Why it’s Selfish to have Children

5 Jun

This is going to be unpopular, but sometimes you have to release the words or they just bounce about in your head forever. Try to engage the argument rather than releasing a visceral diatribe.

As it stands having kids is widely held to be a good thing. It’s rewarded by society via tax breaks, applauded by relatives and friends, is described as selfless, loving, altruistic etc.

I’m going to put forward the counter argument – that having children is selfish and ethically dubious.

What has Changed – Contraception and Choice

Prior to the availability of reliable contraception in the 60’s, having a child was the unavoidable by-product of placating certain natural urges, while technically you could argue there is always a “choice”, a fair minded person would not consider it so.

Now that contraception is available, accidents notwithstanding, having a child is making a positive decision.

Generally when a person(s) takes an action which has implications for themselves or others, the onus is on them to justify the action.

For example; If I own a plot of land and wish to build a house on it, I need to apply for planning permission. I must explain my intentions in detail so they can be assessed with regard to their impact on others. On the other hand, if I wish to leave my plot of land empty, obviously no justification is required.

Strangely when it comes to procreating, exactly the opposite seems to be the case; couples who do not have children are questioned, procreators get an automatic green flag and a pat on the back.

At this point all I want to say is;

1) At the present time having children is (usually) a choice,

2) The people making that choice are obligated to justify it.

Common Reasons given for Having Children

Over the last 2 years, as the situation allowed, I have asked people who have intentionally chosen to have children what their reasons and motivations were. Occasionally I got something unusual, however for the most part a clear pattern emerged with the reasoning falling into the following buckets:

1)    Fulfilling emotional needs (usually women), typically;

Babies are lovely.

Since I was young it’s what I’ve always wanted.

Having a family completes you.

I wanted someone to love, nurture etc.

2)    Self actualisation / Social proof (men and women);

Being a parent is a great experience, you learn a lot about yourself, etc.

It seemed like the right time to start a family.

It’s better [for me] to have more people like me around.

It makes your old age better.

3)    Grasping at immortality (always men);

I did not achieve much, my children will do better.

I will live on through my genes.

My ideas will live on.

For every reason given above, ask the question, who is the beneficiary? Contrary to being a “selfless act”, people have children because it makes THEIR lives better… And, yes, creating a person because you “need someone to love” is selfish, however “right” it might feel to you.

There are rationales that could be given which would not be selfish and one person did actually manage it, however the overwhelming motivation for having children seems to come from a desire to make the parents life better.

While we are here, I would like to point out that while #1 and #2 are selfish, #3 is both selfish and false. Sure, some bits of the instruction set for your body (after random scrambling and recombination) will be present in your children, but that is in no way “you”, do yourselves a favour and get a book on genetics. Your cherished ideas are also heading for the waste bin, and it’s just as well, if ideas could be inherited in the way you imply then we’d still believe the earth was flat. I’m sorry but the idea that you can live on vicariously through your children is a vain hope indeed.

Of course I have not yet argued that there is anything unethically about having children, I am merely saying that the motivations are selfish. It could be the case that although the motivations are selfish, the result is beneficial anyway. For now all I want to say is;

1)    People who chose to have children are obligated to justify that choice

2)    Reasons given for having children almost all centre on improving the lives of the parents in some way, i.e. are selfish.

Why Having Children is Ethically Dubious

How could something so natural be unethical? Quite easily, first of all let’s get the naturalistic fallacy out of the way because it comes up so often. The naturalistic fallacy is where we point to nature as the yard stick for what is moral or ethical – if the animals do it, then it must be ok. Did you know that on starting a relationship with a lioness, a male lion will kill all the lioness’ cubs? Also if you have visited the zoo, you may have seen monkeys peeing into their own mouths. Nature doesn’t have a say in ethics.

Everybody’s doing it. Again, it’s a fallacy (argumentum ad populum), just because a behaviour is widespread that does not make it ok. Back in the day slavery was universally practised, the argument was successfully made that the institution was immoral, now it is universally condemned.

But what specifically is the problem with having children?

Essentially, you are gambling with someone else’s welfare. You cannot guarantee the person you decided to create will have a good life.

Your child may be born with a major disability; they may be born mentally retarded, deaf or blind. They may be involved in a car accident, get an illness, catch a disease, suffer from depression, or some other misfortune with money or love. Every drunk in the bar, every cancer patient, every drug addict, every beggar you see on the sidewalk was someone’s child. And we have not even considered the suffering they may cause to others, the shoplifter, the rapist, the murdered…

These children did not need to exist, and they would not exist, if their parents had not created them. If they did not exist no harm would have been done, you cannot regret not existing if you do not exist. However a positive choice was made, they do exist and harm has been done.

This is what I am saying;

1)    Parents make a positive culpable choice to have children.

2)    They do this to make their own lives better.

3)    And often create a great deal of suffering as a result.

Some people would like to equate having children with a Forrest Gump box of chocolates “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get”. The problem with the analogy is all chocolates are pretty good – the reality however is that life can contain very serious harm.

