Seeing as this post delves into the (defamation-magnetized) area of Natalism vs. AntiNatalism, I’ll just mention right off the bat that disingenuous remarks alluding to anti-natal driven genocide, cultism, eugenics, crypto-fascism, death-worship, hedonism, cowardice, emotional frailty, depression-blurring-perspective, “mommy didn’t love them enough”, “you’re a pussy” and so on will be aptly ignored in the interest of sidestepping all too familiar time-sinks. This is intended to put proponents of AntiNatalism on the immediate defensive. The diversion works only when discussants and onlookers ignore how the brisk aggressor never earned possession of offense. Guilty of redundancy enablement are fellow objectors to Natalism who still see purpose in explaining themselves, as mere messengers, to the dullards eagerly regurgitating such charges.
I typically wouldn’t even mind this, but the long-refuted character assassination ploys –– coupled with philosophy/psychology entanglement –– are being milked for all they're worth. Spirited arguments of this nature have been next to impossible to sit through for a long time now, yet they still manage to find new ways in which to get more egregious by the week; over four years later. Any gasbag that chimes in with their 2 cents by evaluating the psychology and personal life of the messenger lambasting Natalism unapologetically seems to attract enough bait-bitters who'll fruitlessly engage –– as if the accusations dished out against the lazily posited "Quintessential AntiNatalist" are worthy of being debunked, on account of some ingenuous misunderstanding on the part of the gasbag.
Such noise hardly differs from any other armchair psychoanalyses permeating the internet. The difference here is that far more DNAtheists seem to uprate the efforts of the pseudo analyses as long as the objective is the maligning of AntiNatalists' credibility. Public dissenters of Natalism who bother with this tripe or accept sketchy aphorisms about the "Archetypal AntiNatalist" emissary carry a share of the blame for AntiNatalism's current lack of intrigue and the formulaic, painfully cyclical debates so pervasive on YouTube.
At some point you have to put your foot down and quit humoring perennial straw. If it hasn’t gone away the first 500 times it's been refuted, it's unlikely to go away once you refute it for the 501st time. Or the 5001st time. Of course, I’m unable to confirm that the psychology of every last dissenter of Natalism is impervious to the psychobabble charges regularly levied by Natalists and their sympathisers, but since none of it applies to my cogent understanding of what the AN position entails, this factor suffices as the disqualifier of any such hullabaloo. The more overblown the charge, the less apposite.
The other disclaimer to stress is that readers shouldn't misconstrue what I’ll be conveying a bit later in this post for a shameless appeal to relativism intended as a conversation stopper. In debates where the ethics behind specific routine behaviors are contextually challenged, appeals to relativism are, have always been, and will forever be pure cop outs aimed to passively deflect from accosting the targeted behavior itself. Spitting at ambiance, the goal is to steer away from the bull's-eye through a backhanded method of inoculating victims (of the targeted behavior) with the belief that their having been victimized is only their opinion, and that the state of victimhood, by being an opinion, is just as vulnerable to dismissal as any other opinion.
All opinions are equally qualified/unqualified, sayeth the status quo upholder, so naturally the sensible thing for the victim to do is to pipe down and diplomatically toe the predominant culture line; since rolling with norms preserves stability. This dandy piece of advice is doubly reinforced if the victim shows signs of toying with ambitions to convert any of his/her marginalized values into legislation, as doing so would overturn the established cultural laden value judgments which have already been etched in stone as policy. Gleefully I might add.
But if we are to flirt with an adage like “One man’s right ends where another's begins”, the majority's failure to grasp the oxymoronic disposition of reproductive rights becomes transparent. Taking this quote to its logical conclusion leads to a recognition that there is no such thing as reproductive rights in any meaningful sense of the term, unless we conflate abilities with rights. This conclusion remains abhorred not due to discreet analyses of the aftermath of birth itself, but simply due to the habitual nature of procreation, as with any other endeavour held sacrosanct by way of taboo.
