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Hi all, I wrote this a few days ago for , and had my initial line of argument rejected by the professor, so this is the second attempt. I struggled to write it, because if I don't really believe something it is extremely difficult to write convincingly about it. After a long afternoon of revising though, my feelings are mixed. I welcome any discussion or input, be it philosophical, syntactical, grammatical, alchemical, etc. Without further ado:

Examining Anti-Natalism Through Suffering, Utilitarianism, and Evolutionary Biology

  1. Introduction

We live in a remarkably peaceful, healthy, happy, and free time in human history. Contrary to common narratives in the media which highlight negativity to drive engagement, humanity as a whole is in something of a renaissance. Violent crime is on the decline (Herre et al.) and deaths from famine have decreased by 88% since the mid-1800s (Hasell et al.). Smallpox, a disease that has killed up to five hundred million people since the 1900s, has been eradicated (Whitfield); and there is a multinational project well underway to create a vaccine for malaria, which is posited to have killed half of all humans who have ever lived (Whitfield). In the last one hundred years, universal suffrage has increased from ten percent to ninety-eight percent (Skaaning et al.). For all human existence until the mid-1800s, life expectancy was around 35 years old. It currently hovers around 74 (Dattani et al.). With all this in mind, it is easy to see how one could make an argument for the continuation of society and, by extension, procreation. The problem with this line of thinking is that it does not take into consideration the law of diminishing returns, nor the implications of a potentially infinite future. In this paper I will argue that a moral duty to not procreate arises from the asymmetry of suffering and applying negative utilitarian principles to society over time.

  1. Asymmetry of Suffering

The foundation for this idea is the ‘asymmetry of suffering,’ most famously explained by the South African philosopher David Benatar. The principle goes as such:

(1)

the presence of pain is bad, and that

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the presence of pleasure is good.

(3)

the absence of pain is good, even if that good is not enjoyed by anyone, whereas

(4)

the absence of pleasure is not bad unless there is somebody for whom this absence is a deprivation (Benatar, Better Never to Have Been).

It follows that the continuation of society will necessarily cause not only good, but harm. On the other hand, an end to society results in the absence of pleasure, which is not harmful without anyone to experience it, as well as an absence of suffering, which is always good, even without witnesses. This principle can be applied on the individual level as well, where a child born will experience pleasure and suffering, whereas the only tangible effect of not having a child is a lack of suffering.

  1. Negative Utilitarianism

One possible critique of the argument thus far would be that as society reduces suffering over time, the accumulation of happiness will eventually outweigh any remaining suffering. To ensure that outcome, society must continue, and children must be born. Even if we disregard humans’ tendency towards pessimism, this argument is not sound. Negative Utilitarian moral theory posits that no amount of pleasure can outweigh any amount of pain, because only pain is morally significant (Popper 344)(Kious). On first inspection, many people struggle with this idea. After all, how could many people being happy not offset one person in pain? The moral significance of pain and the impossibility of outweighing it is perfectly encapsulated in the short story, The Ones Who Walk Away From the Omelas, by Ursula Guin. To summarize, the Omelas have a utopian society with limitless freedom, happiness, health, and fulfillment for all. However, the single requirement for their society is that a single child be kept in darkness, filth, and misery forever (Le Guin). When faced with this dilemma, some characters choose to leave, rather than accept the injustice and benefit from the child’s suffering.

The Ones Who Walk Away From the Omelas clearly illustrates that no amount of happiness can outweigh suffering. This is because happiness and suffering are not intrinsically linked, they are not two sides of the same coin. Therefore, when considering this idea, as well as the asymmetry of suffering, it follows that the primary moral duty is to reduce suffering.

  1. Rebuttal

The philosophical core of this argument is negative utilitarianism, which itself stems from utilitarianism. Both of these moral theories have been challenged for the conclusions reached when they are taken to extremes. For example, the “World Destruction Argument” proposed by Knutsson, states that, if the absence of suffering is good, and reducing suffering is the only moral duty, then the destruction of all sentient life is the most efficient way to achieve this goal (Knutsson).

