Whoever is tired or exhausted seeks out sleep and welcomes it. One would think, however, that anyone reflecting soberly on sleep and its nature should rather fear it, since, the deeper we slip into sleep the closer we draw to a zero-point of consciousness, with nothing existing for us any more. Indeed, at such a point we no longer even exist for ourselves. Whoever is sleeping deep and dreamlessly has no longer any consciousness either of himself, of others, or of other things. If it is true that we are, in essence, just the consciousness produced by our brain then it must also be true that, in phases of sleep without consciousness, we cease to exist. But is non-existence not precisely that which is most generally feared? Praise of sleep, then, is always at the same time a highly telling praise of non-existence!
That temporary non-existence that goes hand in hand with deep and dreamless sleep is relevant not just to post-existential non-existence (sleep as the brother of death) but also to the mindfulness of pre-existential non-existence (sleep as the sister of never-having-been).
Whoever propounds an antinatalist position, or comes close to doing so, must have succeeded in pulling off the not unimpressive trick of jumping over the shadow of his own existence. And whoever hopes to persuade others of the ethical superiority of this antinatalist position must be prepared for the fact that he will need also to teach this extremely difficult trick to those he wishes to convince. When someone meditates back before the start of his own existence, he is always pursued thereby, even in his meditations, by the actual lived time of this existence. This time before our own existence is really, for every one of us, “time out of mind”. All attempts to imagine states of the world without my presence in it, to envisage the world as it was without me and as it will be when I am no longer in it, necessarily fail. The world remains constantly under the meditative shadow of my own self. There can easily arise from this a certain nativistic fallacy: in my meditation I “roll back the film” to a time before my own existence and yet remain, nonetheless, somehow present in this world envisaged as existing before me, no matter how many subtractions I try to make thereby from my own self. Thus – and herein lies the fallacy – I must, in some “shadowy” way, all along have been “inherent” in this world as an entity that already half-existed, or “should by rights” have existed, or was “meant to exist”.
The trick of jumping over the shadow of one’s own existence consists in arriving at the simple insight that, really, nobody and nothing was “there” that might be said to have been “deprived” of something (àDeprivation of Existence) if one had never begun to exist. People grateful for existence, however, do indeed conceive of themselves as having been such pre-existentially already àhalf-existent entities who were helped into full existence by their parents. – Or they conceive of themselves in terms of a “self-potentiality” that was somehow “activated” or “freed” through the actual beginning of existence. Thus, to be able to jump over the shadow cast by one’s own existence is a precondition that must be fulfilled if one is ever to embrace and affirm antinatalism.
Whoever does not wish to continue with his own existence is obliged to break a sort of “biological sound barrier”. The closer he comes, in considering such a course of action, to death, the greater becomes his fear of this latter.
A neganthropic version of the familiar “Golden Rule” – which runs “do not do to others what you would not wish to have done to you” – that grounds our Conditio in/humana.
It has rightly been objected to this rule that different people can willingly consent to very different things. One person may require no anaesthetic when they go to the dentist while for another person the very thought of having dental work done without one is terrifying. The “would not wish” contained in the “Golden Rule”, then, always implies also a dimension of tolerance, acceptance, “putting up with”. The things “that I would not wish to have done to me” are indeed things that I myself would not tolerate, accept or put up with. But there are also things that, while being tolerable for me, might possibly be absolutely intolerable and unbearable for someone else.
This transformation of the “would not wish” clause into a “personal tolerance” clause is only one of two transformations which the “Golden Rule” permits. There corresponds to the defensive ban on the inflicting of that which I, for my own person, refuse a second aspect of imposingly imputing, as reasonable, to others a tolerance of these very things. In other words, construed in this way, the Golden Rule states that I can reasonably impute to others a readiness to accept and put up with whatever I, for my own part, feel and consider to be tolerable. This transformation of the Golden Rule yields, then, the following:
“You may impute to others an obligation to put up with anything that you personally, for your own part, will put up with having done to you”! If one applies this “coercive imputation” version of the Golden Rule to the question of the begetting of progeny, the following maxim results: “If I myself hold to be tolerable the things that are done to me in and through my existence, this means I have the right to impose existence also on further human beings.”