Granted, this alone is not enough to sink the Natalist battleship, since I'm focusing in on a nuance deprived quote which can be applied to rationalize a case against the formation of civilization itself, and because "rights" and "legality" are artificial contrivances anyway. The point is that the aforementioned majority has informed those who classify themselves as victims of the targeted behavior (in this case procreation) that the contemporary victim has one appropriate mode of response. If the victim is to make a pesky enough fuss around those who insist upon the unacceptability of overturning the legal status of this particular majority-approved value judgement, the victim is free to do so verbally while simultaneously cowering to that same judgment legally. In the end, the victim is to accept "tough shit" one-liners and choke on relativism’s hapless double-standard, so as to not offend the sensibilities of the disagreeable.
It's a classic double-edged sword that post-modern precepts always revert the conversation back to, with the sharpest, pointiest edges of each tip reserved squarely for those in the AntiNatalist camp. At best, a few will concede the reality of the double standard, but will persist that if AntiNatalists are to push for their agenda and values, they ought to do so in a proper supplicatory manner with the goal revolving around reproduction's eschewing having to be voluntary. But to arrive at this opportune compromise is to mistake the victims for attacking their antagonist with a sword, rather than a shield.
The eagerness to dismiss even the guise of a "general harm=generally a negative" value foundation upon which productive discourse may thrive - when it comes to this one issue - is quite telling given the number of basic concessions which have already given rise to essential value coalitions, all equally woven to nothing but the fabric of mind-dependency, but nonetheless tacitly accepted throughout many a value strife under the modern era in the West.
Refraining from appealing to relativism during all other value clashes in recent history (murder, torture, rape) proved to be the catalyst which led to widespread civility; an outcome those of us living in the West reap most of the benefits of. The driving force behind all this was a value foundation. Pushing for the coalescence of an incisive argument explaining why a given act is worthy of scathing critique, with something like subjectivity or objectivity, will always amount to special pleading. Wrap your minds around the fact that "Moral Realism vs. Moral Relativism" and "Natalism vs. AntiNatalism" are entirely different issues with separate sets of criteria for animadversion.
So I ask that you keep in mind that the purpose of this post is in no way to justify using appeals to relativism as replacements for pointed arguments, and that I wholeheartedly condemn tactics of this “Nothing to discuss here” dastardly nature. Now, if you’re genuinely aching for this brand of “Let’s argue about how we can’t argue” neuron wastage, arguments targeting 'Moral Relativism' itself (separate from any specific behavior) have found a home on the forums of Sam Harris’ site and numerous philosophy forums alike, so knock yourself out. You won't be missed.
On with the show.
Many apologists for Natalism have developed a knack for declaring the AntiNatalism/Nihilism overlap as not merely a possibility, but an inevitability. This is because both AntiNatalism and Nihilism accurately describe life as being entirely purposeless, despite the phenomenon of consciousness tied to sentient life’s hip. Impressive and perplexing as it may be, consciousness is nowhere near illusive enough an attribute to rationalize a sloppy purpose leap around. Granted, it's AntiNatalists and Nihilists that primarily make up the seldom few who recognize this, but to view Nihilism as some built-in component or seed from which AN position emerges, is putting the cart before the horse. Ditch the "built-in" notion, and we’ll talk.
Unfortunately, for every life-affirmer who adopts these assimilation tactics when it comes to any esoteric outlook that Joe Shithead is likely to dismiss as pouty, there seem to be twice as many AntiNatalists who jump in and return the favor by declaring the impossibility of any such overlap, applying reasoning along the lines of:
AntiNatalists can't be Nihilists cuz AntiNatalists are organically immune to all that is Nihilistic due to their belief that “Suffering Matters” while Nihilists believe that “nothing matters”.
The Natalist apologist often replies by pointing to definitions of Nihilism and extrapolating purported connotations such definitions carry when applied to their oversimplified interpretation of the AN position, which goes something along the shallow lines of “My life sucks, therefore all consciousness should cease".
Both sides are technically wrong here, and this is non-negotiable. Just as one can categorically condemn Natalism under the “Suffering Matters” banner - and in doing so remain uninfluenced by Moral Nihilism - so too can any Moral Nihilist condemn Natalism under a number of ad hoc banners without believing that “Suffering Matters” or while remaining wholly indifferent to the question of suffering’s relevance in the grand scheme of things.
