Pseudo-Humboldt

Memoirs claiming to be those of Alexander von Humboldt were published in 1861 by a hitherto unknown author. We cite below, from this supposed forgery[1], an antinatalist passage: “I was not made to be the father of a family. What is more, I consider marriage to be a sin and the begetting of children to be a crime. I am also of the belief that that man is a fool, and still more a sinner, who takes the yoke of marriage upon himself. A fool because he thereby throws his freedom away without receiving any fitting compensation; a sinner because he gives life to children without being able to give them the certainty of happiness. I despise human beings in all their various strata; I foresee our posterity being much more unhappy than us – ; would I not be a sinner, then, if, despite seeing things this way, acted in such a way that progeny, that is, more unhappy people, came to be?–

Life in its entirety is the most utter nonsense. (…) If we just knew, at least, why we are here on this earth. But everything is and remains an enigma to the thinking man and the greatest of all good fortunes is to be born shallow and stupid.” (Quoted in: Philipp Mainländer, Die Philosophie der Erlösung. Erster Band) Interestingly, the French philosopher Rémi Brague says of this passage that it is, in the end, a matter of no importance whether the text is a forgery or not, since nihilism was, at that period, a very widely-held view. (see Brague, Les Ancres dans le ciel). In fact, however, we have to do here with antinatalistic formulations of a very emphatic nature which cannot have been widely subscribed to even in nihilistic circles – although it is certainly true that so-called nihilistic currents of thought may have promoted the emergence of just such an emphatic antinatalism such as that which we encounter in >Kurnig.

[1] The decisive role in this discovery was played by Kurt-R. Biermann: Die „Memoiren Alexander von Humboldt’s“, in: ders.: Miscellanea Humboldtiana. Berlin 1990, p. 257 – 264 (Beiträge zur Alexander-von-Humboldt-Forschung 15).

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