Premeditated Begetting

In times and places which have already entered the >Era of Contraception it is overwhelmingly mostly premeditated >Perpetrators of Existence that become parents. Individuals take a conscious decision not to prevent the worst occurring: namely, that yet one more human being will have to suffer and die. They decide not to make use of contraceptive methods – which are nonetheless easy of access – in order that children that they wish for themselves begin to exist. Long before the start of the Era of Contraception Schopenhauer expressed what is essential about this fact of “premeditated begetting” when he wrote, in his Parerga und Paralipomena that “To bring a human being into the world without any subjective passion, without the drive of sexual pleasure or any other form of physical urge, merely by premeditation of the act and in cold-blooded deliberate intention, simply in order that the human being in question be brought to ‘be there’ – this would be a profoundly morally questionable action the onus of which only very few would take upon themselves; indeed, one might say that such an act of premeditated begetting stands in the same relation to the conceiving of a child due to simple sexual desire as a coldly planned and premeditated murder stands to an act of manslaughter committed in a moment of blind fury.” (Schopenhauer, Parerga und Paralipomena, § 167) But Schopenhauer clearly makes a fundamental error here. Even where we take due account of “subjective passion”, in times and places where contraceptive methods are quickly and easily available it would be impossible for conception to occur without a certain “premeditation and cold-blooded deliberate intention”. It is not, then – as Schopenhauer suggests – only a very few who take upon themselves the onus of such a “profoundly morally questionable action” but rather the great majority of the members of many societies. The great majority of people take it willingly upon themselves to act in such a way that a person (their own child) will have to die, after having undergone various moments and phases full of pain and suffering. The argument that every such person brought into the world experiences joy and pleasure as well as suffering does not hold water inasmuch as the prevention and diminution of pain and suffering weighs far more heavily, ethically, than does the bringing about of joy and happiness. Heinrich Heine also appears to have conceived the idea that “premeditated begetting” is something immoral. He writes: “Neither of us have any children. In order to beget children, a certain conviction is necessary.” (Heine, Aphorismen und Fragmente) Unfortunately, Heine does not specify in any more detail just what kind of “conviction” a person would need to have in order premeditatedly to beget offspring.

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