Basically, a number of breeders and Natalist apologists falsely infer that, from a straightforward predilection for the discontinuation of reproduction sprouts an accompanying belief that value judgments are mind-farts. They go on to presume a cliché progression of superficial angst or unearned misanthropy on the part of the AntiNatalist, while the AntiNatalist makes the mistake of conflating the non-necessity of such a thought process with the impossibility of it. But as tons of fables demonstrate, believing that “Suffering Matters” universally does not lead to a conclusion that the suffering at hand is unworthy of even the tiniest unit of pleasure; past, present or future (much less the idea that the proposal of a “worthiness” metric is even palatable in the context of any suffering/pleasure ratio), nor does the belief that “nothing matters” exclude the Nihilist from accepting the AntiNatalist position on prescriptive grounds. What possible prescriptive grounds? Several just off the top of my head:
A distaste for the nepotistic "Blood is thicker than water" form of prejudice, for one, and the familial servitude that comes with it (which is often the bread and butter of Natalism). This recognition also incorporates the extension of autonomy to any stable minor, but differs from other examples in that its main focus is the denunciation of the worship of blood-relations, especially when the apish "Blood>Water" outlooks manage to convince otherwise rational individuals that their commitment to immediate family members or even extended relatives ought to take precedence over their commitments to non-familial relationships of more substance and involving individuals of far more character than the immediate family/relatives. It's easy to see how this broader view is largely unflattering to the currency of Natalism.
A similar AN-friendly theme that Nihilists, Virtue Ethicists or Deontologists may very well subscribe to, is a disdain for the Nuclear family. It's not that uncommon of a sentiment anymore and is only bolstered by the time adulthood rolls around, since the young adult is exposed to new information containing progressive schools of thought and is now is able to pick up on the insidiousness of having been bombarded at the most tender and impressionable age with traditionalist gibber, regularly vaunting family values. Such values aim to subordinate any semblance of anti-familial values and ultimately dress them up as noisome deviance, or if we look far back enough, to interlace those contrarian values with an outright mental disorder.
On a personal note, I myself allowed this repulsive thinking from adults to have a limited negative effect on my philosophical confidence which deterred me from staying focused enough to have the vigor necessary to reject Natalism as early as I rejected Theism (I fortuitously stumbled across Atheism the moment I recognized that adults genuinely believe in God, which was around the age of seven). Instead, I experienced the brunt of this rabid familialism as a kid/teen due to having had the audaciousness to be nonchalantly outspoken about my anti-familial, pro-meritocratic sensibilities. I did this around adults who firmly believed that rejecting familialism can only be the product of deviance/mental sickness, rather than an innate form of social meritocracy. I'd watch TV shows glorifying emotional interdependency, chiefly among family members, and casually ask "Why can't shows have more realistic characters who don't fall into a depression every time they have a falling out with a family member who the character didn't like all that much to begin with?". Obviously by that stage I hadn't yet developed the social-schemery-skills to understand that a question of this nature coming from a youngster was just asking for trouble.
To no one's surprise, the family driven emotional makeup of innumerable adults is, in fact, depicted in the relationships still observable in reruns of your average 80s/90s Network sitcom. This, in and of itself, is not the issue though. The issue arises when memes and cultures start dictating that the proper self-analysis for the emotionally self-reliant should result in an epiphany which sees the diagnosers feeling uneasy with themselves due to their condition and that the best remedy for lacking a dependency for familial bonding, is procreation. Readers of this post surely don't need me to provide a laundry list of all the shows/movies/poems/songs that revolve around an anti-hero who's a complete and utter reprobate – detrimental to himself/herself and everyone around him/her – but whose one saving grace is his/her biological child and the unparalleled love he/she feels for the kid. The same shows/movies/poems/songs have a tendency to, in the third act, offer salient lessons about how the best tenets of human emotion are precisely those which enable us to find such parent/child relationships irresistibly charming and heart melting. It's easy to see how the existence of this cultural diarrhea can elicit a rejection of Natalism from individuals who aren't necessarily in it strictly for the 'Negative Utilitarianism' inspired reduction of suffering as the paragon imperative; the type that the pure AntiNatalists like to claim as the lone AN goal-post.
