Damnator

We designate as “damnators” those bearers of science and culture who, although having proven themselves capable of humanistic reflection and having enjoyed the benefit of exposure to neganthropic ideas, continue nevertheless to urge, with a good conscience, that further human beings be rendered up into the grip of an uncertain destiny and an all too certain death. For so long as God was looked upon as a kind of “dictator of the world” (->Children of God) and before it became the general judgment that it is rather human beings that damn other human beings to human existence, it was indeed God, instead of the human ->Perpetrators of Existence, who was accused of being the “damnator” here. It is such an accusation that the Late Romantic poet Platen articulates, for example, in the lines in which he envisages human beings as “God’s convicts”:

„[…] O seek to sleep away each night / The pain and sorrow of each day; / For who can punish God, / For having damned and condemned us to be human beings!“ (Platen, Werke, Vol 1: Lyrik p. 69)

Rousseau (1712–1778)

A “damnator” of the very first rank is Rousseau who, on the one hand, meticulously lists all the sufferings that await each child brought into the world but, on the other, gives all responsibility for these sufferings to “Nature”:

“Fix your eyes on Nature, follow the path traced by her. She keeps children at work, she hardens them by all kinds of difficulties, she soon teaches them the meaning of pain and grief. They cut their teeth and are feverish. Sharp colics bring on convulsions. They are choked by fits of coughing and tormented by worms. Evil humours corrupt the blood, germs of various kinds ferment in it, causing dangerous eruptions. Sickness and danger play the chief part in infancy. One half of the children who are born die before their eighth year (…) This is Nature’s law. Why contradict it?” (Rousseau, Emile)

Parfit, Derek (1942–2017)

We also number among the “damnators” the renowned philosopher Derek Parfit who, in his compendious work “On What Matters“ from 2011 engages in some reflections on whether, and how, the continuation of human history can be justified in view of the course that this history has taken in the past. Even if the past, argues Parfit, must be judged, in its totality, to have been “bad” – by which he basically means a predominance, on balance, of human suffering over human happiness – one does not have the right to draw conclusions from this past about the likely quality of the future. Because the balance of suffering and happiness could shift quite significantly in this latter and the future thus prove to be much “better”, in general, than the past. Parfit goes so far as to imagine humanity in the shape of a single person and to ascribe to this personified “mankind” various phases of life. In terms of this allegory human history up to the present day would be an unhappy childhood which might, as often occurs in the life of real individuals, find more than adequate compensation in a later life that would prove, on balance, a happy and fulfilled one:

“Even if the past has been in itself bad, the future may be in itself good, and this goodness might outweigh the badness of the past. Human history would then be, on the whole, worth it. We could also truly claim that the past was worth it, not in itself, but as a necessary part of a greater good. On this view, the past would be like an unhappy childhood in some life that is on the whole worth living.“ (Parfit, On What Matters, Vol. 2, p. 612) But in this passage Parfit commits a category error which it is hard to believe a thinker of his brilliance was even capable of. He compares an in fact subjectless entity which has been constructed by conceptually aggregating many individuals (“mankind”) with the biography of an actual individual subject who might alone, in any real and valid sense, look back and judge that the sufferings undergone in earlier phases of his existence have become acceptable in light of all the happiness which later fell to his lot. We are fundamentally in disagreement with Parfit here, believing as we do that it is quite generally and universally wrong to act in such a way that a human being begins to exist who must necessarily undergo suffering.

The “damnatory” trait in Parfit’s thought becomes especially clearly visible where, failing entirely to take into account the suicide threshold he allows himself the following reflection: “Even if our children’s lives would be worse than nothing, they might decide to bear such burdens, as many people have earlier done, for the sake of helping to give humanity a good future. We could justifiably have children, letting them decide whether to act in this noble way, rather than making this decision on their behalf, by never having children.“ (Parfit, p. 615) Parfit’s attitude, clearly, is that moral attitude which was developed to terrible extremes in such cases as those of Stalin or Mao: he is prepared to approve as morally valid actions which will result in a miserable existence for certain human beings just as long as this misery can be justified by reference to a “glorious future” expected to be enjoyed by quite other human beings than these.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.