Philippe Annaba
Jim Crawford
Théophile de Giraud
Roland Jaccard
Georges Poulet

Der Antinatalismus korrespondiert dem Heraustreten des Menschen aus seiner zunächst naturgegebenen, später biosozionom alternativenlosen und schließlich selbstverschuldeten nativistischen Naivität und Unmündigkeit. Die Philosophie der antinatalistischen Formen zeichnet die Befreiung vom Naturerbe nach, das, in zahlreichen Intuitionen und Institutionen sedimentiert, fortwirkt.


Next to one of those moderately trafficked and thus less deadly roads, in front of a well insulated wall, the sapling had made it through the concrete. It featured a number of green leaves whose chlorophyll molecules were busy capturing all those photons, a prerequisite for maintaining the process of photosynthesis, the mother of all growth. The tiny bunch of people, all of them teachers, wanted to talk serious matters, school-related topics: “Why is it necessary in our school-exchange programs to have almost grown-ups accompanied by two teachers on air flights from Frankfurt to the USA?.” Obviously, because the US’s entry requirements are so severe that one has to be grown up to cope with it, especially when grilled by immigration. Or: “Why does the state not provide us with soap in the teachers’ restrooms.”

In the meantime, next to where the teachers had taken up the subject of a deplorable lack of vegetarian meals in the school kitchen – which could serve as a common denominator for all those religions that got hungry at midday –, a roadsweeper was doing his job and a mother with her perhaps 4-year-old son had taken a seat. Both within reach of the sapling and its green leaves. While the mother got ready to seek for the happiness stored in her greenish bowl of café latte – at the bottom of which was lying the process of photosynthesis – her boy started to quietly pluck away the sapling’s leaves, one by one. The sapling’s leaves, which had made it through civilization’s surface only to find itself in a jungle of concrete. No sooner had the boy plucked less than a handful of leaves, unchecked by his coffee slurping mother, when one of the teachers explained to him: “Would you mind stopping that? If you keep on, that tree might die.” It remains unknown whether the mother’s awe-inspiring countenance had been moulded only by what she was reading or by what was being said to her or by a combination of both. She replied as follows: “How dare you trouble my kid with the notion of death?” And she shouted at her opponent: “So far I managed to never ever use the notion of death in the presence of my child, nor has anyone ever mentioned related expressions. It is a question of respect to not talk about death and dying when little children are around.” The teachers stood nonplussed, the boy continued diminishing the tree’s capacity for capturing some of the photons with which the sun is flooding us. Of course, it didn’t come to the teachers’ mind that it was the mother who had introduced her child not only to the blurry notion of death but to the more substantial experience of dying: She had him come into the world. By the same token she had condemned him not only to experience his mother’s and other relatives’ deaths, but also to go through the experience of dying himself within a period of time way less than it would take a tree to become fully grown
[Hinzugefügt am 11. September 2011]

Sollen Menschen sein?
Ein Fragebogen

[Hinzugefügt am 1. Juli 2010]

On Aschwin de Wolf’s recent review of contemporary antinatalist writings

Aschwin de Wolf’s recent review  of contemporary antinatalist writings (1) is laid out in a sympathetic manner. He says: “I think that the best response available to the antinatalist would be to follow David Benatar’s example and present a strictly formal argument, or simply argue that in case of doubt, we should abstain from procreation.” As de Wolf doesn’t provide a formal argument in favour of procreation this amounts to an asymmetry in favour of the abstention from procreation. Being myself the author of two books in favour of antinatalism (1995: Soll eine Menschheit sein? and 2000: Verebben der Menschheit?), I find no challenge to the antinatalist stance in de Wolf’s review. Even so, there are a few things worth mentioning.