This is a reasonable rebuttal of Negative Utilitarianism, but it is not without weaknesses. Its primary failure is in not acknowledging one of the only statements generally accepted by philosophy as fact: killing is wrong. If the argument calls for reducing suffering, it is not rational for it to infinitely increase suffering in the instance of its execution. Another potential issue is that the preparation for and execution of a plan to destroy the world would doubtlessly lead to global panic and suffering, which are counter to negative utilitarian principles(Feldman).

Taking that into consideration, Negative Utilitarianism does break down when taken to its limits, but it functions well under the vast majority of circumstances and provides the best theoretical framework for the argument presented here. Someday, a more rigorous theory of consequentialism may emerge that supports the argument made here without the pitfalls of Utilitarianism.

  1. Evolutionary Propensity for Unhappiness

Regarding society as a whole, it is true that suffering is decreasing in many metrics, but that is more of a platitude than a premise supporting its indefinite continuation. The first, and most major, problem with this idea is that even if the total amount of human suffering is infinitesimal, if society continues through time that amount increases to infinity (Grant). Additionally, humans have an evolutionary propensity towards dissatisfaction with our current state of affairs (Benatar, “The Misanthropic Argument for Anti-Natalism”, 34-35). As Benatar says in Kids? Just Say No:

“When it comes to the satisfaction of desires, things are also stacked against us. Many desires are never satisfied. And even when they are satisfied, it is often after a long period of dissatisfaction. Nor does satisfaction last, for the satisfaction of a desire leads to a new desire – which itself needs to be satisfied sometime in the future. When one can fulfill one’s more basic desires, such as hunger, on a regular basis, higher-level desires arise. There is a treadmill and an escalator of desire”( (Kids? Just Say No.).

This evolutionarily encoded propensity for dissatisfaction is doubtless a beneficial trait from a survival standpoint. Prehistoric humans were motivated to improve their encampment, their tools, and their clothing to protect themselves from the various dangers lurking. Additionally, major depression is hypothesized to have emerged as a way to limit infections and reduce contact with environmental stressors (Kinney and Tanaka). The sum of these biological components is a person who is profoundly unhappy, but still able to procreate. Today, the environmental pressures that led to the emergence of these traits have largely disappeared, so there are legions of people who are dissatisfied with various aspects of their lives and yet are unable to explain why.

  1. Conclusion

The moral duty to refrain from procreation hinges on several premises. The asymmetry of suffering, which says the absence of pleasure is not necessarily bad, but the absence of pain is neutral. Following that line of reasoning, the principles of Negative Utilitarianism expand on the asymmetry of suffering to provide a philosophical framework whereby the only moral duty is to reduce suffering. A tangential supporting argument is the growing body of evidence for the human evolutionary disposition towards dissatisfaction, as well as major depression as a survival mechanism. What this means is that humans, while successful at reproducing, are hard-wired to be unhappy; if this is the case, a reduction in the population equates to a reduction in unhappiness. These ideas, which are each reasonable arguments for anti-natalism, provide a robust framework in support of anti-natalism when presented as a whole. Procreation is an ethically complex subject, and this paper presents but one possible outcome. There are numerous philosophical frameworks used to support or refute anti-natalism, and many of them directly conflict with each other. It is unlikely that a single argument will ever be accepted as utterly valid and sound. The argument in this paper relies heavily on the principles of negative utilitarianism, which is far from a settled philosophy, but a defense of its principles is outside the scope of this paper.

Moreover, it should be noted that the argument presented here is not the sole path with an anti­natalist conclusion. Environmental and feminist ethics are subjects of intense interest, and anti­natalist conclusions may arise from principles within them, as well. Seeing similar themes pop up in seemingly disparate areas of philosophy exemplifies the complexity of this issue and the interconnectedness of many challenging questions that face society. Ultimately, allowing the discourse to continue and evolve with society is the only real solution.

Works Cited

Benatar, David. Better Never to Have Been, 12 Oct. 2006, https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199296422.001.0001.