The latter group's goal-post is also one of exclusionary 'Non-proximate Consequentialism', posturing as something other than the undeterred Consequentialism that is it, while falsely assumed to be interchangeable with every conceivable rejection of Natalism. Apologies to any unipolar ethicist who rejects Natalism, you will probably not enjoy hearing this, but the familial-apatheist / emotional-sovereignty cornerstones of AntiNatalism have infiltrated your moniker. The overlap will remain necessary as long as cultures continue peddling memes which cast righteous dependencies on familial bonding as a virtue while molding the absence of such dependencies as a vice, or as something that warrants diagnosis/therapy. Once we become mindful of these undercontemplated anomalies, we begin to see how our overlapping cornerstones repudiate Natalism out of profoundly sundry motives.
Another example can consist of a belief that people should devote their lives to higher intellectual callings rather than sacrifice bits and pieces of themselves to all the mind dulling baggage that comes with raising kids. Though pure AntiNatalists may find this example unsatisfactory given their view of intelligence as nothing but a problem solver. Under this worldview, craving intellectualism is homogeneous with a craving for a reduction of suffering. From a purely evolutionary standpoint, the organic role of intelligence isn't rooted in solving problems of sentient beings. Its only aim is to process reality. Evolutionists who are well versed on the evolutionary explanation behind the function of our intelligence still aspire to gain knowledge purely for its own sake, or ostensibly percolated by ego-indulgences. I admit to being guilty of this myself at times. In fact, I just caught myself doing it a second ago by swapping the perfectly applicable "pervaded" with the pretentious "percolated" when describing the dynamic at hand. I did this because "percolated" sounds better. Plus "pervaded" looks a bit too much like "perverted". I also offered this very follow-up defense of the swap because of ego, since pretentious people who take the time to point out their own pretentiousness are often thought of as being authentically self-deprecating, and therefore humble or down to earth. In any event, ego happens to the best of us and it can influence aspects of any outlook, including the position of AntiNatalism.
Another way of arriving at AntiNatalism through impure methods is unadulterated repulsion at the process of childbirth. Call it an overreaction, but the moment it results in common utterances like "No woman should ever put herself through that horror for any reason" I'd cavalierly label it AntiNatalism lite. Having a zero-tolerance view of the birthing process can also be the straw that breaks the camel's back, as many in the child-free movement are drawn to AntiNatalism lite merely by their partiality towards mainstream views on fitness, or a blanket repulsion at the state of pregnancy itself, sparred by that same favoring of barbie-doll esthetics.
Everyone reading this has probably known at least one person whose condemnation of procreation revolved around one of these propensities where plain harm is a non-priority, or where plain harm has been positioned a few notches lower on the value tier. Some of these viewpoints may prove to make perfect bedfellows for the sensorial focused 'net product' that is Consequentialist in nature, but such overlaps are largely coincidental. Point being, the position of AntiNatalism does not have to be synoptically concerned with proverbial quarrels pinning 'Moral Realism' versus 'Moral Nihilism' versus 'Moral Relativism', just as advocates of age-of-consent laws didn’t have to innately concern themselves with those exact "subjectivity vs. objectivity" squabbles in order to clamor for the particular legislation they clamored for. This means that Nihilists can too be AntiNatalists.
Apparently stuff like this needs to be elucidated around YouTube AntiNatalists, due to the number of emotionally charged AntiNatalists I've seen exhibiting scornful hostility towards 'Moral Nihilism' while the more neutral-to-Nihilism AntiNatalists make no attempts to set them straight. Last I checked, having a phobia of Nihilism is about as rational as having a phobia of Atheism on account of Atheists not having the 10 Commandments to rely on to guide them through ethical quandaries.
