you here – do you say impersonal value is merely a projected and something incoherent or illusory? The way I understand impersonal value is that I, the sentient philosopher, can imagine possible worlds and assess which one possesses more value. It seems irrelevant to me that in one universe there is nobody to do that. If I come to the conclusion, that an empty universe is impersonally better, I might act towards it, and if I think a universe with happy sentience is better, I will probably not.

    “Preventing the need for compensations means that good cannot exist, and that it is also unneeded. It’s the ethical act of preventing the suffering which is virtuous, when compared against failing to prevent it.”
    I disagree with your reasoning – Yes, in an empty universe, there is nobody there who would be better off coming into existence, unless we are using a counterfactual and conceive of that as neutral value. The same is true for a suffering person. There doesnt seem to be a person affecting need not to bring them into existence, since nobody is worse off coming into existence, since no person affecting comparison can be made. However if we do (as you did in your last comment), pose the statement “a universe with suffering is worse than one without sentience”, To me its quite clear that because of the value well being and flourishing has to sentient beings, along the same lines it can be said that a universe with happiness is better than an insentient one. At the point of impersonal considerations, it doesnt seem to matter that there is nobody there yet who would be benefitted, or who needs pleasure.

    Now you said here
    “If I didn’t exist it would not be true that a sub-optimal state of affairs obtained for me, because there would be no me. Whilst I exist, there are things that hypothetically could improve my wellbeing state, but in reality I will not have access to these things, thus yielding an undesirable outcome. The same couldn’t be said of anyone who doesn’t come into existence.”

    I could coherently rewrite the sentence and turn suboptimal around with above 0, getting many goods and yielding a desirable outcome, but generally speaking you run into the problem again that these cant be compared axiologically to a state of nonexistence.

    “If one were to follow your reasoning through to its logical conclusion,”
    again, im exploring your view. I think I stated somewhere before that I think differently about things. The reason why I explore this is because I suspect you are imposing a double standard on value and how states of things can be compared that might not be justified.

    “As a sentient being, I find myself with a fragile wellbeing state that requires constant improvement. My chair does not need or desire any improvement, because it lacks a wellbeing state, and there is no such thing as better or worse in the realm of insensate physical matter.”

    Im not sure what the comparison to your chair should accomplish for your view – the chair isnt an entity we can ascribe well being to – and as you said it cant be said that a chair is better, or worse off than any suffering or happy human. So it seems to be a different category – if you create a new sentient entity out of that chair, this new entity could experience good things or bad things, and we might assess how this changes the impersonal value of the universe, or whether this new entity was benefitted by coming into existence.

    Im sorry you had to write your comment again, if this becomes too time consuming and we start circeling, I think there will be some point soon where no further progress is being made. First of all, I find your views a bit fuzzy at times – its not clear to me whether you believe in valid impersonal value judgements (i.e. that i can coherently say “world A is better than world B without it being better for specific subjects”), or in existence comparability (“someone can be worse/better off existing than never coming into existence, because the other counterfactual can be axiologically compared **for that person**”). I think denying both of those things leads into the awful ad absurdum with the evil scienetist that you posed, and its still not clear to me how you avoid it in your view. I personally think just accepting impersonal value, or allowing existence comparability is what is absolutely necessary to avoid it, but I havent seen you accept either of these things consistently so far.

    That said, I admire your rigor and your engagement in ethical issues and stuff that you think is worth doing for others. I believe these most definetly are traits of a strong character, even though I disagree with you!

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    1. “I never said your axiological state/value was not “bad”, I denied that it was comparatively “worse” to you never existing, if you deny that comparisons can be made.”

      But when I am alive, I can make the comparison between the actual state of my existence and the counterfactual scenario in which that existence and therefore the suffering was prevented. If we were to take your logic to its conclusion, then one would be just as well to be tortured for eternity than to die painlessly in one’s sleep. Because you cannot be grateful for having died in your sleep and missed out on future suffering therefore there is no valid comparison. But the point that I’m making is that the person who is alive can be aware of how undesirable it is that they exist and are suffering (thus they’re making a comparison of sorts). The person who died cannot.

      “I thought you were thinking this was not possible, since there is no possible evaluation for them in the counterfactual? Its been a long discourse, but I’m quite sure you denied that such comparison could be made previously. If there arent the same people in two possible worlds, it seems incoherent to say “this world is better for X” when X doesnt exist in it.”

      A person who is alive can contemplate the fact that their suffering would have been prevented if they didn’t exist. In the universe in which x exists, there is a bad, and that bad has been imposed upon x. In the universe where they don’t exist, then there isn’t a bad, and there’s no contemplation on how unfortunate it was to have been fated to come into existence in order to experience the suffering.

      “I dont follow you here – do you say impersonal value is merely a projected and something incoherent or illusory? The way I understand impersonal value is that I, the sentient philosopher, can imagine possible worlds and assess which one possesses more value. It seems irrelevant to me that in one universe there is nobody to do that. If I come to the conclusion, that an empty universe is impersonally better, I might act towards it, and if I think a universe with happy sentience is better, I will probably not.”

      It’s not as complicated as you’re trying to make it in order to obfuscate the very clear point that I’m making. If one doesn’t come into existence, then there is nobody to contemplate alternative scenarios in which a misfortune didn’t occur, or good fortune did occur. A universe filled with sentience is filled with minds lamenting their fate, and that’s bad. It’s bad for the beings that exist in that universe. A universe without sentience is one without any minds yearning for happiness.

      “I disagree with your reasoning – Yes, in an empty universe, there is nobody there who would be better off coming into existence, unless we are using a counterfactual and conceive of that as neutral value. The same is true for a suffering person. There doesnt seem to be a person affecting need not to bring them into existence, since nobody is worse off coming into existence, since no person affecting comparison can be made. However if we do (as you did in your last comment), pose the statement “a universe with suffering is worse than one without sentience”, To me its quite clear that because of the value well being and flourishing has to sentient beings, along the same lines it can be said that a universe with happiness is better than an insentient one. At the point of impersonal considerations, it doesnt seem to matter that there is nobody there yet who would be benefitted, or who needs pleasure.”

      It does matter to the future entities if you’ve forced a dependency upon them and aren’t able to guarantee that the dependency will be fully satisfied. The part to focus on is the harm that will be experienced by the entities, rather than the fact that they couldn’t beg to be spared from the harm before they even existed. Your argument suggests that whatever happens to actual sentient entities, it doesn’t matter because they never begged to be spared that suffering before they came into existence. That’s not only psychopathic, but also profoundly counterintuitive, as none of us would be able to truly internalise that logic in order to be content with our own state of suffering.

      “I could coherently rewrite the sentence and turn suboptimal around with above 0, getting many goods and yielding a desirable outcome, but generally speaking you run into the problem again that these cant be compared axiologically to a state of nonexistence.”

      There is no “above 0”, because you cannot satisfy desires to a greater extent than the strength of the desires in the first place. So there can never be a surplus of happiness; in the best possible world, the optimal outcome would be to break even. But by not creating the beings, you’ve already broken even by not creating the desire which demands to be fulfilled by a commensurate amount of gratification.

      “again, im exploring your view. I think I stated somewhere before that I think differently about things. The reason why I explore this is because I suspect you are imposing a double standard on value and how states of things can be compared that might not be justified.”

      I can’t see a double standard. Bad is bad, and can only exist whilst there are minds. Good is only needed as a compensation for bad once you’ve already created the possibility of bad. To be a sentient organism is to be constantly striving towards good and away from bad. If you look at my article on negative utilitarianism, I go through this in some detail (I call it Sisyphus’ magnet): https://schopenhaueronmars.com/2021/09/10/negative-utilitarianism-why-suffering-is-all-that-matters/

      “Im not sure what the comparison to your chair should accomplish for your view – the chair isnt an entity we can ascribe well being to – and as you said it cant be said that a chair is better, or worse off than any suffering or happy human. So it seems to be a different category – if you create a new sentient entity out of that chair, this new entity could experience good things or bad things, and we might assess how this changes the impersonal value of the universe, or whether this new entity was benefitted by coming into existence.”

      The chair has as many hedonic units as it has any desire for, just as some hypothetical soul residing in heaven would do. A living person, by the very nature of their psychology (not to mention all of the pratfalls that exist that can cause serious harm) is in a state of constant striving towards a state in which suffering is banished and pleasure is optimised. If we just leave the chair alone, it will never complain about its lack of pleasure. But if we conduct an experiment that causes it to be sentient, then it may scream out in pain for all eternity. Thus it would be unethical to conduct that experiment.

      “m sorry you had to write your comment again, if this becomes too time consuming and we start circeling, I think there will be some point soon where no further progress is being made. First of all, I find your views a bit fuzzy at times – its not clear to me whether you believe in valid impersonal value judgements (i.e. that i can coherently say “world A is better than world B without it being better for specific subjects”), or in existence comparability (“someone can be worse/better off existing than never coming into existence, because the other counterfactual can be axiologically compared **for that person**”). I think denying both of those things leads into the awful ad absurdum with the evil scienetist that you posed, and its still not clear to me how you avoid it in your view. I personally think just accepting impersonal value, or allowing existence comparability is what is absolutely necessary to avoid it, but I havent seen you accept either of these things consistently so far.”

      A person who exists can lament their fate (and you could say that is making a comparison to a state in which they wouldn’t exist, and thus wouldn’t enjoy the benefits of not existing, if you like), and one who never exists can never compared to a state in which they are enjoying life, or suffering torture. To have a being in existence being tortured is a state of affairs that should be prevented, because suffering is inherently bad. This remains true even if they couldn’t thank you for preventing the torture due to the fact that your act of prevention means that there is no identifiable individual who could be enjoying the gratitude or relief.

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      1. Okay, now its clearer where we disagree, or where our intuitions differ.

        It seems your view relies to a big extend on a full stop NU, and I think our axiological intuitions just differ heavily there – you used as an argument that my views lead to counterintuitive or psychopathic conclusions – most people agree NU does as well (torturing everyone to death would be good). Now you might say, well, that you still have logical reasons to hold that view, but so might the person say who holds to a strong person-affecting view (i.e. a person who says you arent wrong a sentient suffering creature you brought into existence). In the end most people have intuitions against NU that are so strong that they see it as valid ad absurdum to reject the view.
        (the counterintuitive hypotethical can even be increased — ask people to imagine a place where people are healthy, always happy and in pure awe, have a rich culture, art, and so on, they always die painlessly and without fear in old age, and procreate at a steady rate. However, every few years somebody gets a papercut that hurts for a few minutes. you have the option to to end their lives, they tell you not to and this is against their will, so essentially you would be murdering them all. Most people would think there is something severly wrong with you if you said yes to this–)

        Im pretty sure your intuitions will differ here and to you thats not the case that these things are horrible or monstrous, I just wanted to point this out, since you used the same argument and probably think its a valid way to argue.

        I will further tackle the relevant points that might not rely on fundamental intuitions, where it will be hard to find an agreement anyways.

        “If we were to take your logic to its conclusion, then one would be just as well to be tortured for eternity than to die painlessly in one’s sleep. ”
        Again – thats why I argue for counterfactual existence comparison or impersonal value. If we dont allow existence comparison from the third person or impersonal value, then it will be hard for us to justify putting our pets down when they are terminally ill , for example. However it should be noted here that hardcore epicureans actually face this problem and try to develop more creative but also shaky arguements to work around this at least in special instances, see here for example:
        https://www.researchgate.net/publication/348399286_Is_it_Possible_to_be_Better_Off_Dead_An_Epicurean_Analysis_of_Physician-Assisted_Suicide (also note how the author ends up appealing to impersonal value judgements from a third person perspective …)

        Another possible way would be to just not be an epicurean on death (allow some existence comparisons at least) or fully accept impersonal value, which captures our intuitions better, but runs into other problems, as usual in philosophy.

        “A person who exists can lament their fate (and you could say that is making a comparison to a state in which they wouldn’t exist, and thus wouldn’t enjoy the benefits of not existing, if you like), and one who never exists can never compared to a state in which they are enjoying life, or suffering torture.”