De Wolf determines as a common denominator of the antinatalist viewpoint that "we impose a harm by bringing someone into the world when this person's life will be bad." (de Wolf, p. 17). Despite my antinatalism I do not agree (and de Wolf himself doesn’t seem to agree either when he ascribes the following account to Benatar: “A being that does not exist can neither be harmed nor benefited” (de Wolf, p. 18); whereas, on Benatar’s account, “coming into existence harms all sentient beings.” (Benatar, p. 2)). In my view, in order to be harmed, a sentient being has to exist in the first place. You can harm someone who exists. By adding an additional sentient being to the world, you do not harm the as yet non-existent additional being. Prior to “its” coming into existence, the living being wasn't there in limbo in order to subsequently experience the alleged harm of coming into existence. Before it had come into existence it existed only in our imagination and expectations. Therefore, we should call them “mind-people”. Transitions between non-existence and existence are not person-affecting. Inasmuch as there is no transition of sentient beings from non-existence into existence, we shouldn’t express ourselves in terms of THE HARM OF COMING INTO EXISTENCE – this being the subtitle of Benatars book BETTER NEVER TO HAVE BEEN (this point has been put forward in reviews on Benatar’s book by eg E. Harman and myself in 2009: http://www.tabularasa-jena.de/artikel/artikel_594/).

We do not cause pre-existing beings to exist. What we should say is: By causing the existence of additional sentient beings we inevitably add to the (amount of) suffering there is, or, if you like, we add to the world one more sentient being that will also suffer. Notwithstanding the pleasures many sentient beings experience, almost any additional sentient being – let alone any additional person – will, with some probability, suffer at least considerably (eg facing one’s own death and that of near and dear ones). With the term “probability” I refer to the fact that procreation is and remains a twofold lottery: First, you never know how much the additional sentient being will suffer with respect to its biological endowment. De Wolf mentions in passing “that our expected quality of life is no longer just the outcome of a “random” evolutionary process but can be brought under rational control.” (de Wolf p. 17) Even if this were the case and if we were able to wipe out major diseases, our biological allotment and health are not everything. A second aspect requires due consideration: Lottery reigns also in the domains of society, society vis-à-vis nature and of history. We do not only live at the mercy of our biological constitution but also at the mercy of what one may label the experimentum mundi: that is, nature’s unpredictability as well as the imponderabilities of existence in a society that co-exists with other societies on a planet with restricted resources – which renders the causation of additional living beings a morally dubious undertaking.

In a world where there are sentient beings that experience pleasure and pain, pain counts more than pleasure: Whoever deals with the quest of procreation is well advised to consult our past (rather than to indulge in wishful thinking on new technologies) in order to establish what the future might have in store for additional sentient beings. There was technological progress in history. But there seems to be no concomitant moral progress. Rather than moral progress we are facing objectively superfluous misery that can hit anybody at any time. To say that pleasure does compensate for suffering would be tantamount to saying that human suffering endured in Auschwitz, the GULAG, Cambodia, Ruanda or Congo is compensated for by the joy some people experience when they raise their children or walk through art galleries. However, the experiences of different human beings and of one and the same human being at different times are no communicating tubes.

Since transitions between non-existence and existence do not affect mind-people, we should resort to a logic different from that of THE HARM OF COMING INTO EXISTENCE. We should resort to the logic of our decisions regarding procreation that also yields asymmetry. Back in 1969 Hermann Vetter wrote: “There is no moral reason for starting someone’s existence on account of the happiness he would experience. (…) There is a moral reason for not starting someone’s existence on account of the unhappiness he would experience.” (2) In her article WHAT SHOULD WE DO ABOUT FUTURE PEOPLE from 1983 Trudy Govier formulated: “There is a reason to reverse a decision to have a child if that child would likely be miserable, and there is no comparable reason to reverse a decision not to have a child if that child would be happy. Hence, asymmetry.” (3) In my VEREBBEN DER MENSCHHEIT? (Ebbtide For Mankind?, Freiburg 2000) I came to the antinatalist conclusion that one has to generalize these reflections. One always should reverse a decision to have a child as one never knows in advance what fate might have in store for additional sentient beings and because the pleasure of one person does not compensate for the suffering of a different person over space and time. Any human being can at least in principle end up in an Auschwitz-style concentration camp. Therefore we may conclude that we are always well advised to reverse any pronatal decision and to speak out against procreation.

(1) CRYONICS, 2nd quarter 2010 • Volume 31:2

(2) H. Vetter, THE PRODUCTION OF CHILDREN AS A PROBLEM FOR UTILITARIAN ETHICS, in Inquiry 12/1969, p. 445-447, p. 446

(3) T. Govier, WHAT SHOULD WE DO ABOUT FUTURE PEOPLE, in J. Narveson (ed.) Moral Issues, Oxford UP 1983, p. 399-413, p. 410

[Added 24 January 2011. Modified 29 January 2011]