Thoughts on Antinatalism Part 4: Benatar’s Asymmetry

This post is a response to another post by Tremblay defending Antinatalism, Benatar’s Asymmetry . In the post Bentar summarises and defends an argument in Better Never to Have Been by David Benatar. The summary of the argument is:

“(1) If a person exists, then eir pain is a bad thing.
(2) If a person exists, then eir pleasure is a good thing.
(3) What does not exist cannot suffer (therefore this non-existing pain is a good thing).
(4) What does not exist cannot be deprived of any pleasure (therefore this non-existing pleasure is not a bad thing).”

Due to the asymmetry between 3 and 4, Benatar and Tremblay argue that creating new people is bad.

This asymmetry seems incorrect to me, the logic that seems to be behind 3 and 4 does not seem consistent.

Tremblay writes: “[people who reject (4)]argue that to not start new lives is a deprivation of pleasure. But for whom is this a deprivation? It cannot be a deprivation to the non-existent, since that which cannot exist cannot be deprived. Is it a deprivation to the parent, or to humanity? ”

But isn’t this argument also an argument against (3)? If non existence isn’t deprivation for a person that would experience suffering. how can non existence be salvation for a person who would experience pain?

Tremblay writes: “We can imagine that the world might contain 12 billion people. That’s a whole 5 billion people that do not actually exist. And yet no one is mourning the loss of pleasure of these 5 billion imaginary people. A mother may regret that an expected child was stillborn, but the person whose death she regrets exists solely in her imagination. That which does not exist cannot be a person, or anything else.”

But what if circumstances were such that the mother didn’t want the child to be born because she knew it would person who would experience immense suffering (maybe she is trapped in a forced labour camp) and so is very relieved that the baby is still born? Is this irrational because ” the person whose death she [celebrates] exists solely in her imagination” ?

Here is the way I think about it. I have a choice to either create Person A or not create them. If I create A and they are happy, that is good, if I create A and they suffer that is bad. If I don’t create A and they would have suffered if I had created them than that is good. And if I don’t create A and they would have been happy, this is bad.

This is because of the opportunity cost of the choice to create A. The opportunity cost of a choice is the value of the highest value option that you didn’t choose. So if I don’t create A the opportunity cost is the value of A existing and being happy. Because I value that more than the option if they don’t exist I should choose to create them.

To illustrate my point further imagine a Paperclip Maximiser, a super intelligent AI that’s terminal value is to create paperclips. But this is a special paperclip maximiser, it values the creation of red paperclips but disvalues the creation of all paperclips of other colours. For simplicities sake, let’s say these values and disvalues are even, so it cares about creating one red paperclip the same amount as preventing one red paperclip from being created.

So if this Paperclip Maximiser was given a process that creates paperclips, but it wasn’t sure whether it made red paperclips or blue paperclips, would it also feel there was an asymmetry in the different possible outcomes? It seems clear that it wouldn’t. The Paperclip Maximiser only wants to increase the amount of red paperclips and minimise the amount of non red paperclips. it would view a situation where a red paperclip could have been created but wasn’t analogous to (4) as bad.

Now just to clarify my opinion, I reject (4) not because I think that nonexistent babies are floating around in nonexistent space and being deprived of pleasure. it is because I value a universe with a happy person in it more than a universe without one all other things being equal. Just like the Paperclip Maximiser values a universe with a red paperclip more than one which doesn’t have a red paperclip, all other things being equal. So I disagree with the ” therefore this non-existing pleasure is not a bad thing) ” part of (4).

Tremblay has made another post defending Benatar’s argument Clearing out confusion about Benatar’s Asymmetry. The post rephrases some content from the original, the first argument in the second post that s not in the first is that ” (4) cannot be worse than (2) because pleasure in fulfilment of a need is not any better than the absence of need in the first place. ” Tremblay appears to be saying that pleasure/happiness is of the same value as the non existence of the person experiencing that pleasure/happiness. This may be what Tremblay values (although in a comment in part 2 of this series he told me he agree with the statement “happiness is good,” maybe he meant only for people who already exist?) but I value someone existing in a state of happiness more than someone non existing, and if I could choose I would choose the former, all other things being equal.