        I think this argument doesnt go through. First of all, the person lamenting their fate could be making some kind of mistake (make an invalid existence comparison, if we agree that these dont work). Also if the scenario in which they dont exist cant be compared to their scenario, it seems that you in fact think they are actually making a mistake by drawing the comparison by saying a possible world where they didnt exist was better.
        Furthermore I dont see a reason why I, from my POV, shouldnt be in principle able to assess whether somebody is better or worse off existing, without the person lamenting the fact themself.
        Let me suggest an experiment here – some person is cognitively unable to lament their existence, but they suffer tremendously. Would you then deny that the counterfactual where this entity didnt exist was better? If not, I dont see the relevance of the point you keep bringing up, that people who exist can then lament their existence. The same can be said about the impersonal value of a universe filled with these congitively limited entities. There doesnt seem to be a reason why it would be needed that they need to lament their fate in order for us, from the outside, to say “possible world A is axiologically better than world B”.
        Now, even if you bit those bullets and said that (which I think would be unreasonable), existing persons can make those comparisons if they are cognitively able despite the two situations being uncomparable, and then the comparisons are necessary logically coherent and true, this also seems to be true for people brought into existence who consider it then good that they exist, project a positive impersonal value on their universe and so on.

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        1. I don’t think that negative utilitarianism leads to unintuitive conclusions when there is a plan to end the existence of suffering. For example, if we had to kill all sentient beings alive now by some kind of brutal method, then there would be justification for doing so when considering the sheer scope of the suffering to be prevented (namely, if we don’t kill those alive now, then the chain of suffering is going to be extended indefinitely and the number of harmables will multiply exponentially, so economically, there’s no reason to prioritise those alive present over those who would be alive in the future.

          Regarding the papercut example that you’ve given, if nobody is bothered enough by the brief moment of pain that punctuates an existence of otherwise unbridled joy, then I don’t see that there’s a problem big enough that it would be worth imposing a solution against the express wills of people (even if it might make rational sense, I wouldn’t consider it my place to make the choice on their behalf when they have pleaded not to do so, as long as they aren’t imposing their choice on anyone else). My antinatalism and promortalism isn’t about saving people from themselves, it’s about preventing suffering from being imposed on those who can’t consent.

          I think that the “impersonal value” thing is a red herring. The person who exists and suffers terribly is suffering from personal disvalue. If that disvalue is prevented by preventing their existence, then the relief from having that suffering prevented isn’t needed. One doesn’t need to ‘balance the equation’ so to speak by showing that they were breathing a big sigh of relief in the void because that existence was prevented. There is an ethical injunction against bringing about the harmful state of affairs, because it results in harm.

          As far as I’m concerned, it cannot be better to exist, because good can only exist to the extent that it is desirable. Therefore the ultimate good is just a complete satisfaction of desire. If that person’s life is so blissful that they’re glad that they exist and are imagining the comparative situation with dread in which they weren’t born, then the imaginary disvalue of non-existence is a harm which can only attend them whilst they are alive. Just like the harm that would make them feel that the suffering in life outweighs the pleasure (whether or not they are lamenting their fate).

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            1. @ Cosmic Lifeist I’m replying to your longer response, but cannot do so due to the comments system here (again). When you create a person, you create a state of addiction. If that person is fortunate enough that they greatly enjoy their life, then that means that they are able to keep their addiction well fed and also under control.

              I’m not concerned with non-identities, I’m concerned with what actually happens when someone comes into existence and finds it not to their liking. It’s irrelevant what they were or were not experiencing before their bodily incarnation. The only thing that would make it relevant would be if you could demonstrate that you needed to take the risk on their behalf in order to rescue them from a very disadvantageous condition. Because the suffering in life can be so horrendous, then it’s not anyone’s place to say that it’s worth it for the sake of allowing that new identity to potentially enjoy pleasure. The ethical default would be to NOT take any risks that could result in someone else being tortured unless it was unavoidable, unless they were also already putting others at risk of torture, or unless they already had a compelling interest in the outcome that you were trying to procure for them. The default isn’t to take the risk with the welfare of an actual future being, knowing that the outcome could be something so terrible that you wouldn’t willingly endure it yourself.

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              1. Seeking to regain an ineffably positive experience can be quite valuable.

                If the risks matter, then so do the opportunities. Unless annihilation of all positives can put the universe in an advantageous position, the act cannot be justified. There are many people who find immense happiness in their lives despite suffering significantly, and pessimistic impositions are incapable of negating their value. Non-identity is indeed important, since nothingness cannot have any worth for an individual. However, if it can be better, then it can also be worse. Unnecessary risks are certainly something that should be avoided for existing beings who are already satisfied, but those who don’t exist (because it isn’t required for them to be happy) do not have this good that would somehow be depleted by the act. Therefore, the opportunity for happiness matter just as much as the risk of harm does.

                The comments system here is unbelievably annoying. I am going to try to click the “Post Comment” button for the twentieth time.

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                1. If my chair is neither experiencing ecstatic bliss or in the deepest sorrow, then there’s no call to do anything to the chair. Nobody has to worry on account of the chair, and the chair doesn’t have to worry where its next filip of hedonic satisfaction is going to be coming from, or what coping strategies it is going to soften the blow of the deprivation should that desideratum fail to materialise. So there’s simply not any call to do anything. If it was thought that the chair would benefit from experiencing pleasure, then that perception would have to exist in the mind of someone who was already dependent on finding pleasure – it cannot be said that this concern arises out of the chair’s interest in experiencing pleasure.

                  It is unfair and unethical to set someone to the Sisyphean task of having to find joy or pay the price for failing to find it. The fact that they weren’t enjoying not having to heft enormous hedonic boulders in the void doesn’t excuse setting in motion the chain of cause and effect that would cause a person to be in that position in the future.

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                  1. If nobody can worry about the chair, then neither can one be happy that it isn’t experiencing something it had no prior interest in avoiding. It cannot lose something of value from being created either. However, if it’s still preferable to prevent the negatives, it’s also problematic to prevent the good experiences.

                    Disturbing an existing person by giving them tasks they didn’t ask for is indeed unethical. But non-existent beings aren’t in some state of tranquility and bliss that is being degraded by the “task”. Being able to experience happiness can be more than adequately valuable, even if one doesn’t always have it. I believe that the truth that (assuming a physicalist/materialistic worldview) the valueless/insentient void wasn’t hankering for the absence of being and nobody there was experiencing the pleasant state of not having a desire gives us more than excuses (and it doesn’t diminish the importance of reducing suffering where doing so is actually relevant), but if it doesn’t, then the fact that inexistent beings cannot ask for a positive doesn’t result in the absence of all happiness not being a worse state of affairs. It is unethical to eliminate/prevent innumerable positive experiences for the sake of achieving a non-existent/lesser good.

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                    1. I’m not happy for my chair, it’s just taken as granted that there isn’t a problem to be solved for the chair. I don’t have to worry about the pleasure that my chair is missing out on, because it doesn’t desire any and isn’t suffering any deprivation as a consequence of not experiencing the pleasure. So that situation can just stay as it is forever. It doesn’t need my input in any way. The default should be to be preventing these adverse states of consciousness and preventing the never-ending stream of crises that need to be averted, many of which will not be averted. If I made the chair sentient, then anything that it experienced would be my responsibility. So I would feel tremendous guilt if it suffered, because I had caused all of that suffering entirely. If it was in a state of constant euphoria that would be sustained, then I wouldn’t feel guilty. But I also wouldn’t necessarily feel that I’d done anything positive, ethically, because there was no mind which was waiting for that pleasure, so I haven’t satisfied any need in the universe the way that I would if I had shown kindness to an existing person and brought pleasure to them. The risks of it going wrong and resulting in adverse consequences for the chair would therefore be sufficient to prevent me from bestowing consciousness upon it, and the same is true of humans who do not exist.

                      Once a person does exist, then they do have to complete tasks that were unasked for, and these can be extremely hazardous and onerous. Therefore, your argument just seems to be that the temporal separation between cause and its inevitable effect is what exculpates one from any wrongdoing in that scenario, which is a bizarre argument to make. There are any number of crimes that could be committed against those who would exist in the future based on that reasoning. There’d certainly not be much reason for people to be concerned about climate change.

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                    2. I am going to have to reply to my own comment because the reply option has disappeared.

                      You are probably somewhat happy for the chair due to the fact that it is in a better state than a negative one. Not having a deprivation cannot have value for those who do not exist. The chair might not need any input, but there is also no requirement to avoid any input, since the inanimate object isn’t going to lose a great good by becoming sentient. However, if one says that it’s still good for the harms to be absent, then the lack of the positives is also a significantly problematic state of affairs, regardless of whether or not there is anybody there to point that out. The default should be to avoid harms without compromising on the conservation of good experiences. There are many moments of indelible joy that also matter, and this would remain true even if I cannot find sufficient value in my own life. I don’t think that an action that doesn’t violate an existing person’s interests or degrade their well-being in any way can be a cause of harm. But even if it was, there are other factors responsible for something as well. If one can be guilty about creating harms, they can certainly be glad about the fact that they brought about ineffably beautiful experiences that one couldn’t have asked for prior to their existence. If it’s ethically good to prevent harms that nobody has a need for avoiding, then it’s also ethically preferable to produce positives whose absence wouldn’t leave the universe better off. The opportunities for experiencing benefits makes the act of bestowing consciousness onto the chair a good one (assuming that creating harms is bad). Since doing so doesn’t result in a loss of happiness for the universe, there is no greater good that demands us to unethically prevent/eliminate all the positives.

                      Yes, and their absence leads to a state that is good for the beings. However, that state doesn’t exist for the inexistent. Also, one can also only benefit from the goodness of happiness once they exist to have it and conserve it. If the absence of all happiness isn’t bad because nobody desires it, then there’s nothing bizarre about suggesting that the unsolicited prevention of harms that doesn’t benefit the universe or non-existent beings has no worth. Disregarding the reality of the positively is scarcely an intuitive idea. Not fixing climate change could cause a lot of people to live worse lives than they would have if it were to be fixed, which is why, for the sake of the happiness of the people which could be unnecessarily negatively affected, it is still better to avoid actions that could harm people. And, once again, if it is better for the harms to not exist, it’s also quite problematic for the benefits to not exist.

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          1. You dont think genocide being good as long as it leads to sustainable population decline or long term decreases in suffering (even if most people would think thT it would be outweighed by good experiences) isnt counterintuitive?
            you need to be aware here that most times a reductio is used against a logical justification for a conclusion – and thats the way you used it against other people in the comments as well.

            So a reductio really just works like this:
            Person A says:
            P1: is intuitive or logical
            P2: is intuitive or logical
            therefore we conclude C1
            Person B says: C1 is absurd and profoundly implausible/counterintuitive, therefore your reasoning should be rejected.

            This is the same way you used it against me or comsic lifeist in the comments before (when I presented the person affecting view, for example), so it seems to me that you are applying a double standard. That a conclusion cant be sustained by seemingly logical (to some people) premises is what a reductio is trying to show. Now you might not think that “ethical” genocide or forced sterilizations or whatever is deeply counterintuitive, but then you will be alone on that hill, pretty much, and as you said before, most people will think you are a psychopathic or confused person for thinking this.

            About my papercut example, feel free to swap the papercut against something that hurts them for a short amount of time more signficantly, something that they perceive as actually negative, although not substantially. Saying that negative states dont reduce their joy enough seems irrelevant for your NU position, since pleasure or joy isnt supposed to be positive, so all the value there is should be negative. Also please note that in the example these people procreate, so I dont see how you can avoid the conclusion of genociding their autonomous and indepent community, since future people dont consent to this (actually im confused about you coming back to concepts of consent and fairness, because utilitarians of any kind hold consent to be of intrinsic moral importance).

            “I think that the “impersonal value” thing is a red herring. The person who exists and suffers terribly is suffering from personal disvalue.”

