Optimistic, Life-Loving Antinatalism?

Are we, if we consider our existence to be a tolerable one – i.e. if we are rather of a sunny disposition than “tired of life” – thereby obliged to subscribe to the proposition that it was a good thing that we were begotten? Such a refractory attitude to non-being is defended by Micha Brumlik: “We too, if we find ourselves to be content, under the given conditions, with our lives must thereby also implicitly be of the view that it was a good thing that we were conceived and born.” (Brumlik, Über die Ansprüche Ungeborener und Unmündiger)

But what reasons of moral logic would render it impossible for us to prefer a course of the world in which we would never have begun to exist while at the same time defending the notion that our life at present is worth living? There appear to be no convincing arguments against the moral-logical possibility of even a happy, committed individual’s defending an antinatalist position – even if he were to do so merely out of empathy with those billions of others who may be less happy or fortunate than him. With reference to early Christian antinatalism Hieronymus Lorm (1821–1902) expounded, in a book from 1894, this possibility of a combination of moral commitment and advocacy of an ebbing away of humanity:

“It is perfectly possible for me to sacrifice myself, my fortune and my life, motivated by pity or by love of my neighbour, for the sake of a person, a group, a class, a people or even some cultural cause while all along having the feeling that it would be better for the latter and more in their interest if they had never existed or if they were to be painlessly extinguished. The notion has, in recent years, now and again been weighed of whether one might wish for, or even actively facilitate, the bloodless suicide of the human race through a cessation of all new births. And one may entirely accept and embrace this notion without ceasing to be a good Christian. Indeed, one may even interpret it to be an idea derivable from the Gospel.” [1] (Hieronymus Lorm, Der grundlose Optimismus)

[1] For a later defence of the combinability of both positions see also: Saul Smilansky,10 Moral Paradoxes, Blackwell Publishing 2007, chapter 10, p. 100ff: Preferring Not to Have Been Born.

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