27 thoughts on “Thoughts on Antinatalism Part 4: Benatar’s Asymmetry

  1. Francois Tremblay

    “Now just to clarify my opinion, I reject (4) not because I think that nonexistent babies are floating around in nonexistent space and being deprived of pleasure. it is because I value a universe with a happy person in it more than a universe without one all other things being equal.”
    But this is a non sequitur. In no way does “I value a universe with a happy person in it more than a universe without one all other things being equal” (a personal value statement anyway) contradict “(4) What does not exist cannot be deprived of any pleasure (therefore this non-existing pleasure is not a bad thing).” Unless you are trying to state that your preference implies that the existence of a happy person is a good thing, in which case (4) provides the neat refutation to your statement.

    “But isn’t this argument also an argument against (3)? If non existence isn’t deprivation for a person that would experience suffering. how can non existence be salvation for a person who would experience pain?”
    There is no concept of “salvation” here. I don’t know where you got that. All it says is that the non-existent cannot experience pain, and that’s a good thing. In other terms, a world where there are beings that experience pain is morally worse than a world where no such beings exist.

    Reply
    1. hopefullythishelps Post author

      “But this is a non sequitur. In no way does “I value a universe with a happy person in it more than a universe without one all other things being equal” (a personal value statement anyway) contradict “(4) What does not exist cannot be deprived of any pleasure (therefore this non-existing pleasure is not a bad thing).” Unless you are trying to state that your preference implies that the existence of a happy person is a good thing, in which case (4) provides the neat refutation to your statement.”

      That is exactly what I am trying to state. Good and bad are subjective value judgments. For me, a world with a happy person in it good, just like a world with a red paperclip is good for the Paperclip Maximiser. You can try to justify your subjective preferences by saying things like “my subjective preferences are universal in the entire human race” but that is only appealing to you because you have a meta-preference for having preferences that are universal, and if I have a different meta preference, which I do, than it won’t convince me.

      “There is no concept of “salvation” here. I don’t know where you got that. All it says is that the non-existent cannot experience pain, and that’s a good thing.”

      Because you say in (3) that a person not existing is a good thing (if they would experience suffering if they existed), but if we accept the reasoning of (4) how can it be a good thing if no one is being saved from the suffering, so it can’t be a good thing. To make this point clearer, here is (4) with the words reversed:

      “(4) What does not exist cannot be saved from any suffering (therefore this non-existing suffering is not a good thing).”

      I don’t see how you can accept the original version of (4) and not accept this version of (4) (which we may want of call (4A) and (4B))

      “In other terms, a world where there are beings that experience pain is morally worse than a world where no such beings exist.”

      And in the exact same way, a world where there are beings that experience HAPPINESS is morally BETTER than a world where no such beings exist.

      Reply
      1. Francois Tremblay

        Did you confuse pleasure and suffering in your rebuttal? (4) is about pleasure, not suffering. I will leave you to make any further corrections before replying. Addressing the last part of your comment:

        “And in the exact same way, a world where there are beings that experience HAPPINESS is morally BETTER than a world where no such beings exist.”
        Again, how is (4) not a refutation of this statement?

      2. hopefullythishelps Post author

        No, I purposefully changed (4) to show how the original (4) implies the modified (4). to make this clearer

        Original (4): What does not exist cannot be deprived of any pleasure (therefore this non-existing pleasure is not a bad thing).

        Reversed (4): What does not exist cannot be saved from any suffering (therefore this non-existing suffering is not a good thing).

        My claim: it inconsistent to agree with the Original 4 and not agree with the Reversed (4). And because the Reversed (4) contradicts the Original (3), Original 3 and Original 4 contradict.

        “Again, how is (4) not a refutation of this statement?”
        It is in the sense that (4) is inconsistent with the statement. But (4) is a assertion not an argument, and I argue against 4 in this post.