            It seems that we are not making any progress in this respect. It seems to me that you think that a person is substantially harmed personally (to the point where we should invoke global antinatalism for everybody with literal mass murder) without either appealing to impersonal value or an existence comparison that actually supports the claim that somebody can be made worse off by being brought into existence.
            Im not sure why you are talking about “relief”, when all this is about is a counterfactual comparison between two possible worlds, that I am doing.
            One in which people never came into existence, and one in which a sad person was brought into existence. You need to show and justify how the latter world is worse than the first, or for whom this world is worse. Todo so you will need to consistently apply existence comparison or impersonal harms, especially when your coming from a consequentialist angle.
            So far you havent done that coherently.

            Now you might try to use some nonconsequentialist methods (i.e personal rights, justice, and so on) but as you are a self described negative utilitarian I would be confused about your actual views (as I am already, to a big extent).

            what makes it more obscure, is that you said the following afterwards

            “If that person’s life is so blissful that they’re glad that they exist and are imagining the comparative situation with dread in which they weren’t born, then the imaginary disvalue of non-existence is a harm which can only attend them whilst they are alive.”

            First of all, I am doing ethics from my perspective – I, as noted a couple times before, I imagine possible worlds and think about which is better and for whom. It might effect the wellfare state if somebody in those possible worlds is doing a comparison or suffering fear of death and then that would be taken inti account, but their POV on their own nonexistence is not the counterfactual comparison that I myself am making here, so if I think that an empty world is worse for some reason, it doesnt matter that nobody of the people in the other possible scenario are experiencing relief. I just judge it to be better.

            Now your statement is also weird for another reason, since you said before that just because a person exists and suffers, this means he is experiencing personal disvalue that ought to be prevented (even tho you seem to deny that then the world would be better without them, impersonally or for anybody). So it just seems unclear why the same wouldnt be true for a happy person with high well being. You said they wouldnt be harmed by actually dying because they cant experience dread then, and I showed in my last reply that this also implies that suffering people cant be benefitted or helped by death. So it seems you are invoking ethical obligations simply in virtue of the patients well being, irregardless comparative analysis, and I can just do the same for positive states.

            So I conclude, its just a good or valuable thing that a person experiences well being, and there might be an ethical reason in some cases to bring this state about. It doesnt seem to matter wether this well being is a result of satisfied desire, or (as psychological evidence suggest) also of hedonic responses to circumstances that doesnt have to be associated with conscious desire. It seems therefore coherent with your view, that merely because well being is good for somebody who later exists, we might say its good to create this person, since you dont seem to see a need for comparative benefit/harm in any way to conclude ethical duties. If you say that pain in a person should be prevented without assessing the value of counterfactual scenarios, it seems to logically follow that the same can be true for pleasure.

            I think your view is pretty much exclusively supported by NU at this point, and I think the many reductios against NU do away with it appropriately.

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            1. “You dont think genocide being good as long as it leads to sustainable population decline or long term decreases in suffering (even if most people would think thT it would be outweighed by good experiences) isnt counterintuitive?”

              If more suffering is going to be prevented than is going to be caused, then it isn’t counterintuitive. Paying £100 today to save £1million tomorrow isn’t counterintuitive. That doesn’t mean that the loss of £100 is good, it means that it is necessary to stave off a greater loss. So I’m not in favour of genocide because I think that it’s a great thing, but I would be in favour of it if that was the only way to prevent more suffering than would be caused. What part of this do you find counterintuitive?

              “This is the same way you used it against me or comsic lifeist in the comments before (when I presented the person affecting view, for example), so it seems to me that you are applying a double standard. That a conclusion cant be sustained by seemingly logical (to some people) premises is what a reductio is trying to show. Now you might not think that “ethical” genocide or forced sterilizations or whatever is deeply counterintuitive, but then you will be alone on that hill, pretty much, and as you said before, most people will think you are a psychopathic or confused person for thinking this.”

              An unpopular opinion doesn’t mean an incorrect one. If killing off all existing life means that life cannot perpetuate, then that probably means that more suffering is going to be stopped, and vastly fewer will have to suffer and die. So by every metric, it would be the right thing to do. It isn’t anything to do with having a desire to kill, it has everything to do with simple economics. Appeal to authority only really works in cases of scientific consensus, such as anthropogenic global warming, for example. When there are actual objective facts to be studied and to become known. You can’t really use the appeal to authority effectively here, because this isn’t a discovery of objective truths; it is ethics. Ethics evolve, and there isn’t really such a thing as a true objective ethical truth, because that would imply that ethics exist outside of the mind and that there is a mind-independent truth to be discovered.

              “About my papercut example, feel free to swap the papercut against something that hurts them for a short amount of time more signficantly, something that they perceive as actually negative, although not substantially. Saying that negative states dont reduce their joy enough seems irrelevant for your NU position, since pleasure or joy isnt supposed to be positive, so all the value there is should be negative. Also please note that in the example these people procreate, so I dont see how you can avoid the conclusion of genociding their autonomous and indepent community, since future people dont consent to this (actually im confused about you coming back to concepts of consent and fairness, because utilitarians of any kind hold consent to be of intrinsic moral importance).”

              If nothing is going to be born that is actually going to feel that suffering outweighs joy, then there’s not any sufficient justification for taking any kind of draconian action that will produce serious suffering. It wouldn’t be a cause worth fighting for, because none of those beings would ever have cause to feel that they were wronged by being born. If you could wipe that population out instantaneously, then that wouldn’t be a problem in and of itself, but because the suffering to be prevented is so trivial, that means that you really would have to do it painlessly and also be reasonably sure that life wasn’t going to regenerate itself and have to evolve through all of the brutal phases that would lead up to the utopian ideal.

              “One in which people never came into existence, and one in which a sad person was brought into existence. You need to show and justify how the latter world is worse than the first, or for whom this world is worse. Todo so you will need to consistently apply existence comparison or impersonal harms, especially when your coming from a consequentialist angle.
              So far you havent done that coherently.”

              I’m concerned about the wellbeing of individuals who do come into existence. So there’s only a problem in the event that someone does come into existence, because once they do exist, they are vulnerable to suffering. If we were to apply the reductio ad absurdum to your counterargument, then Mars would have to be screaming out in deprivation for the absence of creatures that can experience joy. Every molecule of matter that couldn’t experience joy would be a tragedy, and everyone would have the ethical obligation to produce as many children as possible.

              “First of all, I am doing ethics from my perspective – I, as noted a couple times before, I imagine possible worlds and think about which is better and for whom. It might effect the wellfare state if somebody in those possible worlds is doing a comparison or suffering fear of death and then that would be taken inti account, but their POV on their own nonexistence is not the counterfactual comparison that I myself am making here, so if I think that an empty world is worse for some reason, it doesnt matter that nobody of the people in the other possible scenario are experiencing relief. I just judge it to be better.”

              If there is another universe out there with no beings and observed by none, then from whose perspective can that universe be said to be deficient in anything? Once you do create beings, then you create welfare states that are constantly having to strive in order to remedy or prevent some deficiency or another. It’s unethical to create someone whose wellbeing depends upon having to solve unnecessary problems such as this. The universe itself doesn’t have a preference either way. It doesn’t care whether every square inch of space is filled with beings in intolerable pain, whether it is empty and there is no consciousness, or whether every square inch of space is filled with euphoric beings. It would only be those currently alive who could project some kind of deficiency onto the barren universe. In the first universe, the beings that do exist would have a serious problem. In the 3rd universe mentioned, then there are no problems for anyone, but all that has occurred is that a potential problem exists, but is always being solved fully in order to prevent it from becoming an actual problem.

              “Now your statement is also weird for another reason, since you said before that just because a person exists and suffers, this means he is experiencing personal disvalue that ought to be prevented (even tho you seem to deny that then the world would be better without them, impersonally or for anybody). So it just seems unclear why the same wouldnt be true for a happy person with high well being. You said they wouldnt be harmed by actually dying because they cant experience dread then, and I showed in my last reply that this also implies that suffering people cant be benefitted or helped by death. So it seems you are invoking ethical obligations simply in virtue of the patients well being, irregardless comparative analysis, and I can just do the same for positive states.”

              I think that you ought not to bring beings into existence if you cannot guarantee them full protection from serious harms. If the harms that they could experience were limited to something like a grazed knee or a papercut, then it wouldn’t be worth trying to prevent procreation, because the harms to be prevented would be trivial and the steps that would have to be taken in order to stop those lives from coming into existence would be drastic. By allowing a suffering person to die, you discontinue the suffering. That they aren’t able to process feelings of relief post mortem isn’t any reason to force them to continue having that excruciatingly painful experience. The universe doesn’t care whether that individual exists, or whether they are euphoric or in a state of intense pain whilst existing. Ethically, we should not be forcing that individual to continue experiencing such an existence. Now, I’m doing ethics here, so if someone is happy with their life, and they aren’t harming anyone else, then it’s none of my business as to whether or not they choose to die, so it isn’t my place to impose my ethical values as it relates to their personal and private experience.

              “So I conclude, its just a good or valuable thing that a person experiences well being, and there might be an ethical reason in some cases to bring this state about. It doesnt seem to matter wether this well being is a result of satisfied desire, or (as psychological evidence suggest) also of hedonic responses to circumstances that doesnt have to be associated with conscious desire. It seems therefore coherent with your view, that merely because well being is good for somebody who later exists, we might say its good to create this person, since you dont seem to see a need for comparative benefit/harm in any way to conclude ethical duties. If you say that pain in a person should be prevented without assessing the value of counterfactual scenarios, it seems to logically follow that the same can be true for pleasure.”

              That assumes that the person somehow needs the wellbeing before they exist, or the universe needs it. If you could bring about a universe in which all the inhabitants experienced blissfully happy lives, with no complaints, then there’d be no ethical reason in favour of it (because the ethical rule that should be followed is to make people happy rather than to make happy people due to the fact that good is only good to the extent to which it satisfies a need or a desire, and if you don’t have needs or desires, then those needs and desires don’t need to be satisfied). But also no compelling ethical argument against it, because potential problems are guaranteed never to become actual ones because desires are consistently and comprehensively satisfied.

              “I think your view is pretty much exclusively supported by NU at this point, and I think the many reductios against NU do away with it appropriately.”

              I don’t think that you’ve found a good “reductio”, and I can guarantee that there are more “reductios” against your position. For example, it would entail that Mars is traumatically suffering a deprivation of pleasurable experiences.

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              1. “If more suffering is going to be prevented than is going to be caused, then it isn’t counterintuitive. Paying £100 today to save £1million tomorrow isn’t counterintuitive. That doesn’t mean that the loss of £100 is good, it means that it is necessary to stave off a greater loss. So I’m not in favour of genocide because I think that it’s a great thing, but I would be in favour of it if that was the only way to prevent more suffering than would be caused. What part of this do you find counterintuitive? ”

                Well, thats not how a reductio works. A reductio is supposed to show from the conclusion, that seemingly “okay” premises are wrong or dont follow. So the fact that most (if not all) people wont be willing to follow you there, means that this is an argument against your position. I just think advocating for genocide is obviously wrong and if thats the logical conclusion of your argument, your argument is wrong. Thats the same way you used reductios (multiple times) against other people in this comment section.

                “Appeal to authority only really works in cases of scientific consensus, ”

                Ethical intuitions are usually significant for ethics – and showing what the majority of the populations basic intuitions look like is important for agreeing on an intersubjective ethic. Im not sure why you think this is “an appeal to popularity fallacy” here, since its obviously a relevant claim. Also, you used appeals to popularity both in your article and in the comments in similar fashion. The goal in ethics is usually to convince people, and something being perceived as absurd (especially if you believe ethical intuitions are subjective) means that you wont be successfull with convincing people. So bringing up subjectivity is self defeating, since people disagreeing with a conclusion on a fundamental level (so that it is a successful reductio for most people) just means you wont convince many people. If it doesnt matter how normal or widespread an intuition is, everybody in a debate can just claim to have whatever intuitions they like, and there is no orientation at all.
                Furthermore, if this is about me here, I share this intuitions. i.e. advocating for genocide in communities where a lot of lifes are worth living and where consent isnt obtained is obviously severly wrong and absurd.