A better analogy would be that having children is more like playing Russian roulette, with someone else – for your benefit.

Addendum – Common Responses

Having made the argument, these are some of the typical responses:

#1        I am glad that I am alive / it’s good to be alive.

All organisms fear death (not existing) it’s in their programming, so it’s understandable that you value (your) existence. However, if you had never been born, you would not know it or regret it. If you have had a good life, please keep in mind that many people do not. Also as you get older you will experience more of the “downside”, bear this in mind when making bold statements about how wonderful life is. Getting old, sick and dying (usually painfully) is something you still have coming.

#2        Life for most people must be good because few commit suicide

This is a silly argument. Wishing you had never been born is totally different from suicide. Firstly we are all shit scared of dying, see #1, if you don’t believe this go stand on the edge of a tall bridge. Secondly consider the suffering you would inflict on your relatives if you committed suicide. Never got born = no harm done, suicide = much harm done.

#3        Life in general is a good thing.

If people really believed this they would have lots of children, as it is they usually have 2 or 3, that is because having children is about making THEIR life better, not about more humans being good in and of itself.

#4        If your logic was followed to it’s conclusion the human race would go extinct.

True, but that’s not going to happen because most people will always be overcome by the temptation to improve their lives by having children. Also you need to explain to me why that’s a bad thing. If the idea of planet earth minus humans disturbs you, do you regret the billions of years the earth did not have humans on it? Do you regret all the “Goldilocks” planets without life on them? Do these things keep you up at night? Of course not.

#5        You are just bitter because your life sucks.

Go back, read the argument, it is in no way contingent on my quality of life or how I feel, in fact it does not mention me at all. This is called an ad hominem.

#6        My children will pay your pension.

This is a bit like robbing a convenience store and offering some of the stolen goods to get me to OK your heist. Not gonna happen buddy.

#7        My children will be [insert religion] like me, so they will go to heaven…

I’ve had a few conversations with people of faith on this subject; the initial reasons given for having children are always the same as for everyone else. However after I point out the children they have may suffer harm, they typically agree, but state that heaven will make it all worthwhile.

Be careful. You potentially make my argument stronger than it could ever be for an atheist. Just as you cannot guarantee a healthy baby, you cannot guarantee your child will adopt the same religious worldview as you.

Fill in and verbalise the following sentence:

If my child [C] turns away from [religion] the consequences for [C] will be [X]

For some religious worldviews, it AMAZES me that not only do the members have children, they are most vocal in extolling the virtues thereof.

#8        You hate children…

No, just like you, I’m very fond of them, they are cute and funny, having children around makes life better. But when people create children they take a gamble, with someone else’s welfare to improve their own lives. That is the problem.

 

No Baby No Cry

 

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44 Responses to “Why it’s Selfish to have Children”

  1. Mrs P June 6, 2012 at 6:45 am #

    you’re an a hole, I wish that your parents had decided to not have you! How dare you talk about something that you obviously know nothing about. I’m content in knowing that you will not spawn any offspring

  2. Trev June 7, 2012 at 11:51 am #

    Your logic is sound, but it’s the same logic that tells us we’re in massive trouble due to population increase, and the quickest and easiest way to deal with this imminent danger is to cull 3 billion people (preferably the sick and old). Hitler had a similar idea, sound logic but morally incomprehensible.
    Unfortunately you can’t get around instinct, the morals that prevent the spread of such ideas, and the selfish reasons you talk about are ingrained for the very purpose they achieve, and we’ve evolved that way, whether you’re right or wrong is irrelevant.

    • testicularmonkey June 7, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

      bro, dude didn’t mention overpopulation and dude didn’t mention killing anyone. and what is with the hitler thing. put the crack pipe down bro. think of the children.

      • Trev June 7, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

        “…it’s the same logic…”, “…had a similar idea…”.
        It’s called a comparison, or possibly an analogy. Don’t be such a knob.
        bro.

  3. testicularmonkey June 7, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

    spot on duder, everybody stop making worm food.

  4. takyomtic June 7, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    Weep for men when they are born, not when they die. Or somthing like that.

  5. turddivor June 7, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

    The ppoint of all life to replicate itself. The one that can copy itelf the most win. You lose.

    • jonnybgod June 7, 2012 at 3:30 pm #

      Only way 2 win this game is never 2 have played.

      • Schopenhauer Pauer May 5, 2014 at 7:22 pm #

        Give this man a cookie

  6. mytwocents June 7, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

    There are many beneficiaries in reproducing. You are negating the child is actually the one that benefits the most from the parents choice to reproduce. They get to live, they get to experience something they never would have experienced, and that cannot be simply negated especially with all the good stuff in life like sex and bacon burgers. Grandparents are also beneficiaries. I can’t count count the number of times I have seen or heard of grandparents enjoying their grandchildren. And then there is the economic beneficiary, as parents pump billions of dollars into the economy (western civilizations) to raise children, and those children grow up and replace an aging workforce, which FYI, is entirely necessary to keep current lifestyles.