So to the AntiNatalists who seem to believe that a Nihilist cannot be a real AntiNatalist, “because suffering!”, as if suffering-as-lone-criteria-for-procreation-critique is some undisputed axiom: It’s not. Some people just flat out hate the species and don't give a hoot about suffering, yet favor extinction. I myself don't even positively favor human extinction, nor do I positively favor any species' perpetuation. Aspirations to disassociate one branch of AN underpinnings from the other impure kind, reeks of Muslims who still claim that the 9/11 hijackers weren’t true followers of Islam, “because religion of peace!”. No True Scotsman overload. We see it with religion, we see it with economic doctrines (That’s not REAL Capitalism/Communism/Socialism…), we even started seeing it with Atheism (Dawkins foolishly suggesting that the blatantly Atheistic Soviet Union was still kinda sorta religious because they totally extolled and deified Stalin… which many of them didn’t even do), so it’s really no surprise that we’re seeing the same maneuvering taking place with AntiNatalism as well. If you think that distancing AntiNatalism from anything remotely Nihilistic will help the position garner some good PR, you’re in for a rude awakening. There's zero need to disassociate. Your camp doesn't have to be fragmented. If you happen to be uneasy with the prospect of a Nihilistic sect of AntiNatalism, tough beans, because it’s perfectly feasible. Just not obligatory.
Conversely, it’s evident that there exists another layer of Natalist apologetics that oddly falls into the opposite category of dissent. As mentioned above, Category A binds the AntiNatalist position to Nihilism on account of the commonality revolving around life’s purposelessness, but Category B binds it to Moral Objectivism due to its overbearing focus on suffering as the end-all be-all system of value, as seen on YouTube. To be sure, by 'Moral Objectivism' I am of course not referring to Randian hogwash (See also: Moral Realism or 'Cognitivism' as a meta-ethical thesis).
In effect, what we have is individuals critiquing AntiNatalism not by critiquing its features, but by going after either 'Moral Nihilism' or 'Moral Realism', as a side-step. Two polar opposite outlooks on ethics, both attributed to AntiNatalism’s roots. The former befuddles me, because while the overlap is indeed possible, there are virtually no outspoken Moral Nihilists within my YouTube radar who also positively reject Natalism. The latter is somewhat more plausible, though it’s still a false approach to take. It’s a bit more understandable only because AntiNatalism’s most tenacious proponents are, in fact, Moral Realists. Many would probably brand be as an unyielding 'Moral Realist' as well, but I've dropped that label as too many Moral Realists dispute the idea of ethics being 'mind-dependent' and it boarders on the transcendental/nonphysical. Mind you, I do still take issue with the covert union of 'mind-dependent' and 'subjective', stressing colloquial application of 'subjective' as simply meaning 'bias'. Hopefully in the future Academia will agree with me and the prescriptive will become the descriptive, so that the the word 'subjective' is no longer stuck with two synonyms that aren't synonyms among themselves. My videos/blogs haven't exactly been an influence on intelligentsia so far though, so I won't be holding my breath on that one.
In any event, even if we were to take into account the loudest AntiNatalists’ dictums in relation to the empirical viability of ethics/values, I find it hard to believe that any sagacious observer will have a genuinely strenuous time grasping how one can be a Moral Realist, a Moral Relativist, or a Moral Nihilist, and still be a legit AntiNatalist regardless of what subset got them there. Failure to understand this is as baffling to me as a refusal to believe that 150 years ago, some Nihilists happened to be avid Abolitionists, or a refusal to believe that most slave owning Confederates were avid Moral Realisms. In other words, believing that 'Moral Nihilism' is the product of one's inability to comprehend empathy through a logical lens, is as absurd as believing that all Moral Realists are never prone to apathy in the face of strangers’ suffering, due to their stated outlook on the credibility of ethics under an epistemological realm.
Hopefully everyone reading this can agree that attempting to blend ethical acts in practice with due evaluation of conflicts tangled up within ethicism itself, denotes either a lack of clarity or deliberate equivocation of what Nihilism is, or even an inability to differentiate between evaluation of Applied Ethics, Normative Ethics and (most importantly) Meta Ethics. Despite massive disagreements over technicalities, the Moral Nihilist is capable of being just as committed as the self-described Moral Realist. Postulating value codes as nothing but human constructs does not serve to blackmail the thinker into an intellectual impediment against acting in accordance to those identical codes, in practice, regardless of how arbitrary the value-holder views his/her acts to ultimately be.
