Introduction to my book ANTINATALISM – A HANDBOOK

Were human beings, starting from today, to cease procreating with one another, the human race would die out within the span of about a hundred years. And this dying-out of humanity as a result of such “natal abstinence” is indeed the long-term objective of antinatalism. There is more, however, to the moral theory of antinatalism than just this long-term objective. This moral theory begins in an engagement with individual people and in the attempt to convince them, through reasoned argument, that it is better to reconsider any intention that they may already have formed of begetting a child, or indeed to refrain from forming any pro-natal intention in the first place. From the anti-natalist viewpoint, anything which results in someone’s reflecting upon their decision in favour of procreation and natality, or in their not making such a decision, or in their reconsidering and revising such a decision once they have made it, is an ethical success. If we succeed in bringing about through our work the reconsideration and revision of even one single “pro-natal” decision, then this work will have been more than worthwhile. Because to do this is to bring it about – to mention here only a tiny fraction of all that we might potentially mention – that there will exist one less human being than there might have: one less human being, that is to say, who, had he or she in fact come into existence, would have had to suffer illnesses, torment and persecution, witness the decline or death of parents, relatives, friends and beloved house-pets and finally – as last survivor, perhaps, and in unaided solitude – become old, sick and frail themselves before death overcomes them too.

Since the present handbook adopts a stance in favour of a world without children and eventually even of a world without human beings, it is inevitable that some of its readers will be inclined to level against its anti-natalist author(s) the accusation of “hating children” or even of “hating human beings” in general.

 

Philanthropy

Let us deal briefly first with the second, and the broader, of the two reproaches. It is not misanthropy (“hatred of human beings”) that prompts the anti-natalist to make the case that no more human beings should be brought into the world. What prompts the anti-natalist to argue thus is rather the wish that no more human beings should come into existence who, at least at certain moments or during certain phases of their lives, will surely be exposed to the hatred and the chicaneries of other members of their species and will thereby be driven into the most degrading and humiliating of situations. Looked at in this way, it is not misanthropy that is the motivating and driving force behind antinatalism but rather, on the contrary, philanthropy.

If we set aside that element of anthropocentricism which tends to cling, due to its etymology and history, to the notion “philanthropy” and re-conceive this latter in terms of all living beings capable of feeling pain or pleasure, the maxim of an antinatalism consistently universalized in this way runs: “help all already existing living beings to the limit of your power to do so, while at the same time making arguments to the effect that nothing ought to be done which will cause further living beings to begin to exist.   

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