    Your focus on the negativity completely negates the good in life. That logic is not “sound”. Simply because suffering occurs, as such is life, doesn’t mean that its not worth it. And your claims here have to amount as a judgement that the suffering that people experience isn’t worth the good in life, and you have no authority to make that determination for the individual. Its a personal choice, its subjective that individuals should get to make for their own. And even then that judgement is dubious because its more then likely a result of circumstance that is beyond ones control. For instance someone in the middle of the Haiti earthquake, and the camps with sexual assaults occurring with no water and food, or protection might not at that time would have wanted to be born, but 8 months before that, they were loving life and enjoyed their life. But only they should get to make that determination if their suffering out weights the good in life.

    The suffering you listed were not cases of parents inflicting harm and suffering onto their child. So how can those be used to claim the parents are immoral? No system of morality that I know can sustain the argument that what other people do, makes you immoral. No moral system that I know of blames you for causes that our beyond your control. And I don’t know of any moral argument that would hold up to a claim that someone is immoral based on future possibilities of what might happen. Morality should be based on an individuals choice and the consequences of it. And the choice to have a child, has many consequences, but there is nothing inherent about the decision or consequences that make it immoral out right.

    I quite dislike your two analogies. Its true that life is a gamble, and so parents gamble with life when they create life, but its much deeper then that, at least for parents that want their children. They also spend 20 years investing their own lives into that child and most parents sacrifice much time and efforts to ensure that the odds are in the favor of the child. How many times do we read about parents trying to give their children a better life then what they had? Yes, parents gamble, but most of them work their asses off to tip the scale in the favor of their child. And I think that needs to be accounted for. Its not fair to ignore such efforts and choices made since we are analyzing their choice to have children, we should analyze all of their choices involved. Raising a child is a 20-25year investment, its not one choice. Shouldn’t we judge parents by their 20 years of choices instead of just one?

    Your second comparison with Russian Roulette is similarly flawed as your gambling analogy. Parents have an invested interest into their child, usually. And not just some tangible or weak investment. For many parents, their child becomes the center of their world, so when the child is hurt of sick, it effects the parent emotionally, spiritually, and even physically to the core of their being. So if you wanted to make a Russian Roulette comparison, I think you need to include the entire family unit as one participant, not that the parent and child individually play the game. Rather, they are much more connected, so if a child “takes a bullet”, many times so does the parent. Obviously there are parents out there that have no such connection to their child.

    • theselfishparent June 8, 2012 at 10:04 am #

      Thanks for the comment, you are the first person to attempt some kind of argument.

      “There are many beneficiaries in reproducing.”

      True.

      “You are negating the child is actually the one that benefits the most from the parents choice to reproduce.”

      We disagree.

      “They get to live, they get to experience something they never would have experienced,”

      This is the bit people seem to struggle with. First, if I never existed there would not be a “me” to miss out on anything.

      Second you seem to imply that existing is ALWAYS good. I think we have a biological bias toward feeling this way. Clearly experiences can be good and they can be bad. It’s routine for children to be born in constant agony with no possibility of living past the first 6 months, existence worth it? not in my book.

      “and that cannot be simply negated especially with all the good stuff in life like sex and bacon burgers.”

      Certainly there is good stuff in life and there is bad stuff in life. Notice I am NOT making the argument that the negatives outweigh the positives in life or vice versa – that would be SUBJECTIVE. The argument I am making is that YOU DO NOT KNOW if your child will have a good life. In other words you are taking a gamble when you have a child. And gambling with your own welfare is fine, but you are gambling with the welfare of the person you are creating.

      Grandparents are also beneficiaries. I can’t count count the number of times I have seen or heard of grandparents enjoying their grandchildren. And then there is the economic beneficiary, as parents pump billions of dollars into the economy (western civilizations) to raise children, and those children grow up and replace an aging workforce, which FYI, is entirely necessary to keep current lifestyles.

      We agree, grandparents are beneficiaries along with parents.

      Your focus on the negativity completely negates the good in life. That logic is not “sound”. Simply because suffering occurs, as such is life, doesn’t mean that its not worth it. And your claims here have to amount as a judgement that the suffering that people experience isn’t worth the good in life, and you have no authority to make that determination for the individual.

      I’m not – I intentionally avoided making that argument because it is subjective.

      The suffering you listed were not cases of parents inflicting harm and suffering onto their child. So how can those be used to claim the parents are immoral? No system of morality that I know can sustain the argument that what other people do, makes you immoral.
      No moral system that I know of blames you for causes that our beyond your control. And I don’t know of any moral argument that would hold up to a claim that someone is immoral based on future possibilities of what might happen.
      Morality should be based on an individuals choice and the consequences of it. And the choice to have a child, has many consequences, but there is nothing inherent about the decision or consequences that make it immoral out right.