                “If you could wipe that population out instantaneously, then that wouldn’t be a problem in and of itself”
                looks like you only believe in consent when it suits you. Also im quite confused why their own evaluation of their lifes net value is so important to you. If you are certain NU is right and no net positive life exists, it seems to me over millions of years they would accumulate (by papercuts or whatever) serious disvalue. For pleasure to cancel that out, it needs to be of positive value. It seems you smuggle in some deontolgical reasoning to avoid this conclusion, generally its hard to actually assess you views on different subjects because you jump quickly to concepts from different ethical views (or different axiologies like using impersonal value and then refuting it) so its kinda tiring to argue with you at this point.

                “If we were to apply the reductio ad absurdum to your counterargument, then Mars would have to be screaming out in deprivation for the absence of creatures that can experience joy. Every molecule of matter that couldn’t experience joy would be a tragedy, and everyone would have the ethical obligation to produce as many children as possible.”

                I think this is based on a misunderstanding of how counterfactuals , possible worlds (or impersonal value) work. When you assess the value of the universe, you look at whats there, i.e. what possesses positive and negative value. These are the things that cause most people to see things as a tragedy. When we compare possible worlds tho, i dont think its absurd at all to suppose that a world that was inhabited by happy people on mars was better than ours, where this wasnt the case. I would even assume this to be a common intuition.

                “It would only be those currently alive who could project some kind of deficiency onto the barren universe. In the first universe, the beings that do exist would have a serious problem. In the 3rd universe mentioned, then there are no problems for anyone, but all that has occurred is that a potential problem exists, but is always being solved fully in order to prevent it from becoming an actual problem.”

                When I talk about possible worlds its about which world I think is better. In a Universe where everybody is well off, all the beings have a reason to enjoy and be profoundly happy about their state is a pretty good unierse. You are only seeing this from the negative angle because you presuppose that solving problems to a state of 0 (or no axiological state at all) is all that matters.

                “If there is another universe out there with no beings and observed by none, then from whose perspective can that universe be said to be deficient in anything?”

                Well if I talk about possible worlds than I am the one who thinks that one world is better than the other. We are currently in a situation wjhere I am sentient and can do philosophy, so the question will always be “from my perspective right now, about these possible worlds”. If I start my philosophy with “if there was nobody able to think then …”, I would have to stop right after the “then”, and nothing could be said at all.

                “The universe itself doesn’t have a preference either way. It doesn’t care whether every square inch of space is filled with beings in intolerable pain, whether it is empty and there is no consciousness, or whether every square inch of space is filled with euphoric beings. It would only be those currently alive who could project some kind of deficiency onto the barren universe.”

                I might have logical reasons (based on my intuitive axioms) to have a preference or evaluate on state of affairs as better. I never said anything of the universe being consciousm or mars screaming about something, and I think you frequently use rethorics that resemble intentional strawman arguments.
                So to continue, if you think ethics are mind dependent projections, every kind of ethical evaluation is a projection (also the one that a state of affairs without sentient beings able to project would be better), and therefore not rendered invalid by being a projection. So if I think a possible world with beings in it is better than an empty one, it matters to me, and I think I have ethical reasons to do so. I dont see at all how the fact that nobody could think that when there was no philosopher should add anything to this discussion here. I also think you invoke a double standard about which ethical views are a “projection” and which are somehow not.

                “By allowing a suffering person to die, you discontinue the suffering. That they aren’t able to process feelings of relief post mortem isn’t any reason to force them to continue having that excruciatingly painful experience.”

                thats a strawman. Where did I say that the problem was that nobody was able to process feelings of relief? The problem is that its hard for us to say who was benefitted, or who is better off or helped by such an act, so it seems obviously incoherent to say somebody was benefitted from death in the same way it seems (under the epicurean view) incoherent to say that somebody was harmed. There is no need to invoke strawman rethorics, this is a standard feature of the nonidentity problem and a well known problem of the epicurean view, that is usually resolved by appealing to impersonal value of some sort. You also didnt show why it was bad, i.e. how its not, say, maximazing well being, making anybody worse off, to point pretty intuitive consequentialist definitions of harm that are impossible to apply here.

                “That assumes that the person somehow needs the wellbeing before they exist, or the universe needs it. If you could bring about a universe in which all the inhabitants experienced blissfully happy lives, with no complaints, then there’d be no ethical reason in favour of it (because the ethical rule that should be followed is to make people happy rather than to make happy people due to the fact that good is only good to the extent to which it satisfies a need or a desire, and if you don’t have needs or desires, then those needs and desires don’t need to be satisfied). But also no compelling ethical argument against it, because potential problems are guaranteed never to become actual ones because desires are consistently and comprehensively satisfied.”

                You misrepresent my view here, unfortunately. It doesnt imply that the universe “needs” it in the common sense of the word, but, impersonally speaking, that we think a unierse with happy beings to be better than an empty one. Also you didnt reply to the point why I brought this view up. You said pain is noncomparitively bad. i.e. bad without making stuff worse for anybody gives us reasons to act. But suffering and pain exist in sofar as there is aversion to them, or general aversion to some sensations. The same is true with positive states, they are positive because they are attractive to sentient beings. You said suffering is noncomparitively bad, in the sense where the mere existence of it implies ethical obligations to the point of genocide, without making the universe impersonally better or better for anybody.
                To me its just clear that the same would have to be true with positive states too. It doesnt seem to be relevant that good exists only in the sense that it makes somebody better off, or satisfies some desire or makes somebody happy (actually there is conclusive evidence that hedonic states occur without them being instantiated by satisfaction of conscious desire, read the literature around misattribution). So just because happiness means that some being is enjoys having it, this doesnt mean that this being isnt in a state of good value. And if a being in a negative state alone is a reason for certain action noncomparitively, there isnt any logical reason against positive states doing the same. I think logically if your view is: “a being experiencing pain should be stopped existing, even if it makes nobody better off, and not the universe impersonally better” , I can simply turn it around “a being experiencing net-positive existence should be brought into existence even if it doesnt make the universe better for anybody or impersonally better”.

                To be clear here, I think this justifications fails in both ways, i.e. you will need either existence comparability or impersonal value, but just to play along with your view, if beings like their existance and are in a good state, this seems as reason giving than the badness, in your view, since making somebody better off, improving somebodies state, or making the universe better are all things not needed to form an obligation, appearently.

                “For example, it would entail that Mars is traumatically suffering a deprivation of pleasurable experiences.”

                Thats just an obvious intentional strawman at this point, after all the stuff we have been over until now, which is unfortunate, but normal in online debate, i guess. Comparison between possible worlds doesnt work like that at all, and you can do better.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. “Well, thats not how a reductio works. A reductio is supposed to show from the conclusion, that seemingly “okay” premises are wrong or dont follow. So the fact that most (if not all) people wont be willing to follow you there, means that this is an argument against your position. I just think advocating for genocide is obviously wrong and if thats the logical conclusion of your argument, your argument is wrong. Thats the same way you used reductios (multiple times) against other people in this comment section.”

                  You’re just going to assert it to be “obviously wrong” without even an explanation? In the trolley problem, is it “obviously wrong” when someone says that they would divert the trolley onto the one in order to save the several? That’s all this is, a version of the trolley problem. I would advocate for sterilising the biosphere. That doesn’t reflect a positive desire to harm existing things, just a recognition that more harm could be prevented that way than allowing things to continue as they are.

                  “Ethical intuitions are usually significant for ethics – and showing what the majority of the populations basic intuitions look like is important for agreeing on an intersubjective ethic. Im not sure why you think this is “an appeal to popularity fallacy” here, since its obviously a relevant claim. Also, you used appeals to popularity both in your article and in the comments in similar fashion. The goal in ethics is usually to convince people, and something being perceived as absurd (especially if you believe ethical intuitions are subjective) means that you wont be successfull with convincing people. So bringing up subjectivity is self defeating, since people disagreeing with a conclusion on a fundamental level (so that it is a successful reductio for most people) just means you wont convince many people. If it doesnt matter how normal or widespread an intuition is, everybody in a debate can just claim to have whatever intuitions they like, and there is no orientation at all.
                  Furthermore, if this is about me here, I share this intuitions. i.e. advocating for genocide in communities where a lot of lifes are worth living and where consent isnt obtained is obviously severly wrong and absurd.”

                  I don’t think that espousing antinatalism is beyond the pale. Most people don’t want to be the cause of harm to their own children, so I’m trying to appeal to that parental instinct. I think that most people who become parents haven’t fully thought through the ethical ramifications of becoming biological parents. I am hoping that their own conscience will police their actions. Espousing efilism (which entails actively eradicating all life) is a step further and will be a bit more difficult. However, if you can make people understand that we only reject death because of a biological instinct, and that there are more of ‘them’ to be saved by sacrificing ‘us’, then it may be possible to persuade enough of those who would be in a position to actually invent a way to end the existence of life on Earth.

                  “looks like you only believe in consent when it suits you. Also im quite confused why their own evaluation of their lifes net value is so important to you. If you are certain NU is right and no net positive life exists, it seems to me over millions of years they would accumulate (by papercuts or whatever) serious disvalue. For pleasure to cancel that out, it needs to be of positive value. It seems you smuggle in some deontolgical reasoning to avoid this conclusion, generally its hard to actually assess you views on different subjects because you jump quickly to concepts from different ethical views (or different axiologies like using impersonal value and then refuting it) so its kinda tiring to argue with you at this point.”

                  I believe consent to be very important, but nowhere have I said that my entire philosophy is based only on consent. You need compelling reason in order to violate consent, and the case where all harms are trivial doesn’t really meet that threshold. But if I need to kill off all of the existing lives in order to spare the future ones from existence, then I’m doing that. If all harms are trivial, then there would be nobody with a consciously held interest in ending their existence or wishing that it would have been prevented, therefore there is no call to act. Nobody would be birthing a life that they wouldn’t personally wish to live, so although there might ‘technically’ have been a moral infraction there, it would be something not worthy of a drastic solution and antinatalism could gain no traction within any such society. That doesn’t mean that the pleasure of these people is positively improving on the universe compared to how it would have been without it. I believe that antinatalism will gain traction within our decidedly unblissful society, because people do feel that their harms are outweighing their suffering, and I think that there are a lot of people who wish that they hadn’t been born (even people who seem to have good lives by the standards of most) who don’t feel comfortable expressing that thought. There are also people glad that they were born, but they wouldn’t have needed that gratification if they hadn’t been created and been put at risk of having an experience that they wish would have been avoided.

                  “I think this is based on a misunderstanding of how counterfactuals , possible worlds (or impersonal value) work. When you assess the value of the universe, you look at whats there, i.e. what possesses positive and negative value. These are the things that cause most people to see things as a tragedy. When we compare possible worlds tho, i dont think its absurd at all to suppose that a world that was inhabited by happy people on mars was better than ours, where this wasnt the case. I would even assume this to be a common intuition.”

                  It’s not based on the standards of the non-existent Martians though, it’s based on the standards of people on this planet who project their own desires and fantasies onto Mars.

                  “When I talk about possible worlds its about which world I think is better. In a Universe where everybody is well off, all the beings have a reason to enjoy and be profoundly happy about their state is a pretty good unierse. You are only seeing this from the negative angle because you presuppose that solving problems to a state of 0 (or no axiological state at all) is all that matters.”

                  It wouldn’t be a universe that needed to have a nuclear bomb set off. But if there was no need in the universe for those beings in the first place, then there’s still no profit. All you’ve done is create beings that need pleasure and have given them pleasure, thus solving the problem that was created.

                  “Well if I talk about possible worlds than I am the one who thinks that one world is better than the other. We are currently in a situation wjhere I am sentient and can do philosophy, so the question will always be “from my perspective right now, about these possible worlds”. If I start my philosophy with “if there was nobody able to think then …”, I would have to stop right after the “then”, and nothing could be said at all.”

                  There would be no problems if there was nothing capable of thinking. No deficiencies. There’d be nothing to think about, including whether it would be better if there were happy organisms in existence.

