The Instigator
Pro (for)
5 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
6 Points

Resolved: On Balance, Human Childbirth is Immoral

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/10/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,259 times Debate No: 56326
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (58)
Votes (3)




Resolution: "On Balance, Human Childbirth is Immoral"

This debate addresses the morality of bringing new human life into this world as a whole in today's society.

The burden of proof is on me to demonstrate the resolution to be true. I will argue in the following round and Con may provide rebuttals/arguments in the same round.

10,000 characters.

Round 1: Acceptance
Round 2: Opening arguments, Con may rebut me
Round 3: Rebuttals/Arguments
Round 4: Rebuttals/Conclusions - No new arguments/brand new rebuttals

This debate is impossible to accept, please leave a comment if you are interested in taking this debate up.

That is all, good luck!!


I accept.

My opponent and I agree on the burdens of proof. My burden of proof is either to prove that increasing the number of humans is not immoral (by negating all of my opponent's arguments), or to prove that it is moral (by advancing my own arguments).

Good luck, opponent.
Debate Round No. 1


I. Preface

I thank Con for accepting this debate, this is probably going to be an extremely sensitive topic even for my fellow existential nihilists. There are two perspectives on this that I would like to take, the first is assessing the impact that bringing into new life has on society and on life in Earth as a whole. The second actually argues that bringing in new life is inherently immoral towards the being you are bringing into life in the first place.

And without further ado, I wish us both a good debate!

II. Impact on Society:

This first contention is one I think most will be able to easily relate to. A human child has needs, and impacts society when it is brought into it. You cannot myopically look at childbirth as just the state of bringing in a child, you are bringing in a living breathing being that will exist in Earth for roughly 80 years given current lifespans.

During those 80 years that human will consume resources, and leave a footprint of many sorts on the Earth's biosphere. For example the average human in a developed country such as the UK will produce 7.9 metric tonnes of CO2 waste per year, or roughly 80x that over the course of a lifetime, which is an enormously disproportionate amount of environmental impact that no other sentient life will have. A human will go through roughly dozens of trees, many of which are sources from rainforest area causes indescribable suffering and damage to the sentient beings that once lived there.[1]

Perhaps most striking are the sheer number if animals that must die for just one human to be sustained. The average human goes through over a thousand chickens, even when just considering the sheer number eggs consumed (over 10,000) by even those regarded as vegetarians. The amount of beef, lamb, etc also total up to quantities exceeding several tonnes, which obviously means several livestock. These animals are kept in confined conditions, especially chickens and are in significant states of discomfort.[1]

Also consider the environmental impact of the areas we use for our activities, the area that must be cleared for farmland, for sewers, for towns and cities etc. These were almost certainly once used for a vast array of life forms which are steadily being disproportionately eradicated for our own selfish human benefits.

Every human born makes a substantial contribution to the damage on the biosphere, and makes a contribution to the suffering of to other sentient beings we coinhabit the Earth with. Therefore bringing in any additional human life will amplify this, and hence be immoral.

III. Impact on Sentient Being Itself:

This contention is very much antinatalist in it's portrayal, that life is inherently a state that would be preferable not to have ever attained in the first place so I will attack this first:

IIIA. Life is a permanent state of discomfort

This is going to be one of the most important, and most sensitive contentions. As humans, our entire notion of comfort/discomfort are a means to an end, which principally is to further the propagation of our genes from evolution. That being the case, we are intrinsically wired up to respond to negative influences. Hunger, pain, sexual deprivation, thirst etc. All of these such states are states of discomfort that our body perceives that it must respond to, lest it die out.

With that in mind, what of all the pleasurable things in life? Such a good meal? Or scratching your nose? Or an exhilarating bout of sexual intercourse?

Well the answer to that is very, straightforward, all these things, and the likes are merely just temporary reprieves from the states of discomfort that drove us to accomplish them. A meal is a pleasurable activity because it ends the discomfort that comes from being hungry, sexual intercourse is a pleasurable activity because it relieves the discomfort caused by our sexual drive.

Therefore, the maximal possible comfort state one can ever achieve is nothing but us fulfilling every single area in which we are experiencing discomfort (I.e. Zero), or a deprivation of some sort. There is no way to go 'above zero' in these cases since the very act of moving from one state to another is nothing but moving from a great state of discomfort to a lesser state of discomfort, you are *always* in discomfort.