  2. Francois Tremblay

    “No, I purposefully changed (4) to show how the original (4) implies the modified (4). to make this clearer

    Original (4): What does not exist cannot be deprived of any pleasure (therefore this non-existing pleasure is not a bad thing).

    Reversed (4): What does not exist cannot be saved from any suffering (therefore this non-existing suffering is not a good thing).”

    I agree that the non-existent cannot be “saved” from suffering, but only because the non-existing cannot suffer which makes your new (4) revert into (3). Therefore you have proven nothing.

    Also, I don’t see any logical operation that would permit you to go from the original statement to the revised statement.

    Reply
    1. hopefullythishelps Post author

      Well let’s put them next to each other and self Reversed (4) is the same as Original (3):

      Reversed (4): What does not exist cannot be saved from any suffering (therefore this non-existing suffering is not a good thing).

      Original: (3): What does not exist cannot suffer (therefore this non-existing pain is a good thing).

      So as we can see it’s only the part in brackets that contradict each other. They both agree that what does not exist cannot suffer, but Reversed (4) thinks this means that the nonexistent suffering is NOT a good thing (because it is derived from Original (4) that says that the non existence of happiness is NOT a BAD thing) whereas Original (3) things the non existents of suffering IS a good thing.

      Reply
      1. Francois Tremblay

        “Well let’s put them next to each other and self Reversed (4) is the same as Original (3):

        Reversed (4): What does not exist cannot be saved from any suffering (therefore this non-existing suffering is not a good thing).

        Original: (3): What does not exist cannot suffer (therefore this non-existing pain is a good thing).”

        I already told you that the reversed 4 was equivalent to 3. That was my point.

        “So as we can see it’s only the part in brackets that contradict each other. They both agree that what does not exist cannot suffer, but Reversed (4) thinks this means that the nonexistent suffering is NOT a good thing (because it is derived from Original (4) that says that the non existence of happiness is NOT a BAD thing) whereas Original (3) things the non existents of suffering IS a good thing.”
        This is because you converted the term pleasure into suffering, which means you pretended the asymmetry doesn’t exist. Of course if you omit the asymmetry, there’s no asymmetry. But that’s a circular argument.
        The point of the argument is that there is an asymmetry between pleasure and pain. You can’t prove that unless you can show the logical connection between the original (4) and the “reverse” (4), while *NOT* ASSUMING THE ASYMMETRY DOES NOT EXIST. Can you do it?

      2. hopefullythishelps Post author

        “I already told you that the reversed 4 was equivalent to 3. That was my point.”

        But they are not the same, don’t you see the difference?

        “This is because you converted the term pleasure into suffering, which means you pretended the asymmetry doesn’t exist. Of course if you omit the asymmetry, there’s no asymmetry. But that’s a circular argument.
        The point of the argument is that there is an asymmetry between pleasure and pain. You can’t prove that unless you can show the logical connection between the original (4) and the “reverse” (4), while *NOT* ASSUMING THE ASYMMETRY DOES NOT EXIST. Can you do it?”

        Okay, so how about I just say that I reject the second half of (4) “(therefore this non-existing pleasure is not a bad thing)” because according to by intuitions it seems obviously incorrect?

      3. Francois Tremblay

        “But they are not the same, don’t you see the difference?”
        I didn’t say they were the same. I said they were equivalent. “The non-existent cannot be “saved” from suffering” is only true because the non-existent cannot suffer.

        “Okay, so how about I just say that I reject the second half of (4) “(therefore this non-existing pleasure is not a bad thing)” because according to by intuitions it seems obviously incorrect?”
        It’s the logical consequence of the non-existent not being deprived of pleasure. As this is an ironclad premise (the non-existent cannot be deprived of anything), I don’t see how you can declare it incorrect.

      4. hopefullythishelps Post author

        Okay so we agree that “(the non-existent cannot be deprived of anything)” but can you explain exactly how the second halves of (3) and (4)(the parts in the brackets, after the word therefore) are derived from this shared premise?