      Sort of agree, that’s why I said it was “ethically dubious”, rather than flat out immoral.

      Kind of depends on what you consider moral I suppose… What if I have a genetic condition such that 2 out of 3 children I have die aged 5. Suppose I know this. Is it moral for me to have children?

      I quite dislike your two analogies. Its true that life is a gamble, and so parents gamble with life when they create life, but its much deeper then that, at least for parents that want their children. They also spend 20 years investing their own lives into that child and most parents sacrifice much time and efforts to ensure that the odds are in the favor of the child. How many times do we read about parents trying to give their children a better life then what they had? Yes, parents gamble, but most of them work their asses off to tip the scale in the favor of their child. And I think that needs to be accounted for. Its not fair to ignore such efforts and choices made since we are analyzing their choice to have children, we should analyze all of their choices involved. Raising a child is a 20-25year investment, its not one choice. Shouldn’t we judge parents by their 20 years of choices instead of just one?

      Hmmm, just because it costs the parents, I don’t think that changes things.
      Generally, do the costs of an immoral action mitigate it? I say no.

      Your second comparison with Russian Roulette is similarly flawed as your gambling analogy. Parents have an invested interest into their child, usually. And not just some tangible or weak investment. For many parents, their child becomes the center of their world, so when the child is hurt of sick, it effects the parent emotionally, spiritually, and even physically to the core of their being. So if you wanted to make a Russian Roulette comparison, I think you need to include the entire family unit as one participant, not that the parent and child individually play the game. Rather, they are much more connected, so if a child “takes a bullet”, many times so does the parent. Obviously there are parents out there that have no such connection to their child.

      Good point, probably your best one… yes, parents are so invested in their children that they emotionally share some of the suffering… that is absolutely true. I don’t think the siblings share it all that much, but the parents do. So what we have is the parents and the child playing Russian roulette together… but why play at all?

      • mytwocents June 8, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

        I wasn’t implying that existing is always good.

        I don’t know how you can conclude that the child doesn’t benefit the most. You seem to think that the child doesn’t benefit at all. The fact that you wouldn’t miss anything if you didn’t exist is irrelevant because there is a benefit to existing. What happens if you don’t exist, doesn’t change the that you would indeed benefit from existing by experiencing life, whether its the good or the bad. (There are arguably benefits to temporal pain and suffering)

        “Generally, do the costs of an immoral action mitigate it?”

        The cost of the action? Definitely not. But there are actions post immoral choice to lessen the suffering of your immoral choice caused. And that is what 20 years of raising a child would be, post action to the immoral choice of having a child. (mitigating an immoral choice doesn’t mean the choice becomes moral)

        I do honestly believe the basis of your argument is a value judgement and determination that the suffering in life out weighs the good. You may not be able to see it, but the only basis you have to argue the moral dubiousness of deciding to have kids is by including the possible future harm of the child. But that isn’t enough, because the only way the possible future harm that would come to the child is of any importance is because we make a value assessment of that harm. And the only way to imply having a child is immoral (or dubious) is if we judge that the harm outweighs the good. The proof in that is if we agreed that the good outweighs the harm, would you have an argument? Could you argue a parent is immoral if its agreed that the good in life far out weighs any harm or suffering? I think the clear answer to that is a no.

        We aren’t in a position to determine if someone’s life is worth living. Therefore we are not in a position to use that in determining if parents are immoral. When we obtain a position to determine who’s life is worth living, we will be in a position to judge their parents.

      • theselfishparent June 10, 2012 at 8:22 am #

        What happens if you don’t exist, doesn’t change the that you would indeed benefit from existing by experiencing life, whether its the good or the bad.

        I think this is where we diverge. To me existing is not always better than not existing. It really depends on the life.

        We aren’t in a position to determine if someone’s life is worth living.

        What about the person themselves? Will you allow them to make the evaluation? Every suicide is a life that doesn’t want to go on, add to that the much greater number of people that wish they had never been born.

        I do honestly believe the basis of your argument is a value judgement and determination that the suffering in life out weighs the good.

        No, my argument is that POTENTIALLY a person’s life could really suck. For what it’s worth I think the line between a good life and a bad one is very fine and closely balanced (for evolutionary reasons). Most people understand this implicitly – Why do you think parents abort foetuses with genetic conditions? Because the child will be disadvantaged in the happiness stakes, and it doesn’t take much going wrong in life to make it a trainwreck.

      • Jakub Moravčík July 10, 2014 at 7:31 am #

        2selfishParent: only for you to know (if worpress notifies you about this post via email) – the debate continues here, so maybe you could be interested in it …

      • Daren July 21, 2015 at 7:47 am #

        Can we still comment? Have you read David Benatar’s book?Thanks, Daren 7/21/15

    • Jakub Moravčík July 8, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

      “The fact that you wouldn’t miss anything if you didn’t exist is irrelevant because there is a benefit to existing.”

