Diktat of the Recollecting Self

If, and insofar as, the research of Daniel Kahneman and others, and the theories built upon this research, are valid human beings are constitutionally incapable of judging and evaluating, retrospectively, the unpleasant experiences that they have undergone in their real negativity – that is to say, in the concrete negativity of their actual moment-by-moment living-through of these latter.

It is also surely, in large part, this constitutionally-dictated tendency to the distortion of retrospectivity that nourishes and sustains human optimism and pronatalism. We may speak, therefore, of a tyranny of the retrospective self inasmuch as its dominance precludes our ever becoming conscious of the actual extent of human suffering. Where we take into account such constitutive cognitive distortions as that of the dominance of the recollecting self, it becomes clear why human beings can find (their own) life to be a beautiful thing even then when they have spent months or years of it in a concentration camp. If these months or years ended with liberation, or if the life in question took a positive turn in some other sense, this long experience of pain and humiliation will tend to be blanked out. In retrospect, the time spent in such a concentration camp will appear to be much more tolerable than it would have been judged to be if one had asked its victims for their view of it day by day during their actual lived experience of this ordeal.

This fact that the experiencing self tends to be dominated and suppressed by the recollecting self is of the most extreme importance for antinatalism. This tyranny of retrospectivity is clear evidence that our positive self-assessments of our own lived reality – and thus the optimistic psyche itself – hide a truth that is very different. To put it more concretely: whoever begets a human being begets a creature that is bio-psychologically so constituted that it is prevented, by a kind of protective screen, from achieving a realistic grasp of its own lived reality.

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