                  “So if I think a possible world with beings in it is better than an empty one, it matters to me, and I think I have ethical reasons to do so. I dont see at all how the fact that nobody could think that when there was no philosopher should add anything to this discussion here. I also think you invoke a double standard about which ethical views are a “projection” and which are somehow not.”

                  It’s a projection because you think it would be interesting if there was life on Mars, but there’s no cohort of potential Martians suspended in limbo wishing that they could exist. If there were no beings in existence at all, then there’d be no need for ethics. Ethics is needed to mitigate against problems which exist. So the goal of ethics should be to attain a state where the practice of ethics is rendered obsolete.

                  “thats a strawman. Where did I say that the problem was that nobody was able to process feelings of relief? The problem is that its hard for us to say who was benefitted, or who is better off or helped by such an act, so it seems obviously incoherent to say somebody was benefitted from death in the same way it seems (under the epicurean view) incoherent to say that somebody was harmed. There is no need to invoke strawman rethorics, this is a standard feature of the nonidentity problem and a well known problem of the epicurean view, that is usually resolved by appealing to impersonal value of some sort. You also didnt show why it was bad, i.e. how its not, say, maximazing well being, making anybody worse off, to point pretty intuitive consequentialist definitions of harm that are impossible to apply here.”

                  Once they no longer exist, they no longer need a benefit. A “benefit” is something that only exists in the context of needing protection from harm. If there’s no possibility of harm, then the loss of “benefit” as a concept isn’t a bad thing. A benefit is a compensation. I don’t want compensations, I want outright prevention.

                  “You misrepresent my view here, unfortunately. It doesnt imply that the universe “needs” it in the common sense of the word, but, impersonally speaking, that we think a unierse with happy beings to be better than an empty one. Also you didnt reply to the point why I brought this view up. You said pain is noncomparitively bad. i.e. bad without making stuff worse for anybody gives us reasons to act. But suffering and pain exist in sofar as there is aversion to them, or general aversion to some sensations. The same is true with positive states, they are positive because they are attractive to sentient beings. You said suffering is noncomparitively bad, in the sense where the mere existence of it implies ethical obligations to the point of genocide, without making the universe impersonally better or better for anybody.”

                  If you think that there’s a problem with Mars because it doesn’t have sentient beings, then that’s your problem, and not warrant to create the beings without knowing what could happen to them as a consequence of that experiment. Pain is intrinsically bad, because all definitions of bad have to relate back to suffering. You cannot define suffering without the concept of “badness” and you cannot define “badness” without invoking the ineffable concept of suffering. By definition, it’s a condition to be avoided.

                  “Thats just an obvious intentional strawman at this point, after all the stuff we have been over until now, which is unfortunate, but normal in online debate, i guess. Comparison between possible worlds doesnt work like that at all, and you can do better.”

                  If there’s nobody inhabiting that other universe, then there are no observers to think that it could be better than it is. Thus, it cannot be improved upon.

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                  1. First of all, about reductios: a reductio means that a conclusion strikes you as impossible to accept. Thats the same that you did with the strong person affecting view, that implied there was nothing wrong with bringing miserable people into existence – you rejected it based on the fact that the conclusion would be obviously horrific and most people would think im a monster and so on. You said something similar to cosmic lifeist, but I dont recall the exact words. Now of course if someone is inncredibly committed to the premises of a person affecting view (like jonathan heyd, for example), they will bite this bullet, but most people will just not follow him there and find views that are all in all more plausible.

                    “I don’t think that espousing antinatalism is beyond the pale. Most people don’t want to be the cause of harm to their own children, so I’m trying to appeal to that parental instinct.”

                    thats not what the intuition was about and that was not the point where I appealed to popularity – the intuition was about advocating for genocide, not antinatalism ala benatar. I dont think an ad absurdum works against a normal Antinatalist view, but it works imo very well against genocidal sentiments. Also you use “harm” in ambigious ways here. Usually “harm” is understood as making someone worse off than otherwise, and this is never the case when people procreate. It can be an impersonal harm, or if their existence is mostly suffering of some sort we might say there was something intrinsically wrong with the act, but when most people say they generally dont want to harm other people, they usually mean the comparative sense and not non-identity scenarios.

                    “I believe consent to be very important, but nowhere have I said that my entire philosophy is based only on consent.”

                    I never said that you said it was only based on consent, im just surprised how you intrinsically value consent as a utilitarian of any kind – they usually just say respecting consent as a rule leads to utility, but there is not much in hedonic (or desire-satisfaction) utilitarianism, negative or positive, to suggest consent has intrinsic importance. So I assume you are in some sense cherry picking aspects of different normative systems without applying their foundation coherently.

                    “It’s not based on the standards of the non-existent Martians though, it’s based on the standards of people on this planet who project their own desires and fantasies onto Mars.”

                    Of course nonexistent people cant do philosophy and dont have standards. We do philosophy and examine our (according to you subjective) intuitions and what ethical actions they imply. However its wrong to say that we project desires or fantasies – you said ethical value itself is a projection, so its just a projection in this respect, we judge that it could potentially be better, this has nothing to do with my personal desires or self interests, but with my ethical beliefs. The same is true when we say we shouldnt bring those people into existence. There are no potentials martians screaming “no, dont bring me there”. You are only evaluating the consequence as bad because later there are beings there who suffer. It wasnt relevant that there was no aversion to suffering present there before, and in the same way it wouldnt be relevant that there is no attraction to pleasure there before.

                    “There would be no problems if there was nothing capable of thinking. No deficiencies. There’d be nothing to think about, including whether it would be better if there were happy organisms in existence.”
                    sure- but if I compare such a state to a state in which happy beings exist I, as a thinking individual might judge that the latter is better. Again, there is no philosophy being done from the state of unconsciousness – and you invoke another double standard here – you say that ethics wouldnt exist and there would be nothing to think about, yet you still judge the world comparatively as in some way better or more fortunate than one with suffering creatures. If you evaluate this world from the perspective of no thinking being, than just say nothing about it, i.e. no comparison could be made, it can be neither better or worse than any possible world with beings in it.

                    “but there’s no cohort of potential Martians suspended in limbo wishing that they could exist. If there were no beings in existence at all, then there’d be no need for ethics. Ethics is needed to mitigate against problems which exist. So the goal of ethics should be to attain a state where the practice of ethics is rendered obsolete.”

                    Your begging the question – I think ethics is also there to promote good, to enable flourishing and eudaimonia which have positive value and so on. Its also historically wrong that ethics purpose was to get rid of suffering. A good place to start looking into ethics promoting actual goodness is aristotle’s nichomanen ethics.
                    Also the fact that there are no martians in limbo is self defeating because then again you run into thepreviously discussed problem that no person is worse of or harmed by coming into existence because there was nobody there who was better off before or brought into a worse state. There was nobody in need to be spared. Once they come into existence, they can experience bad, and you said this badness is reason-giving, even tho it doesnt make things worse impersonally or for anybody comparitively. It seems then perfectly coherent to state that your view implies the same for pleasure, even tho I think it doesnt make sense either way to think about the nonidentity problem like this – my conclusion of the nonidentity problem is that it shows us we should either adopt existence comparability along with some kind of non-consequentialist ethics or accept impersonal value (most utilitarians just accept impersonal value).

                    “Once they no longer exist, they no longer need a benefit. ”

                    This is irrelevant to the question – the question was whether dying is good for them and the epicurean answer is “no”, even if they are in intense pain. You are again trying to rethorically side step the issue that dying isnt good for them by saying “it isnt needed anymore”, by which you are still evaluating the result of the euthanasia as (for some reason) more desirable for them. Of course no person affecting reason can be given tho under the epicurean view. Your still applying an axiological pseudostate by saying they have no need for X, when simply the brute fact of this view is that they are neither better or worse off by dying, therefore it cant be a rational action in the person affecting sense (although it can be rational once we accept impersonal value or reject the epicurean view).

                    “All you’ve done is create beings that need pleasure and have given them pleasure, thus solving the problem that was created.”

                    I dont see at all why you would think that having pleasure is only a problem solving thing – there are certainly states in which I have the things I want, but some random occurence makes me even happier – also pleasure is often invoked by things that are unrelated to desire, i.e. nutrition, neurotransmitter, it can be unknowingly induced by drugs and is then misattributed to events. The evidence is clear that pleasure is a hedonic state that doesnt just occur when conscious desires are satisfied, but many things can influence it.
                    When I introspect into my own life its very clear that there are negative states, neutral states and positive states, and I judge these positive states to be good in the same way the negatives are bad. I dont think that the research in valenced emotions supports the view that positive states exist as an “absence of lack” kind of thing at all, especially not recent accomplishments by damasio, panskepp and scherer.

                    “If you think that there’s a problem with Mars because it doesn’t have sentient beings, then that’s your problem”

                    weird thing for somebody to say who thinks ethics are subjective, you seem to think there is some objective ethical rule of “keeping your subjective ethics to yourself when they affect others”, but obviously if ethics are subjectives, the reasons guiding my actions will be subjective, so if I identify a possible world with happy beings on mars as better than ours, I might have a reason for actualizing it. There is no need for a different rethoric that strawmans this view.

                    “You cannot define suffering without the concept of “badness” and you cannot define “badness” without invoking the ineffable concept of suffering. By definition, it’s a condition to be avoided.”

                    First off all, you are sidestepping the issue. Badness is bad, of course, so we should bring about axiological states that involve less badness. However if a state cant be compared to a bad state it cant be said to be better, since no comparison can be made. You will have to allow some sense of comparison to actually say that the possible scenario in which badness was avoided is better.
                    Alos, Suffering implies aversion to it and therefore that its bad, and wellbeing automatically implies that it is good. If somebody doesnt want a thing and is then bugged by it, it likely wouldnt increase well being. However I think its obvious people can desire self destructive things a lot of the time, therefore I think wellbeing isnt defined by satisfied desires alone. Generally speaking tho well being is by definition good for the individual, and more well being is better. Its analogous to suffering.

                    “If there’s nobody inhabiting that other universe, then there are no observers to think that it could be better than it is. Thus, it cannot be improved upon.”

                    Again if there are no observers to evaluate it, then why are you evaluating it by saying it cant be improved uppon? Seems like if I am not allowed to say that it is worse than a universe with happy beings (by actually observing both possibilities and then woring towards the one I conclude to be better) you will be also unable to evaluate that universe as anything, including something that “cannot be improved upon”.
                    Also if there is no observer yet present and suffering creatures come then into being, its hard to say how the universe was made less good by the same standard.

                    Its all an implicit (or explicit) double standard.

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                    1. “First of all, about reductios: a reductio means that a conclusion strikes you as impossible to accept. Thats the same that you did with the strong person affecting view, that implied there was nothing wrong with bringing miserable people into existence – you rejected it based on the fact that the conclusion would be obviously horrific and most people would think im a monster and so on. You said something similar to cosmic lifeist, but I dont recall the exact words. Now of course if someone is inncredibly committed to the premises of a person affecting view (like jonathan heyd, for example), they will bite this bullet, but most people will just not follow him there and find views that are all in all more plausible.”

                      It’s not just myself that would reject it, everyone would reject that consequence. By its very definition, a profound state of suffering is something that demands to be avoided at all costs. But if you could make the exit strategy painless, then there’d really be no reason other than a misapprehension of death or primal fear that would cause one to reject that. Especially in light of all the suffering that could be avoided. If we couldn’t make it painless, then people would have grounds to reject it on the basis of self-interest. However, failing to do so would result in vastly more beings coming into existence who will experience states that are against their interest. Therefore the self-interests of those who are currently extant would have to be vetoed on utilitarian grounds (namely that the cost to be paid by those alive now is a trivial amount compared to the cost that would be imposed by all the lives in the future).

                      “thats not what the intuition was about and that was not the point where I appealed to popularity – the intuition was about advocating for genocide, not antinatalism ala benatar. I dont think an ad absurdum works against a normal Antinatalist view, but it works imo very well against genocidal sentiments. Also you use “harm” in ambigious ways here. Usually “harm” is understood as making someone worse off than otherwise, and this is never the case when people procreate. It can be an impersonal harm, or if their existence is mostly suffering of some sort we might say there was something intrinsically wrong with the act, but when most people say they generally dont want to harm other people, they usually mean the comparative sense and not non-identity scenarios.”