      I recommend you to read this article first: http://www.philosophyoflife.org/jpl201309.pdf

      • mytwocents July 9, 2014 at 5:55 am #

        You’re going to need to be more specific. As I see it your link doesn’t address my point. So you are going to have to spell it out. I didn’t argue that one’s existence benefits someone else. The fact is that existence does have benefits. That is an inarguable fact, one that doesn’t rely on any argument on whether such benefits outweighs suffering for instance. Or whatever you want to put it up against.

    • Jakub Moravčík July 9, 2014 at 6:41 am #

      So you say that:
      “I wasn’t implying that existing is always good.”
      and at once that
      “The fact is that existence does have benefits.”
      How it goes together in case when there is existing that is not good? On one hand it has benefits, on the other it is not good … where lies the difference?

      Secondly, if existence benefits, then it can be said that non-existence harms. If you do not agree I think you have to explain why. Because some can say that all the only possible and forever non-existent people are harmed by not being created.

      More, if existence benefits (and I think that you have the existing person, being moved from possibility to actuality, on mind when you say this – that HE is benefitted), then you are referring to something in some sense “extant”, resp. you are saying that non-existent person exists in some sense before being born/created and that predicates could be reasonably assigned to him. I do not have problem with this but most philosophers would reasonably have, see the non-identity problem. If you are not referring to the (non-)extant person, then what is the subject of the beneficience?

      Anyway, all these arguments are on “lower level position” for me and I don´t regard them as decisive. As a christian, I see the argument from the danger of being eternally damned the strongest and decising, as Martin Smith (is he the one with nick selfishParent?) and as I by accident acknowledged also Jim Crawford write in their books. I do not say that I am antinatalist, but the hell-based argument is really extra strong in my opinion, so currently I am in some undecised, in-between position.

      • mytwocents July 9, 2014 at 7:36 pm #

        I don’t know what difference you are looking for…but what ever differences exist its not justification for declaring parents immoral or selfish.

        Second, while harm and suffering can certainly be argued to be associated with existence that alone is not enough to deem a parent immoral…neither is it enough to deem a creator immoral. So you have more work to do other then some generic appeal to the fact that suffering is inevitable at some point in existence.

        And philosophers have too much time on their hand worrying about whether or not someone who doesn’t exist exists. If someone doesn’t’ exist, they do not have the opportunity to enjoy all the pleasures that can be found in existence. Those pleasures are benefits to those that exist. Period. It doesn’t matter if they exist prior to existing.

        Being eternally damned should have no bearing on whether or not a parent is immoral for reproducing. Perhaps you have jumped ships and are talking about the immorality of God, but that is beyond the scope of my arguments.

    • Jakub Moravčík July 10, 2014 at 7:29 am #

      mytwocents:
      Show me where in my posts I have been advocating immorality of parents of God.

      • mytwocents July 10, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

        Whether or not YOU argued parents or God are selfish or immoral is irrelevant.

        MY comments you quoted and are replying too are a counter argument to the main post which DOES imply an immorality to reproducing. So MY comments are all geared towards the point that we cannot determine someone to be immoral because they reproduce.

        And some difference between life isn’t always good and the fact that we all benefit from existence doesn’t establish that someone is indeed immoral for reproducing.

        Noting that existence inevitably seems to harm also isn’t enough to demonstrate that someone is indeed immoral for reproducing.

    • Jakub Moravčík July 10, 2014 at 2:33 pm #

      OK, let´s clarify things:

      1. I don´t advocate the immorality of parents´ act of having a child, nor do I think that my replies to your posts opposing the original thesis that becoming a parent is ethically dubious imply that I advocate it. I´m just trying to offer some arguments and find out what the others will think about it.

      2. Ethical dubiosity does not equal immorality, but maybe that´s not important (for you).

      3. Of course I agree that someone´s existence benefits the already existing, and at least in some (or probably many) cases benefits the newly born.

      • Jakub Moravčík July 10, 2014 at 2:34 pm #

        (I mean that I don´t advocate THAT the act of having children is immoral)

  7. estnihil June 7, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

    Thanks for your comment on my blog! I can see you’re a very capable thinker, since you’ve managed to come up with a lot of this on your own. In any case, there’s a LOT I can recommend for you to read, but David Benatar’s “Better Never to Have Been” is probably the best work on antinatalism as a subject.

    Do you plan on making any more posts, or is this it? If you do plan on making more posts, I’ll put you on my blog just so I and whoever reads my blog can read some more of your brilliance. Keep up the good work!

    • theselfishparent June 8, 2012 at 10:07 am #

      thanks. i don’t know if i’m gonna do anymore posts, i just really needed to get this off my chest.

  8. margaret mcdoughnut June 9, 2012 at 10:34 am #

    i enjoyed reading this. its so true having children is just plain selfish but our human nature is to be selfish.

  9. Kefka P June 11, 2012 at 3:59 am #

    @mytwocents:

    “We aren’t in a position to determine if someone’s life is worth living.”

