No one ever consented, or could possibly have consented, to the beginning of their own existence. Many antinatalists derive from this fact the proposition that existing human beings had their existence “imposed” on them when they were “taken out of the state of non-existence” and brought into existence. Such an “imposition of existence” (so it is claimed) clearly reveals the moral reprehensibility of procreation.
Conversely to this, however, one might seek to establish the reprehensibility of the omission to procreate by claiming that, where procreation does not occur, existence is being withheld from certain not-yet-existent individuals. The pronatalist wants to persuade us of the moral superiority of procreation and therefore speaks of àDeprivation of Existence and of the >Gift of Life; the antinatalist, by contrast, points to the moral questionability of procreation and speaks, therefore, of the >Diktat of Birth. Ontologically considered, both positions are fundamentally flawed, since there was in fact no one on whom life was imposed just as it is impossible to identify anyone who might either have been “deprived” of existence or to whom the “gift” of existence could be given. Existence is not one attribute among others but rather the precondition of all attribution. In order to refuse or to lack something, or to have something imposed on one, one must already exist.
If the proposition has hitherto sometimes been advanced in antinatalist literature that “no one” ever wished to be begotten, one might just as easily say that “no one” ever wished not to be begotten. Talk, then, of a “Diktat of existence”, or of a “deprivation” of this latter, leads into a checkmate situation which can be traced back to an onto-ethical fallacy. When antinatalists say that someone was compelled to exist they are committing an onto-ethical fallacy inasmuch as originally there was no one there who could possibly have been “compelled” to anything. Likewise, however, pronatalists are committing an onto-ethical fallacy when they contend that someone has had existence “withheld” from them through their not having been begotten, because there is likewise no one there of whom such things might truly be said. “Diktat of existence” and “gift of life”: the two expressions appear to convey diametrically opposed ideas and yet, when it comes down to what is most essential, they have something in common. Or rather, what they have in common is what both essentially lack. Both lack a referent, a subject to which their enunciations could actually apply.