The scratch doesn't feel "really good" unless the itch was there in the first place, it's that interlude that is experienced.

So what happens after you eat a meal, do you continue to feel those pleasurable sensations from that juicy steak? Of course not, once the meal is over you no longer experience that continuing course of comfort. However virtually all states of discomfort occur over significantly longer periods than the states of comfort, therefore life, as a whole, is a state of discomfort.

Does a rock experience discomfort? Does a rock experience hunger, thirst, pain? Of course not. The rock is never in a state of discomfort, that is principally a state that only sentient beings will experience. Therefore we can construct a very crude argument against life:

P1. It is preferable to be a state of less discomfort
P2. Being a rock is a state of less discomfort than life
C. Being a rock is preferable to life

This argument might seem laughable, but in am dead serious in the conclusion. I have defended the premises, and therefore the conclusion is inescapable if the argument is valid and sound. It simply follows that death is preferable to life, since death is a state of no discomfort.

IIIB. Bringing in new life is done without the consent of the sentient being and is selfish

It is rather straightforward, you are bringing in new life into a state of discomfort without permission from the being itself. It is akin to somebody putting out cigarettes on your neck without your permission. Anything which causes discomfort and suffering to the individual without their permission or even consultation is inherently immoral. The being never asked to be born, and neither was consulted on the circumstances or environment they would inhabit.

In fact childbirth is generally done for rather selfish reasons on the parent's behalf. Usually for reasons of family, 'happiness', but also for even more sinister reasons, such as having someone to look after them when they age, to continue on a bloodline legacy, inheritance, family honor, etc.

In fact it is impossible to have a child for anything other than selfish reasons, since those reasons cannot be for the child's values, as they simply do not yet exist. The child is entirely born for the sake of the adult.

Any and all of these reasons are cases of providing comfort to the states of discomfort the parents are currently in, which would be resolvable by the parent's deaths anyway. To summarise this part of the argument you can structure it as follows:

P1) Any action that provides comfort to yourself, at the expense of another, without the other's permission is immoral
P2) Childbirth, at the expense of the child, provides comfort to yourself without the child's permission
C) Childbirth is immoral

Premise 1 is also synonymous with 'any selfish action is immoral', which I don't think Con will argue against either. Similar to how stealing someone's dinner might provide comfort to yourself, but it does so at the expense of the other person, and without their permission, and is regarded as immoral.

IIIC. Law of Diminishing Returns & Futility of life

This more to reenforce my previous points, if comfort was in fact a positive state, we would expect that having more of something would invariably lead to further still increasing states of 'happiness' or comfort. But in reality the opposite is true. Millionaires with enough money to sustain themselves for life are no happier than the average family when studied (such as with national lottery winners), and in fact happiness is found only to increase to the point where a family can sustain their basic needs.[3]

This is exactly what the antinatalist argument would predict, as the scale 'tops out' at zero. You can only ever feel so 'happy'. You can be sexually fulfilled, but after enough of it you do not get any happier, it is a law of diminishing returns. Eating another steak after the first one doesn't give the same feelings and sensations as the first one. This is very easy to explain from an antinatalist perspective, as you have already satisfied your state if discomfort. But contradicts explanations that depict true 'goods', or positive states of comfort.

The opposite also heavily supports antinatalism, which sets no lower floor on the level of discomfort one can achieve, you can always experience more pain. And this largely is true, we can always experience greater levels of torture, pain, and need. By prolonging the starvation, or increasing the pain stimuli, there simply isn't an apparent upper limit of discomfort.

IV. Life's 'Intrinsic' Value

This is a point that may be raised in defence of childbirth, that life is inherently or intrinsically good to have, or be. However the default position for this claim (and any other of huge likes) is to disbelieve/reject until provided evidence to believe. The burden of proof for this defence will be on Con. Until then it is reasonable to accept that life has no intrinsic value, as it is an extraneous claim?

V. Conclusion:

I have stated my case in two fronts for the immorality of childbirth. So for now I will leave you with a couple of quotes from Arthur Schopenhauer.

"Satisfaction consists in freedom from pain, which is the positive element of life."
"There is no doubt that life is given us, not to be enjoyed, but to be overcome/to be got over."

Over to Con!

VI. References:
2. Arguments are adapted from and


Thanks to my opponent for the debate.


Con Case:


2CVD: Prefer Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism is the best available ethical system; even if this is not true, it is a better ethical system than minimizing suffering.