    Yes! But that’s EXACTLY what people do when they have children. They determine that their kid is 1. absolutely going to think life is a good thing and 2. that he’s going to want it in the first place. But if he disagrees with either or both of those points, then what? Do the parents just get to say, “Oops”? “Tough luck”? “Haha, my bad! Well, that’s life; deal with it”?

    I know antinatalism focuses a lot on pleasure/suffering, but, to me, that’s more of a secondary issue. It’s more about your statement above. We can’t know if a person is going to like life or not, want life or not. Thus, we’re not going to decide for him and drag him into existence.

    • mytwocents June 13, 2012 at 3:14 pm #

      I do not believe parents actually convince themselves that their child’s life will be worth living. I don’t know of anyone personally that thought that far in advanced. I believe many parents that intentionally attempt to have kids believe they are able and capable of providing for their children, and think they are capable of giving them a good life, but I don’t think that is the same as making a determination that their life will be worth living.

      And I have never met any parent that “absolutely” thinks their child is going to believe life is a good thing. Nor have I have met any parent that believed absolutely that their child is going to want it in the first place.

      The problem with your complaint, is that you aren’t dragging someone into existence. Its not like they understand and have made a choice while parents ignore the choice. It takes a decade or more of development to contemplate one’s existence and if its “worth” living. And even then that decision is dubious because I am willing to bet few people would make that determination without considering circumstance that are beyond anyone’s control. In other words, if circumstances were different, like born into a richer family, or in another century, they will probably change their mind as to whether or not there life is worth living. Thus, their decision is mostly based on uncontrollable, and undetermined circumstances, and the subjectivity of that decision, one that is likely to change through out their life isn’t good enough to determine that someone is morally wrong for giving them life. The fact that they get to choose makes it very difficult to determine that someone else is wrong for giving the the opportunity to make the choice.

      • Kefka P June 13, 2012 at 9:24 pm #

        Well, if the parents aren’t 100% certain that their kid will even want to be alive, then how can it be ok for them to create one? They know the two potential outcomes: the kid wants to be alive or the kid doesn’t. What happens when they create the latter?

        I guess I look at it like this: Suppose I force a ‘gift’ onto you that you must play with and examine for many years. This gift has an (let’s-just-pick-randomly) 88% chance of bringing you contentment and a 12% chance of exploding in your face. Have I done a neutral, innocent thing to you? Especially since I was aware of the possible outcomes?

        And I don’t see how not being fully developed from the start somehow makes this situation ok. If I had a knowledgeable and experienced mind when you dragged me into an existence I didn’t want, I could at least kill myself immediately and escape. But if I have to grow and process and struggle for multiple decades before I can reach the same conclusion… that’s somehow better and acceptable? I personally find that far worse.

      • mytwocents June 14, 2012 at 4:32 pm #

        I would never argue that a parents certainty makes it OK for them to bring a child into the world. For starters, I don’t believe their certainty carries any weight. Even if their future child came back in time and said their life was worth living, that opinion may only be valid up to that age, or they could change their mind.

        Your random percentages about gifts doesn’t really address the situation very well.

        And I never argued or implied that being fully developed makes it OK. If one was fully developed and understood the question at hand, then if a parent ignored their wish to not be born or brought into the world, then we have a basis to argue the immorality of the parents.

        But how can we judge the morality of a parent based on the choice of the child? I don’t know of any other case where morality can be determined based on the choice of someone else, particularly after the fact, and especially something as dubious and circumstantial as whether or not one’s life is worth living.

      • Jakub Moravčík July 8, 2014 at 2:20 pm #

        “In other words, if circumstances were different, like born into a richer family, or in another century, they will probably change their mind as to whether or not there life is worth living.”

        I am afraid that if so called origin essentialism (http://1000wordphilosophy.wordpress.com/2014/04/28/origin-essentialism/) is true, then nothing as different circumstances is possible, because in different circumstances numericaly other person would be born.

      • mytwocents July 9, 2014 at 5:49 am #

        My comments have nothing to do with whether or not origin essentialism is actually true or not. We cannot use subjectivity to make what amounts to as an objective statement.

  10. J June 11, 2012 at 1:00 pm #

    Folks can get funny about not existing, let me ask, what is better sleeping or waking?

    It is better to sleep if your waking hours are pain.

    I don’t want a single bit of me left behind, not even my DNA.

    If I could flip a switch and destoy the earth in an instant I would do it.

    This world is evil, no one will miss it.

    J.

  11. mytwocents June 13, 2012 at 3:17 pm #

    “No, my argument is that POTENTIALLY a person’s life could really suck.”

    I wouldn’t bother posting anything if this was all your argument amounted too. Yes, a person’s life could totally suck. But that doesn’t mean we get to decide that based on such circumstances that someone else is immoral.

    • theselfishparent June 14, 2012 at 11:38 pm #

      You seem to imply the argument is trivial.

      Parents have childen because it makes their life better. They create a life knowing that the life may suffer a great deal. They create life without regard for the fact that the person they create may not want that life.

      well don’t worry, if that one didn’t work out, we can always make some more….