      5. Francois Tremblay

        “Okay so we agree that “(the non-existent cannot be deprived of anything)” but can you explain exactly how the second halves of (3) and (4)(the parts in the brackets, after the word therefore) are derived from this shared premise?”
        Again, (3) is about suffering and (4) is about pleasure, and the argument is about their asymmetry, so you cannot transpose these two propositions. (3) has no relation to pleasure deprivation, since it is about suffering.

        Let’s separate the two parts of (4) for the sake of clarity:
        (4a) What does not exist cannot be deprived of any pleasure,
        (4b) Therefore this non-existing pleasure is not a bad thing.

        So again, as in all things related to the asymmetry, we’re comparing two states of the world, one where person X exists and one where person X does not exist. So translated into more concrete terms:

        – The world where person X exists contains person X’s pleasure.
        – The world where person X does not exist does not contains this pleasure, but the world where person X does not exist does not contain deprivation due to the absence of this pleasure.
        – Therefore the absence of pleasure in the world where person X does not exist is not bad: they are morally equivalent.

        Or to take an even simpler analogy: my garage does not contain a miter saw, but I do not need, nor will I ever need, a miter saw. Therefore the absence of a miter saw is not bad.

      6. Francois Tremblay

        (3a) What does not exist cannot suffer,
        (3b) Therefore this non-existing pain is a good thing.

        Translated into more concrete terms:

        – The world where person X exists contains person X’s suffering.
        – The world where person X does not exist does not contain this suffering.
        – Therefore the presence of suffering in the world where person X exists is bad.

        I trust this is straightforward enough to not require further clarification.

      7. hopefullythishelps Post author

        Just checking, shouldnt the last line “– Therefore the presence of suffering in the world where person X exists is bad” be somethign about the abseense of suffering being a good thing?

      8. Francois Tremblay

        Yes, or at least it’s a better scenario. I’m not exactly following Benatar’s evaluations, but either way that’s all you need to show to prove the asymmetry. In my evaluation, the two scenarios are equivalent re: pleasure and not equivalent re: suffering. Sorry if I’m causing some confusion.

      9. hopefullythishelps Post author

        ” In my evaluation, the two scenarios are equivalent re: pleasure and not equivalent re: suffering. Sorry if I’m causing some confusion.”

        All good, sorry that i am having trouble understanding this, its just from my perspective the exact same part of my brain that says “no suffering is better than suffering” also says “pleasure is better than non pleasure.”

        So putting the two sets of reasonings side by side:

        “– The world where person X exists contains person X’s pleasure.
        – The world where person X does not exist does not contains this pleasure, but the world where person X does not exist does not contain deprivation due to the absence of this pleasure.
        – Therefore the absence of pleasure in the world where person X does not exist is not bad: they are morally equivalent.”

        “– The world where person X exists contains person X’s suffering.
        – The world where person X does not exist does not contain this suffering.
        – Therefore [with the correction: the absence of suffering in the world where person X does not exist is bad: they are not morally equivalent]”

        Is my correction to the last line above a fair representation of your views? If not sorry.

        So the part i am having trouble with is the third lines in both lines of reasoning. The firs lines are the same except one had pleasure and one has suffering, same with the second line except one has another sentence. But I don’t understand why the third lines disagree on the moral meaning of the absence of suffering and pleasure, which in the previous two lines are interchangeable.

  3. Francois Tremblay

    “So putting the two sets of reasonings side by side:

    “– The world where person X exists contains person X’s pleasure.
    – The world where person X does not exist does not contains this pleasure, but the world where person X does not exist does not contain deprivation due to the absence of this pleasure.
    – Therefore the absence of pleasure in the world where person X does not exist is not bad: they are morally equivalent.”

    “– The world where person X exists contains person X’s suffering.
    – The world where person X does not exist does not contain this suffering.
    – Therefore [with the correction: the absence of suffering in the world where person X does not exist is bad: they are not morally equivalent]”

    Is my correction to the last line above a fair representation of your views? If not sorry.”

