Saturday, February 19, 2011

Deontological antinatalism

In this piece I intend to present a brief discussion on what I believe to be the best argument for antinatalism. Other arguments such as Benatar's asymmetry are too easily dismissed on hedonistic grounds. By taking the deontological route, already present intuitions about what should and shouldn't be legal are taken and used to imply antinatalism as routine consequence.

One might phrase the argument as follows: if it's not permissible to kill people, why is it permissible to kill your children? If it's not permissible to make someone suffer, why is it permissible to make your children suffer? If it's not permissible to infect someone with an incurable yet manageable disease, why is it permissible to impose all the burdens of life on your children? On it goes. In order to maintain the current paradigm of procreation ethics, one must demonstrate an asymmetry between killing other people and killing one's children (note in this case the asymmetry rests on the other side of the equation).

To pre-empt and counter any objections to the above, consider this informal syllogism:

1. Coming into existence is a sufficient and necessary condition for a person to die
2. To kill someone is to cause them to die
3. From 1 and 2, procreation kills people
4. People who don't exist cannot consent to coming into existence
5. It's wrong to kill an innocent person without their consent
6. From 3, 4, and 5, it's wrong to procreate

All the points should be straightforward except 5 and so any counter argument would likely focus on the cases where killing innocents is permissible and would attempt to show that procreation is one such instance.

If it's ever ok to kill an innocent then there must be some higher organising moral principle that trumps the innate wrongness of killing. Not only must this principle only apply in the case of procreation but it must also be so great as to allow the deaths of millions of people for its cause. No such good that most would accept readily comes to mind.

In closing, the accusatory undertones of this argument aren't likely to take an antinatalist very far but from a purely logical standpoint, deontological arguments for antinatalism are what I believe to be the best and are too often under used in these debates.