Benatar, David. “Kids? Just Say No.” Aeon, 19 Jan. 2017, aeon.co/essays/having-children-is-not­life-affirming-its-immoral.

Benatar, David (2015). The misanthropic argument for anti-natalism. Permissible Progeny?, 34– 35. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199378111.003.0002

Chudnoff, E. (2007). A guide to philosophical writing. Harvard University.

Dattani, Saloni, et al. “Life Expectancy.” Our World in Data, 28 Dec. 2023, ourworldindata.org/life­expectancy#:~:text=In%201900%2C%20the%20average%20life,than%20doubled%20to% 2071%20years.

Fred, Feldman. “Utilitarianism, Victimism, and the Morality of Killing.” Confrontations with the Reaper, 14 Apr. 1994, https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195089288.003.0011.

Grant, Edward. “Nicole Oresme and the medieval geometry of qualities and motions. A treatise on the uniformity and difformity of intensities known as ‘tractatus de configurationibus qualitatum et motuum.’” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, vol. 3, no. 2, Aug. 1972, https://doi.org/10.1016/0039-3681(72)90022-2.

Harman, Elizabeth. “Critical Study: David Benatar. Better Never To Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence.” Noûs, vol. 43, no. 4, 19 Nov. 2009, pp. 776–785, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0068.2009.00727.x.

Hasell, J., & Roser, M. (2023, December 28). Famines. Our World in Data. https://ourworldindata.org/famines

Herre, B., Spooner, F., & Roser, M. (2023, December 28). Homicides. Our World in Data. https://ourworldindata.org/homicides

Kinney, Dennis K., and Midori Tanaka. “An evolutionary hypothesis of depression and its symptoms, adaptive value, and risk factors.” Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease, vol. 197, no. 8, Aug. 2009, https://doi.org/10.1097/nmd.0b013e3181b05fa8.

Kious, Brent M. “Three Kinds of Suffering and Their Relative Moral Significance.” Bioethics, vol. 36, no. 6, 12 Mar. 2022, https://doi.org/10.1111/bioe.13021.

Knutsson, Simon. “The World Destruction Argument.” Inquiry, vol. 64, no. 10, 29 Aug. 2019, pp. 1004–1023, https://doi.org/10.1080/0020174x.2019.1658631.

Le Guin, Ursula K. The Ones Who Walk Away From the Omelas. Creative Education, 1993.

Metz, T. (2022). Are lives worth creating? Contemporary Anti-Natalism. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003324959-3

Popper, Karl. “Prediction and Prophecy in the Social Sciences.” Conjectures and Refutations, Basic Books, New York, New York, 1962, pp. 344–344.

Shiffrin, S. V. (2017). Wrongful life, procreative responsibility, and the significance of harm. Intergenerational Justice, 151–182. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315252100-9

Skaaning, Svend-Erik, et al. “Lexical Index of Electoral Democracy (LIED) dataset v6.0.” Svend-Erik Skaaning Dataverse, Apr. 2023, https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/WPKNIT.

Whitfield, J. (2002, October 3). Portrait of a serial killer. Nature News. https://www.nature.com/articles/news021001-6

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cross-posted from: https://lemmy.ca/post/18659491

Technology, for better or worse, affects every aspect of our lives. Our very sense of who we are is shaped and reshaped by the tools we have at our disposal.

The problem, for Stiegler, is that when we pay too much attention to our tools, rather than how they are developed and deployed, we fail to understand our reality. We become trapped, merely describing the technological world on its own terms and making it even harder to untangle the effects of digital technologies and our everyday experiences.

By encouraging us to pay closer attention to this world-making capacity, with its potential to harm and heal, Stiegler is showing us what else is possible.

archive.org

ghostarchive.org

archive.today

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Some words

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submitted 5 months ago* (last edited 5 months ago) by [email protected] to c/[email protected]
 
 

This post contains spoilers from the finale.

I have completed the series. It prompted thousands of thoughts in my head and so I must spill them.

The series initially appears to be situated in a post-apocalyptic world where humanity was driven to near extinction by a mysterious, giant species called titans. For a century, walls taller than any titan protected the last bastion of humanity... Until they didn't.

