Pseudonymous Larry Niven at Rust Belt Philosophy has a short post in which the “right to avoid life” movement arises. Chantal Delsol points that this and similar movements are consequens of the rejection of taking the as axiomatic the ontological nature of human dignity in The Unlearned Lessons Of the Twentieth Century. I should note that a person “CM” is the author of these arguments and that in my reading of Mr Niven’s piece it is unclear what his stance is on this matter.

A relatively famous document begins:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Here we find the founders noting that some truths are not ones for which a foundational argument needs to be waged, they are self-evident. That the continuance of the human species is both good and a salutatory (if not to say necessary) attitude for humans to take seems to be another such self-evident statement. If you are a shark or a mosquito one must necessarily as such argue that continued existence of the shark and the mosquito is also good.

Mr Niven for CM offers two arguments against human reproduction, a harm based and a rights based argument. The harm based argument is easily countered. He offers that:

Choosing to reproduce, CM says, is tantamount to “imposing a lifetime’s worth of negative experiences on someone else.” And while one might agree that “everybody has negative experiences,” everybody capable of having negative experiences also has positive experiences: are these, too, “imposed”?

The abortion rights individuals hate the counter to this argument. Merely quiz the living, “Would you have never been born?” and oddly enough nobody whom we would term sane answers in the affirmative to that question. This particular argument is not uncommonly seen in the pro-abortion rhetorical quiver. The “his/her life would be too filled with hardship” and therefore termination is required. Yet oddly enough people with hard lives rarely venture that their lot would have been better in non-existence or death, but that sort of notion only resides with those people whose life has been in the main very soft and full of ease. Furthermore virtually everyone in the pre-industrial age had, by today’s standards, a life far harder than the hard life imagined for the incipient child.

The second argument is as follows:

For CM, no person has “interests prior to existing. Hence, biological children are always used as means to an end,” which, together with “the fact that people are brought into existence without their consent,” consists of a violation of the rights

This has two problems. One is a common rhetorical ploy found in philosophical circles the “if P then Q” where there is no logical connection between the premise and the conclusion. All things are a interest or a means to an end is not true. There are “ends”, which are neither. For a child can be see as in intrinsic good in and of itself. A child is good in an of itself, therefore creation of a new child is abstractly a good which is not a means (but an end). The second problem is in his notion of rights. CM suggests that the lack of consent implies a violation of rights. This might be OK if human beings were created ex nihilo with full faculties at creation, but that is not how it works. We have, well, these constructions known as “children” who are in developmental stages for at least a decade and a half. Consent is not a right children possess naturally because they are not equipped to handle those responsibilities at that time.

Filed under: Ethics & MoralityMark O.You Cry Out

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