                      Harm is suffering. And once one does exist, one is at risk of enduring states that make them worse off than they wish to be. So you can draw comparison between the reality and the optimal, if you must, rather than between existence and non-existence.

                      “I never said that you said it was only based on consent, im just surprised how you intrinsically value consent as a utilitarian of any kind – they usually just say respecting consent as a rule leads to utility, but there is not much in hedonic (or desire-satisfaction) utilitarianism, negative or positive, to suggest consent has intrinsic importance. So I assume you are in some sense cherry picking aspects of different normative systems without applying their foundation coherently.”

                      Consent is of paramount importance if there is a) a serious harm involved in the proposition and b) there isn’t a greater harm to be prevented elsewhere. Procreation does cause beings to come into existence that can be harmed (it is in fact the single pre-requisite for harm to occur), and although preventing procreation may cause harm to those who are currently alive, it cannot be said to be a greater harm than the chain of harm that would be continued if you failed to prevent the procreation from occurring. To commit genocide in a less than painless way, you would cause harm. But that could be justified by saying that you needed to do it (undesirable as it was) in order to end the existence of suffering altogether. You could say that to come into existence is going to entail suffering, and by limiting the suffering only to those currently alive, you’re greatly reducing the collateral damage.

                      “Of course nonexistent people cant do philosophy and dont have standards. We do philosophy and examine our (according to you subjective) intuitions and what ethical actions they imply. However its wrong to say that we project desires or fantasies – you said ethical value itself is a projection, so its just a projection in this respect, we judge that it could potentially be better, this has nothing to do with my personal desires or self interests, but with my ethical beliefs. The same is true when we say we shouldnt bring those people into existence. There are no potentials martians screaming “no, dont bring me there”. You are only evaluating the consequence as bad because later there are beings there who suffer. It wasnt relevant that there was no aversion to suffering present there before, and in the same way it wouldnt be relevant that there is no attraction to pleasure there before.”

                      It would only be better for those Martians to exist from a perspective such as your own, and that’s irrelevant to whether or not Mars is actually deficient in joy due to the absence of these beings. There are no potential Martians begging for their existence to be prevented, but if those Martians do come into existence, then they likely would be feeling that, or if they lacked the capacity to wish that they were dead, then they would be experiencing situations that would invoke terror and would demand corrective action that may not be available. The fact that there was no aversion to suffering or attraction to pleasure there before simply means that there’s no problem to be corrected, and no call for any action. If it isn’t already broken, then don’t risk creating real suffering by trying to “fix” what you perceive as being the deficiency.

                      “Your begging the question – I think ethics is also there to promote good, to enable flourishing and eudaimonia which have positive value and so on. Its also historically wrong that ethics purpose was to get rid of suffering. A good place to start looking into ethics promoting actual goodness is aristotle’s nichomanen ethics.
                      Also the fact that there are no martians in limbo is self defeating because then again you run into thepreviously discussed problem that no person is worse of or harmed by coming into existence because there was nobody there who was better off before or brought into a worse state. There was nobody in need to be spared. Once they come into existence, they can experience bad, and you said this badness is reason-giving, even tho it doesnt make things worse impersonally or for anybody comparitively. It seems then perfectly coherent to state that your view implies the same for pleasure, even tho I think it doesnt make sense either way to think about the nonidentity problem like this – my conclusion of the nonidentity problem is that it shows us we should either adopt existence comparability along with some kind of non-consequentialist ethics or accept impersonal value (most utilitarians just accept impersonal value).”

                      There is no need for goodness if there is no badness to be prevented. Good is defined by protection from the bad. The fact that the Martians didn’t have a desire to avoid suffering prior to coming into existence is irrelevant, because my ethics are not predicated upon preserving an existing state of bliss, it’s predicated upon what would be the likely outcome if the Martians did come to exist. Which would be that they would experience conscious states from which they would wish relief, where relief cannot be guaranteed. There’s simply no need to pretend that the universe was enjoying the fact that the Martians weren’t being tortured, or that the Martians themselves were enjoying not being tortured. Or that the universe was or was not crying out in lamentation from the absence of their joy.

                      “This is irrelevant to the question – the question was whether dying is good for them and the epicurean answer is “no”, even if they are in intense pain. You are again trying to rethorically side step the issue that dying isnt good for them by saying “it isnt needed anymore”, by which you are still evaluating the result of the euthanasia as (for some reason) more desirable for them. Of course no person affecting reason can be given tho under the epicurean view. Your still applying an axiological pseudostate by saying they have no need for X, when simply the brute fact of this view is that they are neither better or worse off by dying, therefore it cant be a rational action in the person affecting sense (although it can be rational once we accept impersonal value or reject the epicurean view).”

                      Allowing them to die obviates the need for anything that could be described as “good”. You can never win by trying to seek out “good”; in fact, you can never win at all. The best that can occur is to cut losses. To die before something even worse happens. Whilst they are suffering, they have an interest in the cessation of the suffering, even though the nature of the game is that it is impossible for them to experience that relief. It would be rational to cut losses in that instance, knowing that continuing to exist would result in continuing suffering. There’s no need at all to pretend that they’re going to be enjoying the relief once they are dead.

                      “I dont see at all why you would think that having pleasure is only a problem solving thing – there are certainly states in which I have the things I want, but some random occurence makes me even happier – also pleasure is often invoked by things that are unrelated to desire, i.e. nutrition, neurotransmitter, it can be unknowingly induced by drugs and is then misattributed to events. The evidence is clear that pleasure is a hedonic state that doesnt just occur when conscious desires are satisfied, but many things can influence it.
                      When I introspect into my own life its very clear that there are negative states, neutral states and positive states, and I judge these positive states to be good in the same way the negatives are bad. I dont think that the research in valenced emotions supports the view that positive states exist as an “absence of lack” kind of thing at all, especially not recent accomplishments by damasio, panskepp and scherer.”

                      The thing that causes the most pleasure is that which satisfies the desire to the greatest extent. So you can have your desire satisfied pretty well and you’re having a good time, but then you’re having your desire satisfied even better. I’m skeptical of the existence of neutral states. If they do, in fact, exist, then they must be very fleeting, due to the nature of our brain and our biology – you cannot remain in that “neutral” state very long before you become hungry, or need to go to the toilet, or otherwise need stimulation.

                      “weird thing for somebody to say who thinks ethics are subjective, you seem to think there is some objective ethical rule of “keeping your subjective ethics to yourself when they affect others”, but obviously if ethics are subjectives, the reasons guiding my actions will be subjective, so if I identify a possible world with happy beings on mars as better than ours, I might have a reason for actualizing it. There is no need for a different rethoric that strawmans this view.”

                      There is no objective rule, but there are universal interests. All sentient beings have an interest in avoiding suffering. That’s not technically an “objective” rule, but it’s as close as you can get, and as good as an objective rule, in my opinion. The fact that you wouldn’t be willing to accept some of the outcomes that you’d gladly impose on others (due to the risks inherent in procreation) means that you could not universalise your ethical rules. You could likely only gladly take that risk when you knew that you weren’t going to be the one who was stuck with the outcome of the risk. Especially if you were able to internalise the fact that non-existence is harmless.

                      “First off all, you are sidestepping the issue. Badness is bad, of course, so we should bring about axiological states that involve less badness. However if a state cant be compared to a bad state it cant be said to be better, since no comparison can be made. You will have to allow some sense of comparison to actually say that the possible scenario in which badness was avoided is better.
                      Alos, Suffering implies aversion to it and therefore that its bad, and wellbeing automatically implies that it is good. If somebody doesnt want a thing and is then bugged by it, it likely wouldnt increase well being. However I think its obvious people can desire self destructive things a lot of the time, therefore I think wellbeing isnt defined by satisfied desires alone. Generally speaking tho well being is by definition good for the individual, and more well being is better. Its analogous to suffering.”

                      Once people do exist, they experience states that can be compared to other, more preferable states. So their interests are being violated by being alive and vulnerable to all of the things that interfere with their interests. People can desire self-destructive things all of the time, but that’s not because they desire the adverse outcome that will ensue, it’s because they have a current sub-optimal state that they think can be temporarily improved. It means that their current state is so bad, that they’re willing to gamble with a worse outcome in the future. Or just ignore the risks entirely.

                      “Again if there are no observers to evaluate it, then why are you evaluating it by saying it cant be improved uppon? Seems like if I am not allowed to say that it is worse than a universe with happy beings (by actually observing both possibilities and then woring towards the one I conclude to be better) you will be also unable to evaluate that universe as anything, including something that “cannot be improved upon”.
                      Also if there is no observer yet present and suffering creatures come then into being, its hard to say how the universe was made less good by the same standard.”

                      Because there is no observer wanting an improvement, therefore there is no scope for improvement. When sentient beings are created, it is not the material universe which is brought into an objectively sub-optimal state, but the concept of “sub-optimal” is introduced via the creation of subjective states.

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                  2. I forgot one point:
                    “If all harms are trivial, then there would be nobody with a consciously held interest in ending their existence or wishing that it would have been prevented, therefore there is no call to act. Nobody would be birthing a life that they wouldn’t personally wish to live, so although there might ‘technically’ have been a moral infraction there, it would be something not worthy of a drastic solution”

                    the view that beings need to be cognitively able or have the view themselves that there existence should have been prevented in order for us to have an obligation for preventing them (potentially with violence) is in direct contradiction with efilism, since efilism proposes the genociding of different life forms who have an unreflected interest in continued existence and are usually not lamenting their fate in any way. Also you have yet to show me how lamenting my fate (i.e. I wish I was never born, I am worse off for being born etc) is not just an irrational error, since to what we have discussed, neither personal or impersonal comparison can be made.

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                    1. No, as an efilist, I can recognise that these beings are experiencing conscious states that demand relief, even if they aren’t aware that death is a way to prevent these harms. So I can apply my greater intelligence and understanding to make that decision on their behalf.

                      If you think that not wanting to exist is an irrational error, then I’d love to see you go into cancer wards and streets where homeless junkies sleep with your superior grasp of the concept of “impersonal harm”, laughing in people’s for being so philosophically naive as to think that their current conditions are bad, because they didn’t ask not to be put in that position before they were born.

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                2. True. If one is saying that annihilation is necessary, it also means that they believe that it is mostly good in some sense (even if they use different terms, such the action being “least harmful”). Obviously, promortalists (which most efilists are) that non-existence is actually preferable (not just something that is bad but necessary for the good of others). However, I don’t think that this idea makes sense, since if the absence of happiness isn’t bad because nobody desires it when they don’t exist, by the same token, it cannot be better for someone either due to the fact that nobody is satisfied from the absence of being in the void. And, as far as the good of others is concerned, I would again repeat that it cannot be ethically justified to prevent an unthinkable amount of positives that could have been experienced by innumerable sentient beings. Therefore, the act of annihilation/prevention is worthless at best or unimaginably unethical at worst (not to mention the fact that it can also lead to other absurd conclusions, such as a world having a greater total amount of suffering alongside a significant amount of happiness being worse than one with one with a lower overall but greater individual harms). Preventing all happiness doesn’t appear to be ethically defensible.

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            2. The fact that the idea of creation not being a harm (for the person) is unpopular/counterintuitive also doesn’t mean that it’s wrong. There’s nothing more unintuitive (and unethical) than annihilating all good in order to “gain” the worthless (at least for most people) state of non-existence. Also, if saying that the absence of happiness is bad entails that Mars is traumatically suffering a deprivation of pleasurable experiences, then saying that the absence of harms is good implies that non-existent Martians are dancing in joy due to all the harms they’ve avoided. But if that’s not the case and the prevention of harms is an abstract good, then the prevention of happiness is also bad—and it outweighs any value the former brings.