But as political circumstances, enemies and allies change, this narrative sooner or later is superseded by another one, and another... And so forth. The authors make clear their stance towards history: a tangible string of myths arranged by the human mind to justify or condemn a given thing. To Marleyans, the founder Ymir made a deal with the devil; to Eldian restorationists, her titan powers were granted by God.

One will grasp to a narrative or myth to justify their existence in this mysterious world. However, the truth is no more than a myth devoid of intrinsic value. One then would ask why live if all is futile, if there's no right or wrong, if there is no exit from the vicious cycle of pain. It is those disquietudes that the authors, like the exiztential philosophers of the past century, tackle and battle with.

The curse of the titans resembles in someway the myth of Sisyphus. Just like Sisyphus was condemned to an eternity of rolling the boulder up the mountain; the nine titans were inherited from generation to generation, fueling endless conflicts and massacres throughout centuries. A few foresighted characters were conscious of this, but they sought different paths towards ending the curse, reaching the top of Sisyphus' mountain. On the one hand, we are faced with the nihilist: Zeke sought the powers of the founding titan to sterilise his own race and put an end to the eternal suffering. On the other hand, we encounter the romanticist, though no less existential: Eren goes on to massacre the greatest part of humanity in the name of freedom, because simply he was born into this world. The latter, with the knowledge of the distant future, breaks the curse of the titans by sacrificing himself and thus unifying humanity. Or so he thought.

The post-credits scenes show us the evolution of the tree under which Eren was buried across countless millenia during which humanity grows and expands, but fighting and destruction accompany it all. Civilisation is built and destroyed over and over. The tree finally grows incomprehensibly long as it starts to resemble the tree from which the curse of the titans emerged, and we see a young boy entering its trunk just like founder Ymir did millenia ago.

The message of the authors is disquieting and dreadful: are we humans (and by extension the beings who preceded or will succeed us) insignificant in the grand scheme of things? Deemed to repeat history over and over again?

The existential dread is indeed unbearable. However, life is not a prison; indeed, it's the complete opposite: it is freedom. Eren bent moral principles and committed mass genocide by stomping over eighty percent of humanity because... because he “just wanted to do it.” The vagueness of Eren's answer is eerily similar to the ruminations of one of Camus' fictional characters:

I don’t know what to do today, help me decide. Should I cut myself open and pour my heart on these pages? Or should I sit here and do nothing, nobody’s asking anything of me after all? Should I jump off the cliff that has my heart beating so and develop my wings on the way down? Or should I step back from the edge, and let the others deal with this thing called courage? Should I stare back at the existential abyss that haunts me so and try desperately to grab from it a sense of self? Or should I keep walking half-asleep, only half-looking at it every now and then in times in which I can’t help doing anything but? Should I kill myself or have a cup of coffee?

Eren admits that he is “a slave to freedom,” or as Sartre declared once, “condemned to be free.” It is a paradox that Man contends with throughout his numbered days: every act is a choice and not acting is equally choosing.

I do not think the authors of the manga/series are nihilists. In a conversation between Zeke and Armin, the latter recalls distant memories of childhood where he used to run behind Eren and Mikasa up the hill. While insignificant these moments were, he concedes, he still cherished them the most. Similarly, Zeke ruminates over the mundane hours spent playing baseball with his mentor. Zeke's confession which follows is insightful: he wouldn't mind being born again if it means he can play with his mentor again.

There may not be intrinsic thruth or meaning to life. There may not be an all-encompassing myth that tells things as they are. However, “the realization that life is absurd cannot be an end, but only a beginning” (Albert Camus). In one of the final scenes, we see Armin holding a seashell as they swam in a sea of blood. “What's that?” Eren asks. He replies:

“So you finally noticed it. It was at our feet the whole time, but you were always looking off into the distance.”

Instead of endlessly tormenting ourselves with the absurdity of life, we should embrace it. We should cherish those “insignificant” moments in the midst of all the chaos and futility, and spend our time in the wealth of the here and now. We should imagine Sisyphus smiling while pushing the boulder.

