Shadow of One’s Own Existence (Jumping Over the Shadow of One’s Own Existence)

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.

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