2CVDA: Utilitarianism Best Handles Moral Uncertainty

How do we know whether the Pro or Con side is more "moral"? To objectively know, we must determine which has more value.

Value "denotes something's degree of importance, with the aim of determining what ... is best to do," [01]. Value is that which is ethically significant, and an ultimate value or values would be the most ethically significant value, to which all other values are subservient.

To attempt to determine what the ultimate value is, living sentient entities attempt to construct ethical systems. However, because living sentient entities have limited knowledge, we cannot know which, if any, of the ethical systems available is/are perfect, and thus we don't know what, if anything, is actually valuable.

In this dearth of knowledge, we must attempt to maximize the chance that we can determine what the ultimate value is. Thus, we must keep the maximum number of sentient entities alive and ensure their maximum ability to make reason, because only living sentient entities are likely to significantly increase the probability that we can determine what the ultimate value is. (Because non-living entities and non-sentient entities don't usually develop or test ethical or scientific theories, and both of those actions are vital for increasing available knowledge and the chance of ascertaining ultimate value.) Further, if an ultimate value is determined, then only living sentient entities would be able to act towards it.

Thus, we must value:

1. Maximizing the number of living sentient entities, and

2. Maximizing the capability of living entities to reason

Utilitarianism best achieves these goals, because it values both keeping the maximum number of living sentient entities alive (because life is a prerequisite for utility and determining ultimate value) and in maximizing potential utility by giving living sentient entities long, interconnected, educated, scientifically engaged, relatively comfortable, and relatively free lives (because a high quality of life, high level of knowledge, and high level of productivity increase utility both for the person and society in general, and thus increase the probability of determining ultimate value).

As such, we should prefer whichever side of the debate maximizes utility, in order to maximize the probability of determining ultimate value.


2CVDB: Utilitarianism is A Better Ethical System than Minimizing Suffering

Pro didn't explicitly state what is valuable in Round 2; however, much of Pro's case has minimizing suffering as good, which I interpret to be Pro's value. (If I'm wrong, correct me.)

Pro didn't support suffering as a value in Round 2; however, I presume that, in response to this argument, they will do so in future rounds.

Aside from the lack of support, minimizing suffering, instead of maximizing utility, has two problems:

1) It doesn't maximize the possibility of discovering value, as it would support policies like that of preventing the future existence of any sentient living entities. See the resolution as a justifiable premise under this value.

2) It doesn't recognize positive value may exist in the world, only negative. Increasing the chance of finding ultimate value is, while working within our stopgap Utilitarianism, a positive value.


2C1: Maximizing the Number of Sentient Living Entities Increases the Probability of Determining Ultimate Value

Maximizing the number of sentient living entities maximizes the chance to find ultimate value. Affirming the resolution reduces the number of sentient living entities, while negating increases the number of sentient living entities. As such, negating is more valuable and thus more moral.

Increasing the number of sentient living entities is thus moral in most circumstances. However, in circumstances where increasing the number of living entities would lead to (a) a net decrease of the number of living entities, as would be the case with global warming, overpopulation, or starvation scenarios, or (b) a decrease of the probability of determining ultimate value, such as causing an increase of the total number of sentient living entities but a decrease of per-capita industrial capacity, as would be the case with overpopulation or starvation scenarios, then increasing the number of living sentient entities would be immoral. (At least, until the average fertility rate is low enough that it would not cause these effects, at which point it would again be moral.)

While the current world situation of overpopulation and global warming may require a decrease of human childbirth (which is happening), it does not require a complete removal of human childbirth, only a reduction.




2P1: "Every human ... makes a substantial contribution to the damage on the biosphere ... and ... to the suffering of ... other sentient beings ... [A]dditional human life will amplify this, and hence be immoral."

1. While I believe that the biosphere should be maintained, because it maximizes the potential for determining the ultimate value, the fact that suffering exists is not a problem (and my opponent has not shown it to be signficant).

2. If sentient life on Earth exists, do tell.


2P2: "[L]ife is ... preferable not to have ever [been] attained[.]"

1. My opponent states that life is inherently worse than nonlife; I disagree, because life maximizes the chance that ultimate value can be found. See 2CVD.


2P2A: "[W]hat of ... the pleasurable things in life? ... [T]hese ... are merely just temporary reprieves from ... discomfort[.] .... Therefore, the maximal possible comfort state ... is ... zero[.] .... [D]eath is preferable to life, since death is a state of no discomfort."

