Philanthropic efforts have hitherto attempted to diminish or entirely to remove the suffering of already existing human beings. Antinatalist moral theory, however, makes an appeal to each individual to refrain from bringing into existence any further human beings, who will inevitably live lives of pain and suffering. With its humanistically motivated intervention in favour of a cessation of all procreation antinatalistic moral theory encounters resistance not just in the form of a traditional notion of procreation’s being a “natural” thing. Another reason, besides this, why antinatalism has difficulty getting a hearing is that there has always run, parallel to that strand in human history which has consisted in the struggle to diminish suffering, another strand which has consisted in a resistance to all measures tending precisely to this end. One very telling example is the following: Carl Ludwig Schleich – the inventor of local anaesthesia – remarks, in his memoirs, with great bitterness that he had had to suffer scorn and mockery at one medical congress attended by 800 of his colleagues simply because he had made available “something which later came to be absolutely recognized as a great good deed done for all those who suffer”  (Schleich, Besonnte Vergangenheit). Schleich was not alone in being made acquainted with this basic trait of human cultural history: a negative attitude to any progress made in the direction of lessening human pain. Millions or even billions of people have fallen victim to an attitude of merely looking away from human pain, while turning off all human empathy, which has extended even into the medical profession itself. What is it that sustains this attitude? It may be that there lies at the root of it some false idea that pain does people good, an idea rooted in its turn in certain ancient cultural and religious ideas.

It does not bode well for a future recognition of the truth of antinatalist moral theory that there is imbedded even in the medical profession a certain readiness to allow people to suffer in ways that might be avoided (for example, the practice of withholding their medication from them). Because such unrecognized atavistic ideals as that of “the benefits endowed by pain” tend to make people less receptive to the demand not to bring further human beings into the world, knowing that these latter will necessarily have to suffer much pain.

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