      • mytwocents June 15, 2012 at 3:08 am #

        Trivializing is the wrong implication. We cannot judge parents to be immoral based on someone elses decision, especially one that is so subjective and circumstantial. Morality cannot be determined in that fashion to any reasonable or useful degree.

        And your fallacy on why parents have children doesn’t make an argument. Parents have children for a variety of reasons, including 50% of the time, “oops”.

  12. JJ June 19, 2012 at 6:21 am #

    twocents, I respect your right to air your thoughts and I don’t want to sound insulting, but the arguments you are making are made by societies all the time. Please try to understand the much more uncommon arguments that these people are trying to make. Even if you don’t agree with them all the way or at all, please try to understand them. I think that’s all that people can ask for. Not that your thoughts aren’t important, but it’s important to try to understand these uncommon thoughts, too.

    “We aren’t in a position to determine if someone’s life is worth living” is what you said. You may not realize it, but that’s kind of the point (of anti-natalism). If we aren’t in that position, then why the hell are we (well, some of us) making decisions FOR other people? That’s what one does when one forces someone into existence. However, unlike the decision to NOT bring someone into existence, the existence to do so can cause some serious damage. And we sure as hell don’t know if this person will be okay with it.

    The reproduction thing, regardless of one’s personal opinions about it, is a HUGE grey area morality-wise and it opens a GIANT (and completely unnecessary) can of worms that leads to other important gray areas (such as allocation of resources, the morality of suicide, the morality of mercy killing, the morality of how to raise a child, etc).

    Why are we doing it all so mindlessly? Humans are intelligent and self-aware, and we have the unique ability of forethought. We can actually LOOK INTO THE FUTURE and know we may suffer again and that we WILL die, no ifs, ands, and buts. We KNOW that so much is out of our control even though we often like to pretend that we have a lot more power.

    We can IMAGINE, with crystal-clear vision,TERRIFYING (but very possible) scenarios and we can LOVE “others,” even non-human things/beings, with all of our hearts. We can think “Hmm, I love X, but by doing X, I will be harming the X I love for no good rational reason.” (Except the only rational reason I can think of which is having a caretaker; while it’s understandable, it is selfish and one of the many examples of reproduction opening up a big-ass can of worms)

    WHY are we mindlessly breeding like non-human animals when we have the GIFTS that we do, the POTENTIAL ability to not force someone, especially someone we love even before they are born, into existence and cause guaranteed harm and guaranteed death? These are the questions that everyone should be asking themselves. Good day.

    • mytwocents June 23, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

      How can parents be making a decision for someone that doesn’t exist? That doesn’t make sense. You can’t rationally ague that anti-natalism is about stopping what doesn’t happen.

      I have no qualms if someone doesn’t want to bring a child into this world. I can understand that. I cannot understand the argument that those who do are selfish and possibly immoral. That argument isn’t based on anything that I can understand because its not based on anything that is substantial. And I demonstrated that I think pretty well.

      As far as death and harm go, its a choice that people get to make for themselves. You again, whether you realize it or not, are making a value judgement for others, claiming that the harm they might encounter will out weigh the good. As I demonstrated previously that is the only way you can even suggest immorality or selfishness, because if we both agreed that the good in life far, far outweighs any harm or death, you wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.

      And I don’t agree that humans are just mindlessly breeding. But I’ll end my comments there.

      • Lilu November 23, 2012 at 10:35 am #

        “As far as death and harm go, its a choice that people get to make for themselves. You again, whether you realize it or not, are making a value judgement for others, claiming that the harm they might encounter will out weigh the good.”

        And why is doing the opposite, deciding that the good might outweigh the harm, is OK with you?

        You obviously had a bias.

        And it is self-evident that people choose to bring children into the world, it is the parents’ choice. How can anyone deny that? Even if the children don’t exist yet, it is not like a non-existent child says: I want to exist lady, so open your fucking legs.

      • mytwocents November 25, 2012 at 2:59 pm #

        “And why is doing the opposite, deciding that the good might outweigh the harm, is OK with you?For starters,”

        Well, because it usually does. But its not important to my argument. I’m not judging parents morality on this subjective and personal choice. I will let the individual decide if the good in their life outweighs the bad. I’m not making the judgement for everyone, unlike the original argument. Again, my issue is in the moral judgement. We cannot make claims that one is immoral simply for reproducing. Making that judgement because you think the bad out weighs the good isn’t a good basis. In fact its atrocious because you are ultimately deciding who’s life is worth living.

        ~50% of kids born in the US is not a conscious choice, its an “oops”. For many people they don’t specifically choose to bring children into the world. Instead it just happens after a night of carelessness, or in some cases failed birth control.

      • JJ February 23, 2013 at 8:05 am #

        “How can parents be making a decision for someone that doesn’t exist? That doesn’t make sense. You can’t rationally ague that anti-natalism is about stopping what doesn’t happen.”