1. My opponent would thus advocate for the permanent killing of all living entities. This clearly reduces the ability to determine ultimate value, and is thus immoral.

2. If we really wanted to prevent future suffering, why not wait until humans have enough scientific knowledge to destroy the universe and whatever (if anything) created the universe, to prevent future evolution of living sentient entities?


2P2B: "Bringing in new life ... without ... consent ... is selfish[.] .... '[A]ny selfish action is immoral'[.]”

1. Consent is unimportant to utility and to maximizing the chance of determining ultimate value. My opponent has yet to prove why is immoral.

2. Selfishness reduces utility. My opponent has yet to prove why is immoral.

3. See 2CVD and 2C1 on why maximizing life is more important than reducing suffering.


2P3C: "[I]f comfort was ... a positive state, we would expect that having more ... would ... lead to ... increasing ... 'happiness'[.] ... The scale 'tops out' at zero. .... This ... contradicts ... positive states of comfort. .... There ... isn't an ... upper limit of discomfort."

1. My opponent's logic is thus:

A1: Assume that comfort is a positive state.

P1: If comfort is a positive state (if A1 is true), then when a person has more stuff, they should be more happy.

P2: A person is not more happy when they have more stuff.

C1: P2 and P1 form a contradiction, A1 is rejected, comfort is not a positive state.

P1 doesn't follow from A1. Because comfort might be a positive state does not imply that more wealth would unlimitedly increase comfort. Thus, this does not disprove comfort as a positive state, regardless of whether it is.

2. Pain and pleasure are neurologically linked [3], but pleasure is not merely the lack of pain. To quote, "[T]he motivation and hedonic subsystems seem to be mediated by different neurotransmitters. .... [D]opamine increases motivation for, but not the pleasure of, eating palatable foods, whereas the opioid system influences motivation indirectly by modulating subjective emotional feelings of pain and reward. ... [O]pioids are necessary for hedonic experience (‘liking’) but dopamine motivates you to get ready for it (‘wanting’)." A large problem with my opponent's case is that pleasure isn't just the removal of pain; it's a positive feeling.

3. Pain is limited. A limited number of pain transmitter neurons in the peripheral nervous system and pain receiver neurons in the central limit pain in extent, and limited lifespans limit pain in duration.


2P4: "That ... life is inherently ... good[.] ... [T]he default position for this ... is to disbelieve ... until provided evidence[.]"

1. See 2CVD and 2C1.



Maximizing the probability of determining ultimate value is more important than reducing suffering, and voting Con does exactly that.



I leave you with the following two quotes from Portal 2:

1. Announcer on dealing with suffering: "This next test is very dangerous. To help you remain tranquil in the face of almost certain death, smooth jazz will be deployed in three. Two. One. [SMOOTH JAZZ], [SMOOTH JAZZ DISTORTED], [SMOOTH JAZZ SHUTDOWN]."

2. Cave Johnson on things more significant than suffering: "Now you might be asking yourself, "Cave, just how difficult are these tests?", "What was in that phonebook of a contract I signed?", "Am I in danger?" Let me answer those questions with a question: who wants to make $60? Cash."






Debate Round No. 2


Thanks Con.

I. Preface

Pro takes an interesting approach from utilitarianism, although utilitarianism is not necessarily incompatible with antinatalism. Antinatalism isn't specifically a system that purely reduces suffering, as it specifically deals with discomfort, which Con has problems separating.

II. Utilitarianism - Unknown Value

This appears to be Con's most important, yet prima facie his weakest argument against antinatalism. First we need to clarify Con's thesis:

"Maximizing the Number of Sentient Living Entities Increases the Probability of Determining Ultimate Value"

This is what Con's argument boils down to. There are a number if problems with this line of argumentation. If I could give an analogy, this is like seeing smoke coming from your car engine, yet adding more fuel to the car since by not adding fuel, you lose the opportunity to discover the source of the smoke if the engine runs out. The problem is you have fuel in the car in hence first place! It is on fire!

By comparison, by maximising the number of human lives in the quest to discover 'ultimate value', you go against what we already know, which is that we know it will just make the situation worse. If we have good reason to accept that the value of human life's stasis is generally negative,then why should we create a system that goes against what we already know just because we are ignorant of all possible values?

