Antinatalism – or Anti-natalism – is the position that having a child in this world is unethical, due to the needless suffering that procreation leads to.
There are many reasons why deliberate procreation is an unethical act, so just to give a flavour of some: Firstly, ours is a world full of danger, sorrow and misery. Our culture betrays the truth, all of our movies and books are about the hardship of life. “Life isn’t fair” is a common pearl of wisdom passed-on. Given these things, what but selfishness would lead you to bring a new consciousness into it? By creating a life you are introducing something that can suffer and inflict suffering on others, as most humans do. There was no need to do that – the universe wasn’t missing some more pleasure or suffering. If you simply refrain from creating that consciousness, there is no deprivation – there is no new being ‘missing out’ on any pleasure. From our perspective, does that not seem better – having both no suffering and no deprivation of pleasure?
How does one know at 25 enough about life to be qualified to put another conscious being through 70+ years of it? If you haven’t gone through the process of decay and death, then Antinatalists think you have no right to create those unknown and potentially horrible experiences for new consciousnesses. The number of mental illnesses and diseases means it’s an extremely dangerous lottery to be playing. There’s also the fact that this new person will have to work to earn a living, in order to avoid feeling the horrible pains of hunger and cold. Though work can be fantastically fun and rewarding, joyful-in-the-extreme for some… It’s not like that for everyone. This work-requirement was never agreed-upon, no consent was ever given for this situation – it was imposed.
There are common immediate questions rightly raised in response: Antinatalism would mean stopping human pleasure too, so what about pleasure? Pleasure can be seen – like pain – as an evolutionary ‘instruction’ because you tend to feel pleasure when you do things that historically would lead to procreation, directly or indirectly. Most pleasures only exist as the fulfilment of a biological need – a need which didn’t itself need to exist, in the first place.
A foundational principle in our system of justice is Sir William Blackstone’s “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”. It is an expression of our desire that everyone be innocent until proven guilty. Taking that same respect for suffering into account, we can similarly say that it is better that (unnecessary) pleasures are missed… than that (unnecessary) suffering is experienced.
To further illustrate this point – which has been called the asymmetry by philosopher David Benatar – we can consider our own reproductive choices. We do not feel urgently obliged to have lots of children in order to create pleasure experiences. Whereas, if there was some suffering experience that we had a chance to prevent, such as a genetic condition that would guarantee that a couple’s baby would have a torturous life for weeks and then die, most of us would feel it is very important for that couple not to procreate.
So Antinatalists simply think it would be better if sentience did not exist to create suffering, and that there would be nobody to miss out on the pleasures. Yes, that means voluntary human extinction. But that’s very different to continuing your life once you’re already alive. You’re already alive so why not enjoy the pleasures nature has set-up for you, if you can. Try not to cause suffering experiences for other sentient beings while you do it, though.
So, that is a brief summary of Antinatalism, I hope you find the content on this site thought-provoking, amusing and join us in trying to limit further suffering!