        If you get pregnant, you make someone into existence. If you give birth, you have brought this person into existence whether they like it or not. Anti-natalism is about stopping breeding since it’s a thing that creates people. If I don’t get pregnant, I won’t be bringing anyone into existence. I won’t be making the decision of life for another person. Simple. No offense but it DOES make sense if you understand the basics of reproduction. Try not to focus much on semantics and focus on what happens in the real world.

        “As far as death and harm go, its a choice that people get to make for themselves. You again, whether you realize it or not, are making a value judgement for others, claiming that the harm they might encounter will out weigh the good. As I demonstrated previously that is the only way you can even suggest immorality or selfishness, because if we both agreed that the good in life far, far outweighs any harm or death, you wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.”

        I’m not making any value judgments. I don’t do the harm vs. pleasure argument because it’s such a subjective argument. I only called breeding a morally gray area (it is). Go back and check if you don’t believe me.

        And what do you meant that “death and harm is a choice people get to make for themselves”? When you exist you have limited control over the harm you receive and you certainly have no control over the fact that you will die.

        What I’m saying is WHY are we breeding when we don’t know if the person will be okay with harm and death? Simple.

        And choosing to breed IS a selfish activity because it is a choice that the parents make because they want to have penile-vaginal sex and/or purposefully breed for whatever reason. (Both of which are unnecessary activities.) The child certainly doesn’t choose to exist on their own.

  13. mytwocents February 24, 2013 at 12:30 am #

    JJ, of course failing to get pregnant prevents someone from existing. That was never argued against. You essentially stated the “point” of anti-natalism, is that someone’s life isn’t worth living. How do we know that until someone exists and we can judge whether or not the bad in their life is not worth the good? Its way to presumptuous to just assume that. Plenty of people have grown up in bad circumstances, but very few would go so far as wishing they didn’t exist.

    And you are making a value judgement. You just told me the point of anti-natalism is the determination that someone’s life isn’t worth living. That is a value judgement. You are judging the value of bad in one’s life that it will out-weigh the good.

    While YOU might have only said its a “gray area”, that isn’t what the OP stated, and that is what I argued against.

    Everyone should be able to decide from themselves if the harm and death in general out-weighs the good in life. We shouldn’t get to make that decision for someone. More importantly,we shouldn’t be suggesting that because someone might think their life sucks, that the parents are then immoral or as the OP put it “ethically dubious”. That is a bad basis to argue morality from. Morality shouldn’t be determined by what someone else’s subjective opinion about whether their life was “good enough”. There is no good argument to call a parent immoral (or ethically dubious) simply because their child thinks the good in their life doesn’t outweigh the harm. That is a ridiculous basis to call parents immoral (or ethically dubious).

    There is nothing wrong with reproducing, unless you are reproducing for sex slaves, or slavery, or having another child to get more government benefits. But parents are not wrong to reproduce, simply because their child MIGHT not think their life was worth living. That’s way to presumptuous, and even so, the child’s opinion might change as their circumstances can change. Even then such dubious circumstances is hardly solid grounds to make moral judgements from.

    While, I can understand there is some selfishness in wanting a child, and bringing a child into the world, the work, love and dedication that people have, because they made that conscious decision, proves to be FAR MORE selfless act, when it comes to the 20+ years of commitment that it takes to raise that child. You will never convince me that parents who give up so much are in the end selfish. 20+ years of dedication and sacrifice to provide for your chilld is not selfish, and takes way more self sacrifice.

    Remember 50% of children at least in most Western Civilizations are accidents. There is no selfishness in those cases because you can’t argue they even wanted a child. Wanting sex, doesn’t translate into wanting a child. Wanting sex doesn’t make you selfish, it makes you human.

  14. Schopenhauer pauer===> Respec mah Arthuritah March 15, 2014 at 1:58 pm #

    Ugh. Defense by subjectivity. These breeder cats crawl so far up their own asses they could be in outer space and still hide ostrich-like from the bare facts. Here’s some facts: Life is about resisting the entropy that everything else succumbs to or goes along with. As we know, resistance is futile, and it ends, in the end. But meanwhile the resistance is so much Sisyphus (call me a sissy but I don’t ‘exalt at the exertion’ or wdvr Uburdensch affirmations), and it depends on so many things! Whaat if Sisyphus corrodes the hillside, so there are potholes and sandy/gravelly sections he gets bogged in, loses footing etc? His own work using up the stability that makes it possible (sound familiar?). What if one day Prometheus’ vuture visits the wrong condemned outcrop? Now he has to go to work sans liver. All that life gives us is needs and fears, no guarantees, no padded edges. Is it really bravery to enter into such a naked, crushable position with nothing of clear value to defend? Acceptiing suffering doesn’t magically give it a point. Many people have been convinced about the need for compassion and patience thru good poetry, not bad experiences. How many glosses are we gonna put on how many pigs before we realise that yes, all pigs is swine. Keep the pearls, hide the wine.

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