It's impossible for a large group of people – even if they're like-minded – to analyze ethics' algorithms from A to Z and genuinely avoid having divergence kick in at some point, but the inevitability of subsequent variance does not have to culminate in an "all-or-nothing" deal-breaker.
Now that that’s hopefully settled, even more perplexing is the number of AntiNatalists who fancy themselves as staunch Net-Equation Utilitarians without bothering to partially surrender the card carrying 'anti-imposition' facet of their philosophy, failing to see how incompatible the two positions can be once situational ethics kick in (but without all the Theistic goo that S.E. originated from).
If I may be permitted to indulge in a generic thought-experiment invoking the existence of magic crystal balls which actually manage to predict stuff accurately 100% of the time... I know it's tacky, but humor me:
I am endowed a marquee vision into all future events pertaining to sentient experience. A most scientific crystal ball informs me that, should I decide to procreate, the philanthropic actions of my spawn are guaranteed to set off a chain of events which would significantly abate the net suffering experienced by sentient life on planet earth, both in the short and long term. When I say that this alternative future is guaranteed to trigger a subsiding of suffering, I am only referring to the greater net suffering presented to me as being in the cards and bound to take place in the event that my present-day decision to abstain from procreating remains intact. The catch being: Should I choose to procreate, my future kid is guaranteed to spend his/her entire life plagued by the belief that he/she would “rather not have been” all the way up until and including his/her final breath.
My predicament would not be a predicament at all, were I a committed 'Net-Equationist' / 'Negative Utilitarian' or a committed AntiNatalist whose objection to Natalism is heavily influenced by an 'anti-imposition' pledge, which is merely an extension of the Kantian branch of ethics outlining that individuals ought not be used as a means to any given end (in this case a parental end or a familial end). The reason that my predicament is in fact a legitimate one, is because I am – at least in this thought experiment – not a steadfast 'Negative Utilitarian' in practice, nor am I a steadfast non-consequentialist AntiNatalist in practice, but am attempting to cling to both cornerstones exclusively theoretically in my unyielding quest for value equilibrium. I'm stranded in an estranged give-and-take relationship that my mind conjures up between Deontological non-imposition versus Consequentialist utility maximization. My failure to apprehend the blatantly paradoxical nature of this juxtaposition is a product of obstinate unwillingness to challenge the dogmatic notions of value absolutism lodged inside my brain (in this thought experiment). As a result, I find myself chained to a circumstance where I cannot maintain both the 'anti-imposition' pledge while maintaining the commitment to obviate forthcoming utilitarian borg math, which I as a self-identifying 'Negative Utilitarian' must always attempt to do. One has to trump the other.
In reality, I bear no such pathological commitment towards Net-Equation Utilitarianism or towards the rigid 'anti-imposition' AN stance and duty, because I acknowledge that circumstantially driven necessities for exemptions supersede the virtue of principles, on both ends of the spectrum. This is especially true if the upholding of principles happens to be egotistically driven, which it often is. Anyone who rejects Natalism is free to deny this, but they are not able to deny it and on top of that make a compelling case for why remaining a tad more loyal to one of the two principles blueprinted above, is factually correct”er” than picking the other.
A common get-out-of-jail-free card which jugglers of exclusionary 'Negative Utilitarianism' and exclusionary (non-consequentialist) 'AntiNatalism' can appeal to here, is to point out that my thought experiment had me sentencing a consciousness to a lifetime of misery not in order to feed my crude desires/ego or culturally shaped psychology, but because the disciplined net-equation obligationism called for it. The “future math" shown to me by the bulletproof crystal ball left me with no real alternatives, unlike all those other breeders/imposers whose procreating we can still denounce regardless of whether the chain of events set in motion by their kids winds up in the red or green. Their acts warrant censure due to the fact that your average aspiring breeder doesn’t even contemplate the suffering domino effect under a stringent 'Negative Utilitarian' framework in the first place, and goes on to procreate simply because he/she wants to. So basically, "It’s the motives, silly” is the typical response offered by the 'pro-utility/anti-imposition' value juggler. This excuse seems somewhat levelheaded at first, but the moment one extrapolates how invoking in anomalies can lead to the abandonment of 'Consequentialism', it too can’t pass.