    No. The absence of suffering in the world where person X does not exist is not bad.

    “So the part i am having trouble with is the third lines in both lines of reasoning. The firs lines are the same except one had pleasure and one has suffering, same with the second line except one has another sentence. But I don’t understand why the third lines disagree on the moral meaning of the absence of suffering and pleasure, which in the previous two lines are interchangeable.”

    Which part exactly do you not understand? Do you disagree with either of them, or do you simply not understand why the asymmetry exists?

    Reply
    1. hopefullythishelps Post author

      “No. The absence of suffering in the world where person X does not exist is not bad. ”

      Sorry, that must have been a typo or something, I meant:

      “– The world where person X exists contains person X’s pleasure.
      – The world where person X does not exist does not contains this pleasure, but the world where person X does not exist does not contain deprivation due to the absence of this pleasure.
      – Therefore the absence of pleasure in the world where person X does not exist is not bad: they are morally equivalent.”

      “– The world where person X exists contains person X’s suffering.
      – The world where person X does not exist does not contain this suffering.
      – Therefore [with the correction: the absence of suffering in the world where person X does not exist is GOOD: they are not morally equivalent]”

      “Which part exactly do you not understand? Do you disagree with either of them, or do you simply not understand why the asymmetry exists?”

      I don’t understand why you think there is an asymmetry. It seems to me that the existence of humans feeling pleasure/happiness is better than if they didn’t exist at all.

      Reply
      1. Francois Tremblay

        “I don’t understand why you think there is an asymmetry. It seems to me that the existence of humans feeling pleasure/happiness is better than if they didn’t exist at all.”
        We’ve already been through that. The pleasure of person X is canceled out by the fact that, if person X did not exist, the absence of their pleasure would not be a deprivation for anyone or anything. See again the miter saw analogy.

      2. hopefullythishelps Post author

        Well i don’t agree with that because unlike the miter saw, which I only value so far as it makes you happy and helps you fulfil your goals, the existence of happy people is something I of person X value as an end in itself.

        But if i was to accept that reasoning, i still don’t see why i cant swap the words pleasure with suffering and the words deprivation with salvation and still have the claim make sense:

        “The suffering of person X is cancelled out by the fact that, if person X did not exist, the absence of their suffering would not be a salvation for anyone or anything”

        Your argument against this seem to be “because there is an asymmetry between pleasure and suffering,” but because that is what the argument tries to establish it seems like a circular defence.

      3. Francois Tremblay

        “Well i don’t agree with that because unlike the miter saw, which I only value so far as it makes you happy and helps you fulfil your goals, the existence of happy people is something I of person X value as an end in itself.”
        You keep telling me this sort of thing and I *still* don’t care what you value. I am talking about logical facts. Don’t divert the conversation. If the conversation was about value then you might have a point, but it’s not.

        “The suffering of person X is cancelled out by the fact that, if person X did not exist, the absence of their suffering would not be a salvation for anyone or anything”
        I don’t know what “salvation” has to do with anything. This is not a theological argument.

        “Your argument against this seem to be “because there is an asymmetry between pleasure and suffering,” but because that is what the argument tries to establish it seems like a circular defence.”
        No, my argument is that it’s irrelevant. I am not making an argument about your values or about salvation. My argument is based on two, and only two, premises:

        1. Pleasure is good, suffering is bad.
        2. Non-existence cannot experience anything.

        Not your values, salvation, or even asymmetry. The asymmetry is a consequence of these two points. Get it?

      4. hopefullythishelps Post author

        “I don’t know what “salvation” has to do with anything. This is not a theological argument.”

        I’m just using salvation as the opposite of deprivation. If taking a way someone’s ice cream is depriving them of ice cream than taking away someone disease is saving them from that disease. So the first case is deprivation and the second case is salvation. they both mean taking away but salvation implies the thing you are taking away is a bad thing. But I can use another word if you would prefer?

        “Pleasure is good, suffering is bad.”