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"Informing them ... that the ideals into which their parents and teachers had indoctrinated them were, by comparison, empty. Life did not have to be ‘about’ something or ‘going’ somewhere, any more than the point of playing or listening to a Bach prelude was to get to the end as quickly and efficiently as possible."

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Whether you like this idea or not, do you have any recommendations? I’m kind of believer of those two ideas but I’m willing to be corrected. That’s why I need some resources.

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submitted 6 months ago* (last edited 6 months ago) by [email protected] to c/[email protected]
 
 

I so.etimes think it would be cool to get detailed stats on what a person did in his or her whole life. Like what effect the butterfly effect had.

How many people did I accidently kill by extending a smalltalk, a phone call,....? How many people did I accidently keep alive by declining for example a Tour? Imagine argueing with someone that cant Board a plane and finding out its your fault he survived cause you denied him to enter the aircraft.

How many people were Born because I was the reason two people met? How much did I increase/ decrease the pace of human progresse? Maybe my son could have been a good scientist and terraform Mars with his Team if I wouldnt have moved 50 Miles away?

Those arevthe things I am asking myself.

I really wonder though how many people I passively killed and saved just by simpley existing.

If I could get details of the Events it would be even cooler. For example: Saved a male, 34 years old. Now I click on that Event and it shows more details: 11th February 2005 you saved John Parker by calling him that you forgot your jacket at his place yesterday and telling him to go back inside and get it. He would have been hit by a a drunk driver 5 minutes later but your call avoided it. Because you avoided his death, the drunk driver hit a different car with a mother and 2 children but still survived.

Or snother scenario: Twin girls born because of false Taxi location. Hit details and this happens: 26th April 1999 twins were born, Maria and Sarah. The reason for their birth was the taxi you called to the wrong location. He met a lady and they got to know each other and made babies.

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I’m new in this community. Anyone interested in engaging with these sorts of questions? If so, share your thoughts.

My initial inclination is that intrinsic value is an illusion.

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How wrong am i if i say western philosophy strips man from nature and eastern philosophy encourage man to live with nature? Wrong or absolutely wrong or Absurd ?

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with artistic training or brain stimulation we could look beneath the intrinsic nature of qualia to see the raw associations that make them up, just as a musician hears the individual components in what, to most fans, is a wall of sound. “It should be possible to experience parts of those underlying structures directly, just as we can learn to experience the individual overtones of a sound,”

The proposition, then, is that redness, pain, and the other qualities of experience are a blurred view of a dense thicket of relations. Red is red not because it just is, but because of a vast number of associations that we have learned or been born with.

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cross-posted from: https://tilvids.com/videos/watch/52190b96-3443-483e-91ef-8b99edb3bd58

What would a largely deterministic society look and behave like? Would it be, as some imagine, a more merciful and just society, or as some others suppose, a veritable wasteland where lawless immorality, cruelty, and hopelessness reign supreme? In this video I hope to answer this contentious question and to bring some clarity to an otherwise esoteric matter.

Music: Adrift Among Infinite Stars - Scott Buckley

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/letstalkphilosophy/

Sources:

For this particular work I have taken much from the philosopher Spinoza, the psychologist Robert Sapolsky, and the Neuroscientist/philosopher Sam Harris. I have found their insights to be extremely helpful in clarifying my own thoughts on the matter and I encourage you to read or listen to their thoughts on Determinism and free-will.

Thought this would be interesting given the recent discussion on Robert Sapolsky. If you like this content the PeerTube channel can be followed directly from your Lemmy account at [email protected]

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The Kantian Person/Thing Principle in Political Economy. An argument for workplace democracy

https://www.ellerman.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/KantianPrinciple-JEI.pdf

The paper presents a theory of workers' rights. It demonstrates that workers have an inalienable right to workplace democracy and to appropriate the fruits of their labor. Inalienable means the rights cannot be given up even with consent. It implies that all companies should be structured as worker coops and employer-employee contract should be abolished @philosophy

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