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  12. @CosmicLifeist, I cannot find the comment to respond to it, so this may start a new comment thread. No, I am not positively happy for the chair. I don’t need to think about it at all. The universe is mostly filled up with matter that cannot be harmed, and what happens to it is of no consequence, unless it has implications for sentient beings. The chair doesn’t need to already be enjoying the bliss of being impervious harm in order for me to know that it would be bad if the chair was sentient and was experiencing torture every moment. The presence of positives is only a compensation for those already at risk of harm, so for sentient beings, it is important to try and maintain a state that feels positive (that being the absence of harm and the satisfaction of desire) until such time as that vessel loses the capacity to feel (death) at which point, it is no longer a problem that they aren’t experiencing positive mental states.

    It isn’t ethically preferable to allow for positive states when in doing so, you create the danger of negative states. If you could create the positive states without imposing any risk of negative states, then it would not be a problem to do so, although there would certainly not be any pressing need to do it.

    The existence of negative conscious states and the fact that all sentient organisms are at risk of falling into these states – sometimes to a degree that is alarming to even contemplate – is the rationale for doing whatever is necessary to cease the existence of conscious states entirely.

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    1. I will reply to both of your last comments here.

      Generally speaking, a big problem in this debate is for one that there are frequent strawmen from your side, and that you frequently just state beliefs rethorically with a misunderstanding of the opponents views or arguments, or even restate arguments after someone laid out why he isnt convinced by them.

      “It’s not just myself that would reject it, everyone would reject that consequence.”

      Generally people who arent super sold on premises will not belief awful consequences. Now of course that isnt true for “everyone” in either the genocide or the “making suffering people” example, both have some extremists thinking the conclusion isnt absurd, but almost everyone will think proposing “pretty painless” genocide or murdering people in their sleep is super evil, and most people wont find some asymmetrical explanation on suffering and pleasure compelling enough to accept such a conclusion.

      “But if you could make the exit strategy painless, then there’d really be no reason other than a misapprehension of death or primal fear that would cause one to reject that. Especially in light of all the suffering that could be avoided.”

      I would say lets not ignore that people have alternative views that might capture their intuitions better – generally speaking, instead of attacking the motivations of people who find the conclusions absurd for possibly very different reasons that you state. I dont think that this is a good way to go about this. It can be seen as wrong from different axiological views, deontological ethics, pretty much any view that is not full on NU, and attributing all those views to “a fear of death” is very silly, and opens you up for a Nietzschean attack on your motivation as well. I think its best not to psychologize opponents like this, and if you are in good faith properly engage with their arguments instead of strawmanning and psychologizing them, or accusing people of holding immoral views themselves when they are debating details about conclusions from your own premises.

      “Therefore the self-interests of those who are currently extant would have to be vetoed on utilitarian grounds”

      what – on utilitarian grounds? Thats weird, for whom is wellbeing not maximized (i.e. better than alternatively possible) under a scenario where we make new people? In what way would we better maximize utility when we dont make those people? In what way do we create more utility (for whom? impersonally?) by not creating miserable people? If you let go off comparative value, feel free to let go of any form of utilitarianism, since it will be broken beyond repair without that concept.

      “And once one does exist, one is at risk of enduring states that make them worse off than they wish to be. So you can draw comparison between the reality and the optimal, if you must, rather than between existence and non-existence.”

      That comparison is just not what is needed here. The question is not “are they worse off than in a possible world where they are better off”, but “are they worse off that not existing”. Im not sure how this isnt clear at this point. They can imagine possible worlds where they are better or worse off all they want, but it wont substitute the nonidentity problem, that we will have trouble to say that they were made worse off by coming into existence if we dont get creative with our comparisons or invoke impersonal value comparison.

      “Consent is of paramount importance if there is a) a serious harm involved in the proposition and b) there isn’t a greater harm to be prevented elsewhere.”

      Thats not a reply to my argument. My argument was that (negative) utilitarians generally dont value consent intrinsically, because they care about suffering (or pleasure), and dont ground rights in rational autonomy. The concept of consent is in its nature deontological and related to valuing personal autonomy or rights.

      “It would only be better for those Martians to exist from a perspective such as your own, and that’s irrelevant to whether or not Mars is actually deficient in joy due to the absence of these beings.”

      Again you didnt respond to my argument sufficiently. I said any claim about what would be good or bad on mars will be a judgement that is dependent on our mind. So its a moot point that because I think that mars will have more value, or because its good for martians to come into existence, that therefore is something wrong with my argument, since thats literally true for every thought we form about ethics and life, including all of yours. If I find plausible reasons for why martians coming into existence is good, then I have ethical reasons to act towards such a state.
      Ethics are always from your perspective, even if you think about the wishes or desires of other people. Judging one possible world better than another means just that in your mind dependent axiological evaluation it possesses higher value. I thought you believed that this is what ethics is, and not an evaluation of mind independent facts. So my perspective seems to be perfectly fine within the bounds of ethics. Im not sure why you try to impose a different standard on what moral statements need to be if someone makes a claim that is counter to your view, I think this is an inappropriate confaltion of normative ethics with metaethics that reprensents an error.

      “There are no potential Martians begging for their existence to be prevented, but if those Martians do come into existence, then they likely would be feeling that, or if they lacked the capacity to wish that they were dead, then they would be experiencing situations that would invoke terror and would demand corrective action that may not be available.”

      Two things here – most beings that have the cognitive ability to lament their own existence dont do so, so its totally unclear where you get that “likely” from. Second, you provided no logical reason why this cant be switched around. I can say “likely those who do into existence cherish the fact that they did come into existence, they want to stay alive and produce as many good sensations as possible, since theys value their life alot”. So there seems to be a rather symmetrical scenario here, as for none of those things there was any potential martian begging for good existence or for an absence of a bad existence.

      “The fact that there was no aversion to suffering or attraction to pleasure there before simply means that there’s no problem to be corrected, and no call for any action. If it isn’t already broken, then don’t risk creating real suffering by trying to “fix” what you perceive as being the deficiency.”

      this view only works if you see high well being as a “neutral” state instead as a positive for this being, cause otherwise characterizing life as a “problem” is nonsensical – and I already gave you arguments for why I dont see any reason to belief why pleasure should only be an “absence of lack”, so to speak, but there will be more coming later in this article

      “Good is defined by protection from the bad.”
      I dont think this is true and see no reason to believe so. On introspection I can certainly observe neutral states and more positive states, and then peak experiences that felt so good I didnt even ask for them or didnt even knew before how good its possible to feel. Just saying “oh then there was actually even less disvalue, it was just closer to 0” seems obviously wrong to me, as the best experiences where almost increasing in valence on a very significant level over usual states of exacsty, and to me its very clear that a state of ecstasy isnt properly defined as an “aretaic” absence of suffering, like deep sleep or unconsciousness would be. For one I would trade considerable pain or suffering for some of the best experiences I had, even if there is no real need or feeling of deprivation if never experience the intensity again.

      Also if I could choose unconsciousness for the next 30 years, with guarantee that I wouldnt feel like I missed out afterwards in any way (i.e. I would feel good afterwards), plus I would get 5 million dollars, or I could just experience the next 30 years, its obvious to me that I would choose to experience the next 30 years because I deeply value my well being positively.

      “The fact that the Martians didn’t have a desire to avoid suffering prior to coming into existence is irrelevant, because my ethics are not predicated upon preserving an existing state of bliss”

      Im not sure how you think that the problem that nobody is there being made worse off or comparatively harmed in the case means that your ethics should be predicated on preserving bliss. The problem again is that we cant say for whom this outcome isnt maximizing well being (or even for whom its not minimizing suffering), or whether its impersonally doing that or not. So appealing to a worse outcome for anybody seems to be off the table here, unless you accept that saying things like “A is worse off because she exists” is coherent.

      “Which would be that they would experience conscious states from which they would wish relief, where relief cannot be guaranteed.”

      sure, that sounds unpleasant, nobody said there was no unpleasantness ever in life, however that doesnt mean that their life is comparatively bad, or generally bad in any sense, or that it is a life that is all things considered overall negative or anything like that.

      “There’s simply no need to pretend that the universe was enjoying the fact that the Martians weren’t being tortured, or that the Martians themselves were enjoying not being tortured. Or that the universe was or was not crying out in lamentation from the absence of their joy.”

      Nobody ever said or implied anything like that. I already laid out my view clearly. Impersonal value means its impersonal, so no, its not implying that the universe is a conscious entity that is enjoying these things as a person, and existence comparability doesnt imply that anybody enjoys not being tortured. Existence comparison means that you think its coherent to think of a potential person, that is actualized in one possible world and just doesnt happen to experience anything in another, and you asked which scenario is of higher value, by comparing the value of the states in the actualized existence against the value of unconsciousness (which would be neutral in and of itself, since it doesnt contain any positive or negative valuable contents).
      You can read a peer reviewed source on these concepts here, since I really dont feel like explaining them here again, and probably the SEP will be clearer and more understable than stuff said in this debate.
      https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/nonidentity-problem/

      I think you portray them incorrectly and argue against weird premises that where never stated by anybody.

      “You can never win by trying to seek out “good”; in fact, you can never win at all. The best that can occur is to cut losses. ”
      Thats an unsubstantiated belief. Ive given counterarguments in thise reply and in my previous replies so I will just refer to those here.

      “It would be rational to cut losses in that instance, knowing that continuing to exist would result in continuing suffering. There’s no need at all to pretend that they’re going to be enjoying the relief once they are dead.”
      Unfortunately that didnt respond to my argument. If you dont think that a result where “the need for anything described as “good is obviated” is in itself desirable then it makes no sense to state it here in an attempt to defend euthanasia from your premises. So yeah, you assign a value to the outcome, but there is nobody to assign it to – so you are making a mistake. “cutting” losses usually means that you end up in a state that is comparable, and did cut your losses, but of course under the epicurean view there is no comparison possible. Strawmen or rethorics wont save you here, im afraid.

      “The thing that causes the most pleasure is that which satisfies the desire to the greatest extent.”

      thats empirically wrong -you can induce greater pleasure than most conscious desire induce by meddling with a persons brains, or just by doing breathing exercises or reaching runners high. Also it doesnt matter which causes the most pleasure, but whether pleasure is generally merely a sort of “absence of lack” function, or instead a feeling that is some sort of positive reward that is often associated with desire, that can be induced for satisfying previously formed desires, but can also be induced in other natural and non-natural ways. And empirically obviously the latter is true.

      “If they do, in fact, exist, then they must be very fleeting, due to the nature of our brain and our biology – you cannot remain in that “neutral” state very long before you become hungry, or need to go to the toilet, or otherwise need stimulation.”

      Well, a neutral state doesnt mean that its absence of any sensation, drive or whatever, and it also doesnt mean that some mild valenced sensations that cancel each other out axiologically cant be present, it just means that its hedonically around the 0. There is no reason to assume it had to be a complete absence of stimulation or anything like that. All I need for my arguments is that there are some states that are around 0, and then states that are much higher than 0, and if they are above neutral they are positive to an extend where not merely a negative problem was solved (since that would be a state around 0), but a positive state is instantiated.

      “but there are universal interests. All sentient beings have an interest in avoiding suffering.”
      yes, but that doesnt yet mean I have to accept a negative utilitarianism because I can ethically value other things for a number of reasons, such as rights, virtue and so on.

      “that’s not technically an “objective” rule”
      well the empirical observation that beings dont like suffering is not giving us any ethical rule yet, so its not an ethical rule at all, but merely an empirical statement.

      “The fact that you wouldn’t be willing to accept some of the outcomes that you’d gladly impose on others (due to the risks inherent in procreation) means that you could not universalise your ethical rules.”
      Thats not how universalization works. What you are talking about is some state of a veil of ignorance, i.e. that you dont know previously what outcome you would get. Kantian universalization is very different, it asks us whether we could wish that the maxim of our action could be universal law.

      “You could likely only gladly take that risk when you knew that you weren’t going to be the one who was stuck with the outcome of the risk.”
      i would be perfectly fine with taking the risks with the odds that are currently actualiized in a first world country, and despite my own wellbeing I think (if i could keep my ethical commitments) that despite the good I will experience, the good I can use my position for is another reason to take that risk).