        I think the difference between us is we both agree wit this premise but I view this as a subjective preference (like ice cream is good) whereas you view it as some kind of objective fact about the universe.

        “Not your values, salvation, or even asymmetry. The asymmetry is a consequence of these two points. Get it?”

        But even if I believed in objectively good and objectively bad things, I still don’t see how the asymmetry follows from the two premises. Either:

        A) Pleasure is good, therefore depriving someone of pleasure is bad in the same way that suffering is bad, therefore depriving someone of suffering is good

        OR

        B) Pleasure is good but non existent people can’t be deprived of pleasure so the non existence of pleasure is neutral, and in the same way, suffering is bad but people can’t be deprived of suffering so the non existence of suffering is neutral.

        Out of these two options i agree with 1 a lot more, but at least 2 in consistent, unlike what Benatar’s asymmetry seems to be:

        C) Pleasure is good but non existent people can’t be deprived of pleasure so the non existence of pleasure is neutral, and in the same way, suffering is bad therefore depriving someone of suffering is good

        Can you see why I think A and B are both consistent but that C is inconsistent?

        Note: because you object to the word salvation I just used the word deprivation for both suffering and pleasure

  4. Francois Tremblay

    “I’m just using salvation as the opposite of deprivation.”
    The antonym of deprivation is satiation or some similar word, I would think. “Salvation” is nowhere near that.

    “If taking a way someone’s ice cream is depriving them of ice cream than taking away someone disease is saving them from that disease. So the first case is deprivation and the second case is salvation. they both mean taking away but salvation implies the thing you are taking away is a bad thing.”
    But there is no issue of being saved by non-existence. The non-existent cannot be saved.

    “I think the difference between us is we both agree wit this premise but I view this as a subjective preference (like ice cream is good) whereas you view it as some kind of objective fact about the universe.”
    It’s not a fact “about the universe,” it’s a fact about evolved beings which are motivated by pleasure and pain.

    “But even if I believed in objectively good and objectively bad things, I still don’t see how the asymmetry follows from the two premises.”
    Or maybe you just don’t want to see it. Just a thought.

    “Either:

    A) Pleasure is good, therefore depriving someone of pleasure is bad in the same way that suffering is bad, therefore depriving someone of suffering is good”
    I see nothing wrong with this assertion, but it’s got nothing to do with the asymmetry.

    “B) Pleasure is good but non existent people can’t be deprived of pleasure so the non existence of pleasure is neutral, and in the same way, suffering is bad but people can’t be deprived of suffering so the non existence of suffering is neutral.”
    “people can’t be deprived of suffering” is a nonsense phrase. I have no idea what it could possibly mean (even if I interpreted “can’t be deprived” as the idea that the suffering cannot be removed).

    “C) Pleasure is good but non existent people can’t be deprived of pleasure so the non existence of pleasure is neutral, and in the same way, suffering is bad therefore depriving someone of suffering is good

    Can you see why I think A and B are both consistent but that C is inconsistent?”
    It is not “inconsistent.” It is the direct result of the two facts you have already agreed upon. That you refuse to confront that is not my problem.

    Reply
    1. hopefullythishelps Post author

      “The antonym of deprivation is satiation or some similar word, I would think. “Salvation” is nowhere near that.”

      Satiation means ” the state of being satisfactorily full and unable to take on more” but that’s not what I mean. I need a word for “taking away a bad thing.” If I stop someone from punching someone else in the face it seems odd to me to say i deprived them of the pain. Deprive seems to imply the thing you are taking away is good/something the person wants. But it doesn’t really matter.

      “But there is no issue of being saved by non-existence. The non-existent cannot be saved.”

      But if that is the case, why is someone who would suffer if they existed instead not existing a good thing? No one is being saved from the pain after all.

      “I see nothing wrong with this assertion, but it’s got nothing to do with the asymmetry.”

      I don’t see anything wrong with it either. But doesn’t it contradict (4)? (A) says “depriving someone of pleasure is bad” and (4) says “therefore this non-existing pleasure is not a bad thing.”