Indeed this argument is simply just one big appeal to ignorance, and I see absolutely no reason to suspect that there is an 'ultimate value' given we are products of evolution, and simply just adapted to propagate our own species. It doesn't matter how we are programmed to achieve that 'end', just so long as the job is done, our species will continue to exist.

III. Comfort/Discomfort

The axiom for antinatalism is that discomfort is a negative value. Do not confuse discomfort with suffering, although suffering does fall under the umbrella of discomfort, discomfort encompasses other areas, such as dissatisfaction (sexual frustration, hunger, an entertaining job). This is rather self-evident and it would be irrational for a sentient being to strive for a state other than discomfort. This is also compatible with some utilitarianism stances, as utility also bases itself off the same values which can be perceived as states of discomforts. Indeed the greatest possible state that could be achieved in utilitarianism is generally perceived to be the state that achieves the greatest level of happiness/comfort for the greatest number of people.

However, for utilitarianism, on it's basic principles and values as currently known to actually support the notion that we should maximize the number of sentient beings (and hence making childbirth moral) Pro would actually have to demonstrate these values, or states of comfort are indeed positive ones. Under utilitarianism, if all values are indeed simply just fulfilment a of states of discomfort, then it follows that humans are generally all in a negative state, thus in order to achieve the greatest possible level of comfort/happiness for the greatest number if people,MIT would be better if there were no people whatsoever.

A million people in debt is a financially poorer entity than no entity whatsoever. Thus Con needs to show that these people actually have something.

IV. Intrinsic Human Value

If we accepted Con's premise that we should maximize the number of sentient beings in existance in order to maximize utility/potential for discovering value, then it runs into a rather straightforward reducio ad absurdum.

That being, it is hence intrinsically immoral for male and females NOT to have unprotected sexual intercourse whenever possible, in order to maximise the number of pregnancies and hence new conscious beings. When the well-being of everyone is affected due to overpopulation, it doesn't necessarily matter, as this has no bearing on Con's premise that we need to maximise utility/potential. It doesn't matter if we must suffer a miserable existence, possibly living in our own faeces, so long as we maximise the utility for the future.

This of course clearly goes against popular values of today, and would be outright rejected. Any argument that values something divorces of the well-being of the conscious beings involved leads to absurd scenarios such as this one, it follows that any and all moral theory needs to take into account physical and mental well-being, and yes this will include suffering, a strong form of discomfort.

V. Problems of Utilitarianism

Note that utilitarianism has it's own problems as a moral philosophy, one of the most significant ones is that it neglects people's entitlement to rights, which are generally considered to be of value following Pro's current line of reasoning. One such thought experiment is sacrificing an innocent in favor of preserving the many guilty would be ruled moral under these systems.

The popular example is if 5 patients all need an organ to survive, and an innocent walks into the clinic and by some miracle is a match for all 5 patients.[1] Would it be moral assuming utilitarianism's axioms to (forcably) kill that person and take his organs for the greater good of the 5 victims. Indeed this case of maximising utility is clearly against most people's values from the perspective of the victim. It would also very conceivably be immoral for someone to commit suicide, or as already mentioned, to not procreate, and as such assuming life to be of inherent value actually appears to be a self-defeating premise in the context of utilitarianism.

Whereas by accounting non-existence as a viable and desirable state, then we avoid essentially all of these problems.

VI. Animal Values
Please note that pro has largely dropped my first line of reasoning, which is the negative effect that humans have in both Earth's environment and on Earth's other animal species. Even if one were to completely reject the lime of reasoning provided so far, Con still runs into the problem of why human values are greater than animal values. I have given clear facts that humans cause a disproportionate amount of suffering to animals by existing. It seems Pro's appeal to ignorance of ultimate value just doesn't cut it

VII. Values

Pro has listed a number of things that we may see as values, such as being scientifically engages, educated, freedom. However essentially all of these just beg the question, why are they values to us? Indeed it seems very much insufficient to accept these ipsie dixit, where in fact it seems clear that they are values because they are mechanisms for reducing discomfort one way or another. Intellectual fulfilment isn't an entity in itself, and there is nothing to value about it other than it's effects, such as mental well being, the status of one's peers, the type of career available. But when you peel back the layers of 'why?' These values are values, you eventually reach bedrock, which is that each of these lead to a state of discomfort, in which we are trying to avoid/escape from.

