‘Missed You?’ might be a good idea for a song to listen to, but read for yourself:
“Look back also and see how the ages of everlasting time past before we were born have been to us nothing.” (Lucretius, as quoted yesterday)
Had our parents not acted in such a way that we eventually began to exist, we wouldn’t have missed ourselves. Nor would anybody.
Make an ethical argument out of this: If NOBODY acts in such a way that someone eventually begins to exist, there will be no one there who would be left out. There are no selves out there on whose behalf we are to procreate.
The foundations for this insight are old. Lucretius is one of its philosophical harbingers.
respice item quam nil ad nos ante acta vetustas temporis aeterni fuerit,
quam nascimur ante.
hoc igitur speculum nobis natura futuri temporis exponit post mortem denique nostram.
numquid ibi horribile apparet?
num triste videtur quicquam?
non omni somno securius exstat?
(Lucretius, De rerum natura)
Look back also and see how the ages of everlasting time past before we were born have been to us nothing. This therefore is a mirror which nature holds up to us, showing the time to come after we at length shall die. Is there anything horrible in that? Is there anything gloomy? Is it not more peaceful than any sleep?
We would rejoice at the disvovery of extraterrestrial (intelligent) life, wouldn’t we? Wait a minute, the circumspect antinatalist will tell us. Rather than jubilate we should feel sorrow. Why? Well, because other life forms, however alien they may be, will be in need of some kind of conscious alert system to prevent the single living beings from self destruction. Alien living beings, strange though they may be, will be able to feel what we call pain. This is the reason why the full grown antinatalist will not jubilate at incoming radia signals from Alpha Centauri or other regions of space and time.
Ever more inhabitable planets that are being discovered are a strong indicator that there will be much more suffering out there in space than people were generally inclined to assume only a few decades ago.
When children’s carefree laughter receives a lot of attention this is, of course, also due to the fact that grown up people know innermost it’ll come to an end shortly: Laughter will be siphoned away by the vicissitudes of life.
If parents are well aware that carefree laughter (not general laughter) will end soon and are, thus, familiar with the human condition: why did they start their children’s existence in the first place?
It looks like we can learn from other movements, first and foremost perhaps from the vegetarian movement. Similar to antinatalism the vegetarian movement faces the question of how to make people change decisions that are tightly knit to causing animal (and human) suffering. Similar to parents who like to “have” children, carnivors like to “eat” meat, thus causing the coming into being of ever new myriads of sentient animals.
There might be two major fractions between vegetarians. Members of group A maintain a low profile, they do not try to convince people, they rather try to live on quietly as a still role model. Members of group B, however, act differently: They show around shocking and reproaching pictures from the meat industry that, as a matter of fact, are directly linked to consumer demand. Group B confronts meat eaters with the gruel outcome of their decisions.
One gets the impression that group B is way more successful than group B when it comes to making people change revise their decisions. Therefore, in order to make people change their pronatalist decisions one should make them drastically aware of the consequences by presenting real pictures and by telling real storys. Pictures and stories from illnesses and old age homes for example. But who has what it takes in order to accost pronatal people in such a way?
What counts is not only the antinatalist mätopia – a world without sentient beings prone to feel pain – but rather to argue in favour of a revision of pronatal decisions. Contributing to the revision of as many pronatal decisions as possible is at the heart of antinatalist moral theory and practical antinatalist ethics.
Everybody has an idea of utopia. By analogy and against the background of antinatalism and certain forms of nihilism one should also speak of mätopia with non-existence as its ideal (‘mä’ being tantamount to ‘not, non’ in ancient Greek).
Every now and then people would say „Listen to that child’s carefree laughter!“ Those incidences should be looked at as a most revealing insight into the human condition. Because what is the make-up of a world in which it is necessary to always highlight children’s light-hearted laughter? Children should be light hearted and carefree all the time. The unfailing attention paid by bystanders and the apparent scarcity of easygoing laughter unwittingly testify to the fact that something isn’t right with acting in such a way that a new human being begins to exist.
If one subtracted the metaphysics of will from Schopenhauer’s general philosophy some non-metaphysical antinatalism would have to ensue. Therefore, one might suspect that after the demise of German idealism a corresponding thinker, an outspoken antinatalist, would have taken up the vacant systematic place well before the still hesitant antinatalist pronouncements by Norwegian thinker Zapffe or in the setting of Negative Utilitarianism (first and foremost by Hermann Vetter).
As a matter of fact there is such a philosopher. He wrote under the pseudonym of KURNIG defending an outspoken and – with respect to Schopenhauer or Eduard von Hartmann – non-metaphysikal antinatalism.
Here are two quotations from his work ‘Neo-Nihilimus’ as a sample:
“I consider human life as something which is overall unpleasant, as a misfortune. Unborn people would not ask for it. In the face of abysmal misery I was unable to simply watch taking on the passive role of an observer.”
“I beget you (we hear a parent saying) in order to see with pleasure what is inside you and what is not. By the same token, however, I am forcing upon you a lot of suffering and, finally, the ghastly catastrophe of dying.” [Kurnig, Der Neo-Nihilismus. Anti-Militarismus. Sexualleben (Ende der Menschheit), Verlag Max Sängewald, Leipzig 1903]
Even today impartial discussions around the noble ancient Greek concept of euthanasia are hardly possible in German speaking countries. The concept of euthanasia is still tainted because of Germany’s Nazi past and the perversion of the concept by the Nazis.
At first glance the same seems to go for the concept of antinatalism. Before the concept of antinatalism was used in order to designate a moral theory it had been used by such thinkers as German historian Gisela Bock in her contribution ANTINATALISM, MATERNITY AND PATERNITY IN NATIONAL SOCIALIST RACISM (1994). In her text Bock scrutinises Nazi antinatalism as being directed first and foremost against women and especially women of Jewish and “Gipsy” origin, many of whom became sterilized. Bock even draws a line from antinatalism to euthanasia and genocide. Against this background the concept of antinatalism looks tainted and it wouldn’t recommend itself as a name for a humane moral theory.
However, there is a second usage of the concept of antinatalism – prior to designating a moral theory. It is in the domain of research on development policies from the 1970s and 1980s where we find the concept of antinatalism being used in order to discuss such topics as an antinatalistic population policy in a series of developing countries (see e.g. Christian Oswald, Familienplanung als volkswirtschaftliches Investitionsproblem, 1979).
At a second glance it looks like the concept of antinatalism first appeared in research on more recent population policies. And only later was it used in order to reflect on earlier Nazi population policies.
While this suggestion needs confirmation by further research it seems probable that one cannot reasonably consider the concept of antinatalism as a tainted one.