Antinatalism

[Excerpt from my ANTINATALISMUS, translated into English by Dr Alexander Reynolds]

Antinatalism

This is the place to take a closer and more detailed look at the title of the present handbook. On close examination we must recognize that what the antinatalist wishes to bring to expression is in fact something rather different from that which the term “antinatalism”, strictly and narrowly construed, conveys. This strict and narrow sense of the term “antinatalism” is, of course: “against birth”. But human beings who are born exist already previously, as the unborn. It would, then, be more correct to say that what the antinatalist aspires to is, first and foremost, that no more human beings should begin to exist. An internal differentiation of the notion “antinatalism”, then, yields, at the very least, the following forms of this latter:

 

Antinatalism, Anthropocentric

Anthropocentric antinatalism is concerned solely with the “ebbing away” of the human species, whereas àUniversal Antinatalism focusses on the question of how to prevent the coming into existence of all beings, of any species whatsoever, who are capable of pain and suffering. Anthropocentric antinatalists make the argument that animals are beings incapable of granting their consent, for which reason, they say, it cannot be morally permissible to sterilize entire animal species.

Antinatalism as Demographic Policy (Denatalism)

Before “antinatalism” and “pronatalism” came to be adopted as designations of moral-theoretical stances, they were part of the vocabulary of political demographics, with a demographic policy aimed at restricting the birth-rate being called “antinatalist” and one aimed at increasing it being called “pronatalist”. The principal difference between demographic and moral-theoretical antinatalism consists in the fact that the former does not aim at bringing about the actual extinction of a state’s population, let alone that of humanity in general, but only at a more or less substantial reduction in the birth-rate (so-called “denatalism”); the moral-theoretical antinatalism endorsed by the author of the present handbook, however, does indeed make the case for consciously and deliberately bringing about the extinction of the entire human race.

 

Antinatalism, Christian-Theological

An example of antinatalism “wearing the mask of theology” is provided by Johann Friedrich Weitenkampf’s 1754 book Lehrgebäude vom Untergang der Erde. Weitenkampf explores here the question – all too justified a one, given Christian presuppositions – of how it is conceivable that God should want to annihilate, in a great apocalypse, the world He created after allowing it to endure for just the short span of a few millennia. The astounding answer given by Weitenkampf to this question runs: God will not annihilate the material world entirely; He will “only” see to it that the earth is transformed in such a way that human beings can no longer procreate upon it. In this way Weitenkampf constructs a theodicy such that the benevolent Creator is absolved of the charge of having planned from the beginning the destruction of his own world. The argument serves also to acquit this supposedly benevolent Creator of the accusation of another type of cruelty: namely, that of allowing and even wanting the number of damned souls to grow so great “as to surpass all human reason…” (quoted from: Blumenberg, Selbsterhaltung und Beharrung, p. 194) Since the majority of human beings are predestined to suffer eternal damnation in Hell (Massa damnata) and “since, furthermore, no hope exists that the human race will ever change” (l.c. p. 195), it is, claims Weitenkampf, to be expected that God, out of pity for the yet unborn, will limit the number of the damned in bringing about sooner rather than later this non-annihilatory “Last Judgment” which will ensure that human procreation will no longer be possible in His created world (for further details see Blumenberg, Selbsterhaltung und Beharrung, S. 194ff). This Christian-theological antinatalism that we encounter in Weitenkampf’s work can easily be transposed into a secular form: since there is little hope that human history will ever take a course very different from the terrible course that it has hitherto taken, it would be cruel to continue to beget human beings and thereby increase beyond all limits the number of those who have suffered.