Embarrassment is a negative mental state, and a state of discomfort, which can be caused by having a bad job, which is rectified by being intellectually fulfilled for example. You can take virtually any example Con throws at the resolution, and see that they boil down to the same things. This also addresses Con's main argument which is 'Unknown Ultimate Value', which is very conceivable just another state of fulfilling one's discomfort. It doesn't escape the problem that life is generally a negative state, it just compounds the problem.

I challenge Pro to come up with just one genuinely positive value, which is not intrinsically fulfilling a state if discomfort (scratching that itch..). I daresay it is not possible.

VIII. Counter-Rebuttals

I actually found Con's following rebuttal most interesting, even if was not meant to be a serious proposition:

"If we really wanted to prevent future suffering, why not wait until humans have enough scientific knowledge to destroy the universe and whatever (if anything) created the universe, to prevent future evolution of living sentient entities?"

This might be pragmatically true, but it does not undermine the resolution of this debate. Just because the greater good is that absolutely no one ever could be born doesn't mean that the means to achieve that end is intrinsically moral, instead it is just the 'lesser of two evils', it doesn't make the lesser evil innocent. Perhaps my stealing of a thief's car will prevent him from raiding a bank, but that doesn't make my act of stealing his car a moral one.

Moreover all of Con's response to:

"Bringing in new life ... without ... consent ... is selfish[.] .... '[A]ny selfish action is immoral'[.]"

Completely ignores liberty and rights as already argued, moreover speaks towards the avoidance of suffering, which is not what my argument is about.

I actually quite like Con's formulation of my additional justification for comfort not being a positive state, it is true that P1 doesn't necessarily follow from A1, but inductively given what we observe from discomfort states, we would expect states of comfort to be possess similar 'boundaries' if true positives. Indeed this seems to be the most reasonable explanation, of the facts we have at hand, it is an inductive argument.

P1: If comfort is a positive state (if A1 is true), then when a person has more stuff, they *should* be more happy.

Emphasis *should*.

Con's other objections seem to strawman my position. My argument principally addresses comforts/discomfort. Whilst pleasure/pain are subsets of these, it doesn't follow they are diametrically opposed.

IX. Conclusion
Con has really yet to attack my axioms and premises regarding the futility of existence and living. Indeed his arguments are mostly from pragmaticism rather than being honest with the facts already at hand.



FuzzyCatPotato forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


Thanks Con.

Con's round 3 is here:

I. Preface

I am grateful to Con for his participation in this debate, and most especially for a take in Utilitarianism that I am not accustomed to, I will be sure to read more into it in the future.

This debate has taken two branches which are difficult to separate, since Con's counter-argument from Utilitarianism is largely used as a rebuttal to the arguments for antinatalism. I will use this round to clear up any remaining misconceptions and to lay down the presuppositions as I see them.

II. Utilitarianism

Con's central assumption/premise is that utilitarianism is that which maximises potential for discovering ultimate value, and hence to maximise utility. Most of my rebuttals, and reducio ad absurdisms that have attacked the consequences of accepting this premise have largely been answered by 'but it fails to increase utility', or 'so what? Utility is increased'.

What this reasoning ignores is that we humans already have values that we are familiar with, with wants and desires that are tangible and demonstrable. I stand by my objection that Pro's entire premise is an argument ad ignorantum since it must assert that there is likely an ultimate value to be found, otherwise the entire system is illogical. If we knew there was no ultimate value, then the entire premise of breeding humans to find it is a non-sensical proposition. However to assert such because it hasn't been demonstrated false is a textbook appeal to ignorance.

I have given excellent reasons to think no such value should exist, from evolution and that we already have an understanding of human psychology. There is absolutely no reason why in the evolutionary process we would have developed a value which is not now known by empirical science. Since what drives evolution is now relatively well understood, and hence what affects our neurology, emotions and desires is now largely mapped out at a basic level.

Note that humans generally, and most basically value their own well-being (state of comfort), and many takes on utilitarianism largely account for this, it also is compatible with the assumptions for antinatalism, and is a premise that is strongly represented in society today. A common objection which Pro did allude to is that people will out the well-being of others before their own. This is an objection III would contend, since concern for another person's well-being would in turn affect their own well-being. If a parent's child died, they would likely suffer great remorse and sadness, which would negatively affect their well-being (state of comfort), so sacrificing one's own state of comfort in one sense, is logical as it improves it in another.