      ““people can’t be deprived of suffering” is a nonsense phrase. I have no idea what it could possibly mean (even if I interpreted “can’t be deprived” as the idea that the suffering cannot be removed).”

      Sorry my mistake, in that sentence I meant non existent people can’t be deprived of suffering.

      Reply
      1. Francois Tremblay

        “Satiation means ” the state of being satisfactorily full and unable to take on more” but that’s not what I mean. I need a word for “taking away a bad thing.” If I stop someone from punching someone else in the face it seems odd to me to say i deprived them of the pain. Deprive seems to imply the thing you are taking away is good/something the person wants. But it doesn’t really matter.”
        Just say taking away a negative, then. Or abbreviate it.

        “But if that is the case, why is someone who would suffer if they existed instead not existing a good thing? No one is being saved from the pain after all.”
        Whatever you label it, the world where P does not exist is still a better state compared to the world where P exists and suffers.

        “I don’t see anything wrong with it either. But doesn’t it contradict (4)? (A) says “depriving someone of pleasure is bad” and (4) says “therefore this non-existing pleasure is not a bad thing.””
        You’re confusing a person that exists with a person that does not exist. If a person already exists, then yes depriving them of pleasure is a bad thing. But non-existing people cannot be deprived of pleasure.
        I know you have to keep obfuscating, but this is really not a complicated argument.

        “Sorry my mistake, in that sentence I meant non existent people can’t be deprived of suffering.”
        Okay, but then your objection makes no sense. So you’re claiming that the inability to relieve the non-existent of non-existing suffering means that… suffering is not a bad thing? The two parts have no relation to each other.
        I know what you keep trying to do, you keep trying to “prove” the asymmetry wrong by assuming it is wrong. But your objections end up making no sense, because the asymmetry is correct. If you agree with the two premises, then you have to agree with their logical conclusion. If not, please show how either of the two premises are incorrect. Otherwise we’ll just keep on and on with you trying to transpose this or that property and it not making any sense.

      2. hopefullythishelps Post author

        I’m sorry if it seems that way and I assure you that I’m not trying to intentionally obfuscate. From my perspective you seem to be switching from two different ways of reasoning about this. I share your frustration but we are both intelligent people so it seems that we should be able to work this confusion out.

        “Whatever you label it, the world where P does not exist is still a better state compared to the world where P exists and suffers.”

        I 100% agree. But what if I were to respond: You’re confusing a person that exists with a person that does not exist. If a person already exists, then yes depriving them of suffering is a good thing. But non-existing people cannot be deprived of suffering.

        “You’re confusing a person that exists with a person that does not exist. If a person already exists, then yes depriving them of pleasure is a bad thing. But non-existing people cannot be deprived of pleasure.”

        But what if I were to respond: Whatever you label it, the world where P does not exist is still a worse state compared to the world where P exists and suffers.

        It seems two me that there is an inconsistency in the above quotes which why they can be used to argue against each other by swapping the words pleasure and suffering and better and worse and good and bad.

        Here is another quote from you from earlier in this conversation:

        “The pleasure of person X is cancelled out by the fact that, if person X did not exist, the absence of their pleasure would not be a deprivation for anyone or anything. ”

        But I just don’t see why you can say this about pleasure and not suffering. Why don’t you think the suffering of person X is cancelled out by the fact that, if person X did not exist, the absence of their suffering would not be a deprivation for anyone or anything?

        I promise I’m not trying to be confusing i just honestly don’t understand.

        “Okay, but then your objection makes no sense. So you’re claiming that the inability to relieve the non-existent of non-existing suffering means that… suffering is not a bad thing? The two parts have no relation to each other.”

        No. Lets look at it again:

        B) Pleasure is good but non existent people can’t be deprived of pleasure so the non existence of pleasure is neutral, and in the same way, suffering is bad but [NON EXISTANT]people can’t be deprived of suffering so the non existence of suffering is neutral.

