Born without consent (Holbach)

In his System of Nature  we find Baron Paul d’Holbach (1723-1789) claiming in proto-antinatalist  fashion (he didn’t defend antinatalism) that

“[man] is born without his own consent.”

Let’s have a closer look at this: There was NOBODY there to either accept or refuse her own beginning. There wasn’t even SOMEBODY out there on whose behalf we could have been in favour of or against his beginnings. Still, once a new sentient being has begun to exist, its negative feelings or emotions will override its positive impressions (unless it dies shortly after having begun to exist, without having had bad negative sensations att all). Therefore one should never act in such a way that a new sentient being begins to exist.

Alongside Holbach’s observation we often find the claim that man is being harmed by his coming into existence (by his being born as we say in everyday-language). In everyday-antinatalist language this makes perfect sense. Things seem to look different, however, if we leave aside common language delving into the ontology of the expression COMING INTO EXISTENCE. Consider that an entity cannot be affected by its coming into existence, that is to say: by its very beginning. It needs to be there in order to be affected. If an elementary particle begins to exist it is not affected by its beginning; once it exists it can be affected. In a similar manner there was no (pre-existing) ME that was done harm to when I began to exist. The harm followed only later when I (the sentient foetus) had the first negative sensations.
For the above mentioned reasons I prefer saying: If people procreate or breed they act in such a way that one more sentient being will have negative sensations. There might have been some sentient beings though that never had negative experiences. Think for example of a foetus that recently had gained proto-consciosness. It perhaps experienced a trance-like feeling of warmth or a reddish colour or a sugary taste. Then the foetus died in the fraction of a second. At no point was there any harm being done to that foetus.
Let’s think of a second foetus whose first sensation was heat or a garish light or a bitter taste. Was this foetus harmed by its own coming into existence? No. Its very existence (and in this case: sentience) was a precondition for any harm to be there.

 

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