Therefore, Pro's replies to animal discomfort (animal rights over human), the patient thought experiment, con's own boat experiment, sexual frustration are all in assumption that we do not already have well-supported values. Indeed Con must deliberate ignore these for these rebuttals to work, which seems ridiculous. Con's position is that we must ignore what we do know (values we do have) in favor of what we don't know, and may never know (unknown ultimate value), which rules his entire premise that we should value our ability to discover new value a weak one at best.

III. Anti-Natalism

This is where the debate needed to be about, it is the topic of discussion, so I will address Con's most important rebuttals here.

Pro's only objections to my overpopulation/increased animal discomfort arguments are from utilitarianism, that animal discomfort regardless of quantity is permissible because they lack the ability to seek ultimate value. This ignores the fact that animals do value their own well-being, and own state of suffering. Animals will actively avoid sources of discomfort (such as suffering, pain, sexual deprivation), and fulfilling these are their 'ends', or values, however simplistic they might be.

Therefore Con's argument against animal suffering is simply untenable. Moreover people also value many of the same things albeit with a greater degree of sophistication. Therefore if the birth of a child would negatively impinge on other people's values then it follows it is immoral unless it has a sufficient redeeming positive. I argue this is simply not the case. Moreover people generally value liberty, fairness and rights, which makes the case worse for Con since it unfairly impinges on other people's rights, without their permission.

Discomfort is bad
I have already given reasons to accept that discomfort is an intrinsically negative state, and I will simplify them now, besides the fact that sentient beings will strive for states that are away from discomfort, if we assume that all states of discomfort are positive, then the following reducio entais:

P1) If discomfort was a positive state, then people would not choose to commit suicide/euthasia if in discomfort
P2) People choose to commit suicide/euthanasia when in discomfort
C) Discomfort is a negative state

You can insert virtually any premise here which involves either taking one's own life or forgoing saving a life/giving birth to a new life in favor of a lower state of discomfort. If discomfort was good then it would entail that no amount of discomfort would ever lead to one forgoing life, as there is nothing negative.

Moreover Pro has completely ignored my justification that comfort is just a state of fulfilling one's state of discomfort. Scratching doesn't feel good unless the itch is there, a good meal tastes good if you are hungry, etc.

These are clear demonstrations that all states of comfort are just fulfilments of states if discomfort. Therefore no positive state could ever be reached, much less sustained.

IV. Rebuttals:

Reducio ad absurdum- A reducio ad absurdum is used that when assuming a questionable premise that if held true, would logically lead to absurd conclusions.[1] It is not exclusively a device for showing a denial of a premise, it can be used for negating the acceptance of a premise too.

Moreover, Pro attacks the hospital,part of the argument, which is irrelevant to the point it is making, a red herring.

V. Conclusion

Pro has failed to really engage on the central themes of the arguments for anti-natalism, with most his arguments being derived from utilitarianism, which I have shown to be an overly simplistic view on morality which disregards already regarded values.

Therefore I hold we should strive for a world with no new children, a world where we can die out. With that I leave you with a couple more quotes.

"Why is it that we rejoice at a birth and grieve at a funeral? It is because we are not the person involved." R13;Mark Twain
"It is best not to have been born at all: but, if born, as quickly as possible to return whence one came." R13;Sophocles

VI. Closing
I greatly appreciate Con for his stiff opposition in this debate, and wish him best if luck in the voting!


Thanks Pro.

Again, my Round 3 argument is here:





In 2CVD I have proven that maximizing potential value is the only valuable thing that we, humans, can act towards, due to our own limited knowledge. I further proved that Utilitarianism best maximizes potential value, and should be preferred in this debate, because living sentient entities maximize the probability of potential value, while dead and nonsentient entities cannot.

Accepting this logic is enough to win Con the debate, because it means that we need to keep living sentient entities, such as humans, alive and well, and this requires making babies in order to maximize value. As such, life is NOT, on net, negative.

Pro has two main objections to Utilitarianism:
(1) Humans already have values, such as the minimization of suffering, which are important. Unfortunately, Pro has provided no reason why this is true. Simply because humans act in certain ways does not mean that the ways that humans act are the correct ways, and is fundamentally an is-ought fallacy.
(2) Utilitarianism leads to absurd consequences. As I have pointed out, these consequences are (a) better than the alternative and (b) largely not supported by Utilitarianism.