Many AntiNatalists’ overarching defense of 'Non-Proximate Consequentialism' has them marching into a nasty dichotomous corner where breeders’ intentions either override the outcomes of breeders’ actions, or vice-versa. We cannot simultaneously favor the two. If we are to believe that the average breeder’s intentions behind procreating are irrelevant – as Hard Consequentialism mandates – we must then concede that my circumstantially virtuous motive behind procreating in the above thought experiment cannot be regarded as one belonging to any motive tier, therefore my imposition of genes on an individual who’d “rather not have been” is no more justifiable than that of the Octomom’s, even if the Octomom’s kids go on to reduce net suffering to the equal extent that my hypothetical kids were predetermined to diminish it in the thought experiment.
How are we to so much as scratch the surface of maintaining enough breathing room towards the 'anti-imposition' stance while individually enslaving ourselves to 'net-equation' obligationism? We cannot just slay all forms of Consequentialism with respects to the imposition of life/genetics on an individual realm, but we also can't just revert back to viewing individuals simply as a means to an end – the end being the sum-total reduction of suffering – as such imperatives possess not a shred of compatibility with a willingness to steer clear of impositions. Simply put, we're in a bind. The problem, of course, is that nobody is truly obligated to serve the sum-total utility borg agenda, and any expectation to the contrary exists solely in the minds of Net-Equation Utilitarians, no different than how Natalists’ insistence upon the imperative to create future generations is just as relegated to the minds of Natalists and nothing else. Both agendas suffer from the absence of intrinsic, ontological necessity. But that's fine for reasons outlined in the abnegation near the start of the post.
Perhaps discussing this in the context of a thought experiment concocted to target the future is not everyone’s cup of tea. So I’ll flip it and do a quick one targeting the past:
Suppose that on his death-bed, a clear-minded Albert Einstein had pled “I’d rather not have been!”. An AntiNatalist observer recognizes the plight of Einstein’s circumstance and is (inexplicably) teleported 77 years back in time, at which point he finds himself presented with the opportunity to prevent the impregnation Einstein’s mother. The AntiNatalist, cognizant of his sudden ability to undo what would otherwise turn out to be a definite imposition, opts to act in accordance to the 'anti-imposition' duty embedded in his rejection of Natalism, and successfully prevents the conception of Einstein by harmlessly distracting the horny couple. As a result, Einstein never existed and the world is significantly worse off because of this, both in the short and long term.
Prior to going through with the prevention of the pregnancy, the AntiNatalist is made aware that the world will be a worse place without Einstein’s vast array of contributions to human knowledge. The AntiNatalist opted to act and undo the fertilization of Einstein’s mother, regardless of this fact. To believe that the AntiNatalist was in the wrong here, is to believe that Einstein had an obligation to reduce suffering which Einstein himself did not create or even indirectly contribute towards. If the AntiNatalist believes that Einstein had no such obligation, under the poised banner “Individuals are only obligated to not impose suffering themselves, and that’s where their duty ends”, it cannot be said of the AntiNatalist that his distracting of the couple was objectively wrong“er”. A belief that individuals have no positive obligations to reduce harm which they themselves did not have a hand in creating, cannot be deemed as fundamentally contrary to the AntiNatalist position. To believe otherwise, is to out oneself as an AntiNatalist of convenience who views their own rejection of Natalism merely as a stepping-stone; a vehicle by which to reach the true end-goal of surreptitious net-equation servitude.
Such an outlook relegates the position of 'AntiNatalism' to a cannon-fodder agenda for something else, to the point where categorical disapprobation of procreation is no longer the recommended recipe, and now it is selective disapprobation of procreation that is to be viewed as the correct approach. This is because the exclusionary 'Negative Utilitarian' borg calculus calls upon all analysis of ethics to be evaluated under a strict, robotic, domino-effect ascended benchmark which renders any focus on duty or intent (deviation from consequences) as an unscrupulous distraction. In essence, any contemplation leading to ambivalence as it relates to outcomes always having to outweigh motives, or towards 'harm-minimization' always ousting 'imposition-minimization', is to be rigidly frowned upon.
