In this post I will be moving on to actually addressing arguments in favour of Strong Antinatalism. The source I will be using for Antinatalists arguments is the blog posts The case for anti-natalism by Francois Tremblay. Today I will be addressing the arguments in the part 1 and then tomorrow i will discuss the arguments in part 2. I chose
- Argument 1) “Future human lives are used as a means to an end”
Tremblay argues that because future people are currently non-existent, meaning their values are also non-existent, that the creation of new people is always because of the values of already existing people. Therefore when adult create children they are using them as means to their own ends. Tremblay believes that the ethical principle “don’t use people as a means to an end” is so strong that he does not need to defend it but just argue that creating new people is in fact an example. He even goes so far as to say “for a proponent of natalism to simply declare that it is good to use people as means to an end would be argumentative suicide.”
I’m not sure why he believes this. The principle “Don’t use people as a means to an end” is a very deontological, the kind of claim that a consequentalist will quite often reject. And it seems to me that the position “in some situations it is morally acceptable to use people as a means to an end” isn’t as controversial as Tremblay seems to think. Although of course the popularity of an argument can only at best provide us with weak inferential evidence support of that argument and does not determine its truth.
I value personal autonomy and self determination, but these values can be outweighed by other values such as the prevention of suffering or the promotion of wellbeing. Lying to people is often cited as an example of using people as a means to an end, and I am fine in principle with lying to save lives for example in the classic “You are hiding Jewish people in your basement and Nazis come and ask you if you are, what do you tell them?” scenario (although there are complications such as the existence of ethical injunctions.). In a more hypothetical case. If there was a person who’s blood contained a cure to a disease that was killing millions of people but didn’t want to donate blood for religious reasons I personally would choose to remove a sample of their blood without their consent rather than let millions of people die (although that is clearly a less universally held position).
Of course if Tremblay says “No, I value not using people as a means for an end more than preventing harm/promoting well being or anything else” (which I don’t think he would because from his writing he seems to dislike suffering) then I can’t convince him he is wrong as it would seem to be a difference in terminal values which can’t be resolved by argumentation or evidence. But assuming that the Antinatalist agrees that not using people as am means to an end is acceptable in some circumstances they have moved from Strong to Weak Antinatalism and we just need to figure out the circumstances where it is Okay to create new people
- Argument 2) “Creating new human lives also creates more harm in this world.”
Tremblay argues that “Do no Harm” “fundamental ethical principle” This is again is a deontological argument which I reject. Like most people, I value both the nonexistence of harm and the existence of happiness/well being. If there was a drug that caused some large positive effect most of the time but that caused a significant amount of harm in 0.0001 of people that took it, I would be fine with people taking this drug, which would not be the case if I only cared about preventing harm
Tremblay writes “”The main point is that, while we do not have a duty to create pleasure, we do have a duty to not create harm.” But he does not really say why this is true. For me personally. my moral values don’t really include terms like duty or obligation. I want people to be happy, so I should do actions to make them happy, just like if I wanted a chocolate cake I would do actions that would help me get the chocolate cake
Next Tremblay argues that viewing the creation of new people as a net positive, rather than a negative or just a neutral would lead to the conclusion that we should create as many new people as possible. He writes “The only logical outcome of this approach is the quiverful doctrine, that we should simply breed as much as we are possibly able, regardless of ethical or practical considerations.”
As I have previously stated, I don’t think creating new people right now is a good thing to do, but in some future society where material scarcity has been eliminated would I advocate creating as many new people as possible? As long as it didn’t decrease the quality of life of already existing people, absolutely. If at some point in the future there are a trillion people living happy, productive, worthwhile lives then I see no reason why doubling the population of this society (or increasing by a factor of 10, or 100) would not be better. It is possible that at some point we would reach a point where new lives would have negative value due to them being essential replications of already existing people after we reach the limits of how much variation in personality and experiences can exist that in the bounds of people that we want to create (this is much more complex issue that I will post about in detail in the future,) but this is no problem for me because my position is “If creating new people in the current situation has positive value, then create new people, if it has negative value than don’t.” So I would advocate the creation of new people until any more additional people would mean a universe that I prefer less than a universe with nor more additional people.
I’ll be discussing the other Antinatalists that arguments that Tremblay presents in the second part of his Case for Antinatalists in tomorrow post.