      “Once people do exist, they experience states that can be compared to other, more preferable states. So their interests are being violated by being alive and vulnerable to all of the things that interfere with their interests.”

      If they cant have a rational, person affecting interest in not being alive then their interests cannot be violated by being alive. Rather, interests can be violated by stuff that happens to them “within” life, and thats a different claim. Coming into existence was not an event that happened to them why they existed and had interests, so it couldnt violate any interests.

      “People can desire self-destructive things all of the time, but that’s not because they desire the adverse outcome that will ensue, it’s because they have a current sub-optimal state that they think can be temporarily improved. ”

      First of all, it seems enough to me that people can desire things for whatever reasons that are detrimental to their long term well being, and that these people can be helped by giving something to them or bringing them into a situation that they didnt desire at all. That seems to completely refute the view that wellbeing or pleasure is the satisfaction of conscious desire.
      Furthermore..
      You think people or beings only ever desire self-destructive things because they think their suboptimal state can be temporarily improved? I know certainly that in times I just desired destructive things out of bad or irrational motivations. I didnt think that it will improve my pleasure (generally people rarely think of what gives them how much “pleasure” or “fun”, they generally think in terms of things they want to see or change in the world, and these can be very self destructive and irrational, decent investigation in these concepts was also done by lacan, freud and marcuse, see the death drive).
      “It means that their current state is so bad, that they’re willing to gamble with a worse outcome in the future. Or just ignore the risks entirely.”
      I dont think this is at all what self destructive desires always are and I wont believe such a claim without strong empirical evidence (i.e. that only people in terrible states hold self destructive interests of any kind, that interests are generally aimed towards improved hedonic feelings or similar cbacked up evidence).

      “Because there is no observer wanting an improvement, therefore there is no scope for improvement. When sentient beings are created, it is not the material universe which is brought into an objectively sub-optimal state, but the concept of “sub-optimal” is introduced via the creation of subjective states.”

      That is not a real reply to my argument. My argument was that the only way for you to say anything about whether it would be good or bad for a possible world or its inhabitants if anything changed is to evaluate it with your mind and think about these worlds. So I think its a non-argument that if nobody existed nobody could raise these thoughts, since I exist and I can raise this thoughts, and my ethics will be mind dependent on my mind.

      “If you think that not wanting to exist is an irrational error, then I’d love to see you go into cancer wards and streets where homeless junkies sleep with your superior grasp of the concept of “impersonal harm”, laughing in people’s for being so philosophically naive as to think that their current conditions are bad, because they didn’t ask not to be put in that position before they were born.”

      Now again thats unnecessary rethoric. I said that there is not a rational reason from a person affecting epicurean view. I didnt say that I personally think that not wanting to exist is an irrational error. Also most of the perople you just talked about dont want to end there existence, so I think you use their suffering in inappropriate ways for your own agenda. Accepting impersonal harm allows you to say that people being brought into existence, whose lives are actually not worth living, do make the outcome comparatively worse. Im not sure how this isnt clear, as I explained the concept of impersonal value before. If its not clear yet what it entails and allows us to do, please read the SEP on the nonidentity problem. I disapprove of the way you characterize your opponent here, while you yourself seem happy with psychologizing your opponents or beg the question by assuming their just not able to “internalise” the truth, while also claiming an ironic “all views welcome” at the top of the comment section.

      I think its unlikely that we will make any more progress in this discussion, since I can only barely understand why you would end up with many assumptions or premises that you hold, and I see your responses to many arguments as non-arguments or irrevelant assertions, and they continue to be reinstated. Maybe our understanding of how deductive arguments work or our intuitions just differ too much to come to any progress or agreement, but if I dont see any new point from your end and nothing where any new arugment from my side is needed, I will just discontinue to respond, or only respond to points that I think are actually reasonable arguments or have not been replied to from my side before. Readers can decide for themselves who they find convincing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sorry for the delay in approving (which is made necessary by the fact that you submit different details every time that you reply, so therefore need to be manually approved) and replying to your latest comment. I think that you would agree that this discussion is getting very tiresome. So instead of responding paragraph by paragraph, I’m going to try and cut down to the core of the disagreement here.

        From what I’ve gathered, the difference in opinion between us is not one concerning the metaphysical nature of reality. Correct me if I’m wrong on this point, but we both seem to agree that there are no non-existent people floating about in the void either eagerly awaiting their opportunity to revel in the joys of life as a sentient organism, or desperately hoping to be spared from the harms of the same. It therefore seems that the area of contention concerns our ways of describing our world views.

        I care about real harms that are observed by real organisms, or which will be observed if not prevented. I care about the real facts. Does the cause of procreation lead to the effect of organisms coming into existence that will directly experience the phenomenon of suffering. What’s less important is the exact words to be used in describing the type of ethical error that has been committed (e.g. “better off”, “worse off”, “harmed”), although unfortunately, it is necessary to use words to communicate, and it is just a shame that language doesn’t always have precise enough definitions to avoid the inevitability of the discussion veering off into the territory of how to define the words themselves.

        From what I gather (again, correct me if I’m wrong), you’re not arguing that this “impersonal value” is something that is ever directly observed by any sentient entity. It never results in anyone feeling any better or worse off, or at least not in the way that you’re applying this concept to the ethics of procreation. It therefore seems to me that this idea of “impersonal value” is a rhetorical trick that you’re employing in order to try to force me into a position where I’m not able to define my position using precise enough vocabulary, and thus I will, in essence, have no recourse but to admit to the existence of “impersonal value” even though you don’t really believe in it yourself (as a metaphysical reality). I’m not interested in playing this game any longer, because it seems that the only thing to be gained from it is to try and obscure the truth (value states that are actually experienced by sentient beings).

        If it was your contention that preventing negative value states by preventing procreation would come at the cost of the actual experiential loss of positive ones, and you had evidence to show that this was true, then of course, I would have to take that into consideration and perhaps renounce my philosophical stance. But if I’ve been following along well enough, that’s not what you’re saying, and therefore you’re not about to provide me with proof that those Martians we were talking about are actually lamenting the loss of their pleasure. So I’m trying to place real value down on one side of the scale. On the other side of the scale, it seems that you’re pressing your hand down on the scale with as much force as necessary in order to try and tilt it back towards you, and then you’re telling me that your hand is filled with “impersonal value”.

        You might be skilled enough at these word games to force me to admit (if we were here long enough) that the computer on which I’m typing this reply is not resting on my lap, but on the roof of my house, but when we’re talking about the suffering of entities as real as you or I (or who will be as real as you or I if their existence is not prevented), I cannot help but feel that you are grievously disrespecting suffering by trying to employ some kind of rhetorical trick in order to equate those real feelings with some abstract concept that’s been observed by none. I personally find that disgusting, and I believe that the only motive for doing so would be the tendentious desire to justify either what you have already decided that you wish to do, or what you’ve already decided that you wish to justify.

        Unfortunately, a lot of contemporary ethical discourse (and I can assure you that this isn’t my first rodeo!) seems to consist of these obscurantist word puzzles, that intend, by act of wilful misdirection, to distract attention away from the physical reality. My contention is that procreation causes a new, unique entity to come into existence, and that unique entity will inevitably experience suffering, if allowed to develop to the point where it becomes sentient. Sometimes, that suffering can be so bad that it is beyond my comprehension. That’s a fact that deserves to be treated with some respect, in my opinion. It deserves due ethical consideration, rather than elaborate riddles that seek to distract one’s attention away from the fact that it’s happening. As far as I know, not bringing this child into existence would NOT result in a new, unique entity coming into existence who could be tortured. Those are the facts as I see it, and the facts that I deem to be relevant. If you would prefer to keep nimbly directing my attention away from those concrete facts, like a magician about to pull a rabbit out of a hat, then there’s nowhere else for this discussion to go. To take the analogy further, unless you can show me that the rabbit physically materialised into existence in the hat as a result of a supernatural feat, then I’m not interested in debating the definition of the word “magic” instead.

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    2. Happiness can be a matter of degrees. 😉

      One may or may not celebrate it, but it’s still being considered to be a better state.

      I also don’t need the chair to tell me how much it needs happiness in order to recognise that if the absence of suffering is good/better for it, then the lack of deeply meaningful experiences is also problematic. The harms are also the result of an absence of satisfaction that can keep us away from the good, but not necessarily to the point where they outweigh them altogether. The matter of the universe is pertinent if it can benefit sentient beings.

      If there is a need to prevent the negatives even though there isn’t an actual need felt by someone (other than by those who already exist), then there is indeed a need to create the positives. In my view, the risk of harms doesn’t justify never bestowing ineffably significant goods that would matter immensely for countless individuals.

      Not only are there other possibilities (things going wrong or progress in healthcare and technology eliminating the need for drastic actions), it cannot be rationally justified to prevent the opportunities for positives (which are sometimes so powerful that they allow people to go through intense harms without losing the value they find in their lives) that all sentient beings could achieve, even if that’s not always the case.

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      1. @Cosmic Lifeist The important thing is that the chair was never in peril, so it has no adverse state that it can desire protection from. Therefore, it cannot and does not need to feel that it is better off for being insensate.

        When you create a sentient mind, you create a wellbeing state that constantly has to look for ways to protect itself against harm, and when successful in doing so, that manifests as a positive sensation of relief, gratitude, pleasure or what have you. You can’t answer this by simply reversing it and saying that the displeasure is simply an interruption of pleasure, because then you still have to justify why you’re forcing someone to become dependent on pleasure in the first place when you cannot guarantee that it will always be abundant in supply. So that just becomes an alternative way of expressing the same ethical concerns that the antinatalist has. That’s how it backfires. You’re trying to make the case for procreation, but end up just restating the case against it in a slightly different way.

        There is no need to create these addictions because the value of satiation is predicated upon the extent to which they’ve been made dependent. And it is unethical to deliberately cause a dependency, just as it would be unethical to inject a sleeping person with drugs in order to cause them to become addicted to that drug, even if you were an addict yourself and enjoyed great pleasures when you were using it and wanted someone else to have the chance to experience those highs even if you weren’t able to get consent.

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        1. Another important point is that the chair was never in an advantageous position, so it has no positive state it needs to protect. Therefore, it also doesn’t need to feel that it’s worse off for not existing for the creation of happiness to be better.

          I don’t think that anything is backfiring here (except perhaps the idea that experiences are synonymous with values resulting in the ineluctable conclusion that non-existence cannot be universally preferable). The reality that people depend on the positives does not diminish their value (just as people’s aversion to harms doesn’t negate their badness). Unnecessary desires are indeed bad for existing people who could already be satisfied, but this isn’t the case for non-existent beings. I don’t think that one can be forced if their prior interests aren’t being violated. But if this is possible, then so is the bestowal of a good that one couldn’t have asked for.

          Harming an existing person who has interests isn’t ethical (unless there is a greater good that could come from the act). The positive experience can still have greater experiential value (and the harms also only exist to the degree they result in a loss of satisfaction). It might be unethical to create a dependency; it’s a lot more unethical to allow pessimistic desires to pointlessly eliminate/prevent all happiness. Preventing the positives cannot be ethically justified.

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  13. “(and I do believe that natalists heavily overstate the evidence that people are overall happy with their lives).”

    Hi, I’d like you to clarify this for me. It’s an argument I often hear natalist use, but what is the source for that, and why would say it’s exaggerated?

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    1. There are many sources. For one, Bryan Caplan’s argument. Pretty much any time that you see a natalist trying to refute antinatalism. It’s exaggerated because I don’t believe that people are overwhelmingly happy with their existence. If that was the case, then our societies would be functioning much more smoothly; there wouldn’t be so much violence and conflict in the world, people wouldn’t be relying on things like alcohol to get them through the day.

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          1. Yes, but there must be evidence for that to be true. What scientific or factual proof do those making the claim have? Because if it’s subjective and asserted without evidence it can obviously be dismissed without evidence.

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            1. I don’t believe that it’s a well evidenced claim. And it could probably be dismissed without evidence. But because I can present evidence that this claim is unlikely to be as well supported as its proponents think it is (to say the least), I would rather address it rather than just look like I’m unable to answer it.

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