This approach justifies servitude of draconian proportions, and finding it highly questionable doesn’t dislodge commitment to a disciplined analysis on the part of the thinker. It simply means that, at a certain point, value system clashes start being legitimately irreconcilable.
One might reject thought experiments of this nature on the basis that there's a high likelihood of the net-equation finding itself to be interlocked with imposition of life/genetics on an individual realm, in so far as the statement “Einstein’s non-existence will lead to greater overall suffering” being interpreted as identical to the statement “Einstein’s non-existence will lead to greater net suffering because more individuals will have life imposed on them in Einstein’s absence, and will grow up to find their lack of consent in the matter to be worthy of contempt, identical to Einstein’s individual case” thus rendering any apprehension towards not fulfilling Einstein’s one, measly, single “I’d rather not have been” deathbed wish, as being decidedly paradoxical.
At first glance this seems like a reasonable objection, but it can easily be resolved if we simply add another layer to the thought experiment, stipulating that the incline of net-suffering caused by Einstein’s non-existence would not be a by-product of higher population counts consisting of individuals who wished that they'd never have been, but of unrelated events instead. In other words, Einstein’s otherwise conspicuous non-existence would not have led to more individuals uttering “I’d rather not have been” and the world’s population count would have remained unaltered to the one in which Einstein does exist. What would change however, is the volume of suffering endured by that same number of people/animals, split up by the same margins per subject as it would have been had Einstein’s existence not been retroactively prevented in the thought experiment. Adjusting to this circumstance, while maintaining aspirations of both utility maximization and an aversion to impositions, is impossible.
Admittedly, I’ve thrown too one many convoluted wrenches at this thought experiment by now, but this final one had to be added because I know that the main objection typically revolves around the belief that preventing two "I’d rather not have been” individuals from being born is better than preventing one. But clearly this is entirely contingent upon the underlying principles one accepts as one's groundwork, and ANs who reject this brand of tunnelvision 'Negative Utilitarianism' should be able to do so without being thought of as traitors to the AN position in its purest form. The 'Imposition Minimization' goal-post is also what prompted me to incorporate 'Preference Utilitarianism' to my calculus, which I apply to all sound minded humans who are perfectly capable of comprehending their immunity to risk, and thereby legitimately consenting to their own suffering, unlike comatose humans, and unlike all of wildlife.
The reason none of this has ever amounted to heated debate among unalloyed AntiNatalists is because in reality no one is privy to magic crystal balls which are actually accurate in their fortune telling (much less to space-time continuum openings). But had we been inundated with knowledge pertaining to even a handful of ultimate future outcomes, just how undivided would the AN crowd be? I am hoping to get a glimpse into the answer by having any readers of this entry who made it this far explain where they stand on the Catch-22 scenarios. Would you side with maximization of net utility, or a commitment to refrain from imposing on those who aren’t imposing? It's a no-win for any value-juggler.
None of this is intended to contort the ongoing circular debate between Natalists and AntiNatalists; a debate Natalists have proven time and again that they’re simply not ready to have. So until that changes, instead of explaining for the umpteenth time why rejecting Natalism doesn't give the rejectors any cause to off themselves, I believe that the more prolific thing to do is to confront the handicaps of exclusionary Net-Equation Utilitarianism (be it Negative or not) or any monolithic duty touted by deontologists. Scholars have discussed these quandaries for centuries, but I'd like to see them discussed under an AN overlay.
Suicide itself can be argued to be perfectly objectionable in the eyes of committed 'Negative Utilitarians' and 'Non-proximate Consequentialists', seeing as how most suicide cases are glued to a range of fallouts. Many of these fallouts will see the emotional burden on the deceased's close-ones far exceeding the collective units of hardship the suicidal individual would have gone on to endure had he/she abstained from committing suicide. Ergo all those who have committed suicide and as a result of having done so brought about more collective hardship to their close-ones, can be seen as having been wrong to do so and should have remained alive for the good of the whole. Sounds good? Well, no. In my view all enemies of Natalism should find this position contemptible, regardless of how utilitarian-friendly a conclusion it is.
But I’m sure a great many ANs don’t find it contemptible at all, since they apply a cement-headed clinical view onto sentience-as-a-whole and work their way from there.