        So B) is arguing that the non existent of suffering is neutral, just like the non existence of pleasure. So B) contradicts 3.

      3. Francois Tremblay

        “I’m sorry if it seems that way and I assure you that I’m not trying to intentionally obfuscate.”
        It is probably not intentional, but you are. Like I said, the argument is too simple to confront heads-on, so people have to add on to it, obfuscate, attack side points, etc. That’s always how it goes.
        As I asked you before, address the premises or the conclusions, if you really want to attack the argument directly. Don’t make up new propositions to compare it with. It’s not leading you anywhere.

        “From my perspective you seem to be switching from two different ways of reasoning about this.”
        No, you simply cannot accept the existence of the asymmetry and therefore have to try to reduce one side of the equation to the other. I GET it. But it’s just not logical.

        “I 100% agree. But what if I were to respond: You’re confusing a person that exists with a person that does not exist. If a person already exists, then yes depriving them of suffering is a good thing. But non-existing people cannot be deprived of suffering.”
        I didn’t say anything about being deprived of suffering. That expression just makes no sense to me, since the non-existing cannot suffer in the first place. As for your argument, I’ve already addressed it. You keep trying to create a symmetry that doesn’t exist.

        “But what if I were to respond: Whatever you label it, the world where P does not exist is still a worse state compared to the world where P exists and suffers.”
        No, obviously not. The world where P does not exist is a better state than the world where P exists and suffers.

        “It seems two me that there is an inconsistency in the above quotes which why they can be used to argue against each other by swapping the words pleasure and suffering and better and worse and good and bad.”
        Again, you are trying to create a symmetry that doesn’t exist. This has already been rehashed dozens of times, and we are not covering any new ground.

        “Here is another quote from you from earlier in this conversation:

        “The pleasure of person X is cancelled out by the fact that, if person X did not exist, the absence of their pleasure would not be a deprivation for anyone or anything. ”

        But I just don’t see why you can say this about pleasure and not suffering.”
        Because pleasure and suffering are not symmetrical, for the reasons explained by the argument. As I’ve pointed out to you many times already.

        ” Why don’t you think the suffering of person X is cancelled out by the fact that, if person X did not exist, the absence of their suffering would not be a deprivation for anyone or anything?”
        Because the suffering is still a bad thing. As the argument explains to you, which we’ve already covered, etc etc.

        “I promise I’m not trying to be confusing i just honestly don’t understand.

        “Okay, but then your objection makes no sense. So you’re claiming that the inability to relieve the non-existent of non-existing suffering means that… suffering is not a bad thing? The two parts have no relation to each other.”

        No. Lets look at it again:

        B) Pleasure is good but non existent people can’t be deprived of pleasure so the non existence of pleasure is neutral, and in the same way, suffering is bad but [NON EXISTANT]people can’t be deprived of suffering so the non existence of suffering is neutral.

        So B) is arguing that the non existent of suffering is neutral, just like the non existence of pleasure. So B) contradicts 3.”

        Okay, before we end this, let me be very very clear about what you’re saying here. You are trying to transpose pleasure with suffering in the folliowing way:

        “But [NON EXISTANT]people can’t be deprived of suffering so the non existence of suffering is neutral.”

        So in the case of pleasure, we’re saying that the non-existent cannot be deprived of pleasure, so the pleasure gained by the existent is not an advantage. Okay? Now try to transpose this to suffering. Suffering is bad, and the non-existent do not suffer. The non-existent also can’t be relieved of that suffering. How does that make non-existence equally bad? What does it matter if you can’t be relieved of suffering if you DON’T EXIST?

        Take a hypothetical: a person A that never gets sick and a person B that gets sick. So your argument is basically that A and B are equally badly off because A cannot be cured of anything. This is asinine! This is idiotic!

        Honestly, unless you’ve got something new to say, this conversation is over. We’re going nowhere fast. You can’t deal with the argument, that’s fine, but don’t waste my time on that basis. Concentrate on the other thread we’ve been talking in instead.

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