Pro has two main objections to my value-maximizing logic:
(1) That it is an argument from ignorance. This is not true; I do not assert that something is true simply because we don't know it to be false, which is what an argument from ignorance is.
(2) That it requires value to actually exist. This is not true; all that is required for my logic to be valid is that value can possibly exist and that it can possibly be found, both of which are reasonable assumptions that my opponent has not significantly rebutted. My opponent's closest attempt is that, as products of evolution, it's not required that value actually exist; but because it is not required that value NOT exist, this is irrelevant. Further, if value DOESN'T exist, then nothing is moral or immoral, and so this resolution is negated.

As such, Utilitarianism stands. Life has positive value.


In opposition to Utilitarianism, Pro has Antinatalism. Even if Utilitarianism falls, if Antinatalism falls, then the resolution is negated.

Pro's argument that life is generally negative relies on the facts (a) that living sentient entities attempt to minimize their own discomfort, (b) that living sentient entities cannot have negative levels of discomfort, and (c) that the average value of living sentient entities is negative.

(A) is a flawed is-ought fallacy, because it takes the behavior of living beings and states that that is the correct action.
(B) has been disproven through neuroscience, which proves that pleasure is a positive value.
(C) has been disproven through Utilitarianism proving positive value and through neuroscience proving that pleasure is positive.

Pro offers a new logical proof in Round 4:
P1) If discomfort was a positive state, then people would not choose to commit suicide/euthasia if in discomfort
P2) People choose to commit suicide/euthanasia when in discomfort
C) Discomfort is a negative state
I have never contested that discomfort is not a negative state. Instead, I have contested that (a) pleasure is positive, and (b) the positive value from Utilitarianism outweighs discomfort. These objections stand; the proof falls.

Ultimately Pro does not offer philosophical reasons that discomfort, for lack of a better word, matters. Why should we care? Because Pro has not, Antinatalism falls, and so does the resolution.

Contention Debate

I have proven that Pro has not ethically defended the suffering of animals as important.

I have proven that positive value exists, and that positive levels of comfort exist.

I have proven that Antinatalism would actually support having human childbirth until humans are capable of killing everything, even potential beings, to minimize suffering, which negates the resolution.

Summary Summary

I have proven that human life is positive, under both ethical systems, and thus that childbirth is not immoral.


1: "To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering." -- Friedrich Nietzsche
2: "Dad! I'm in space! [low-pitched 'space' voice] I'm proud of you, son. [normal voice] Dad, are you space? [low-pitched 'space' voice] Yes. Now we are a family again." -- Space Core [1], on value that resulted from suffering


Debate Round No. 4
58 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by FuzzyCatPotato 7 years ago

But I pointed out why that level of procreation would reduce utility. Why is it absurd to have a moral imperative to make more humans?
Posted by Zarroette 7 years ago
At least a couple of the reasons that Pro gave:

"If we accepted Con's premise that we should maximize the number of sentient beings in existance in order to maximize utility/potential for discovering value, then it runs into a rather straightforward reducio ad absurdum.

That being, it is hence intrinsically immoral for male and females NOT to have unprotected sexual intercourse whenever possible, in order to maximise the number of pregnancies and hence new conscious beings. When the well-being of everyone is affected due to overpopulation, it doesn't necessarily matter, as this has no bearing on Con's premise that we need to maximise utility/potential. It doesn't matter if we must suffer a miserable existence, possibly living in our own faeces, so long as we maximise the utility for the future."
Posted by FuzzyCatPotato 7 years ago

Yes. Why is this absurd?
Posted by Zarroette 7 years ago

I'm pretty sure, if I remember correctly, that your finding value argument argued that the more children we have in the world, the more likely we are to find true value. Envisage showed that this could be taken to an extreme, and the results would be absurd.
Posted by Romanii 7 years ago
Dammit the voting period for this is over? :/
I didn't even get to read it... now I might as well just wait for the Envisage vs. Zarroette one :P
Posted by FuzzyCatPotato 7 years ago

Minor 2nd query: On the Util ad absurdum, why is "Have children, unless doing so reduces ability to find value" absurd? JW, TY.
Posted by FuzzyCatPotato 7 years ago

TY for clarifying.

The reason I brought up I-OF was, w/o it in Pro case, I don't see why discomfort matters, hence it seems central to Pro's morality. Is other justification provided?
Posted by Zarroette 7 years ago

My RFD is off. It should say "so long as the 'ought' is not *directly concluded after the 'is'*, rather than just concluded.

Yes, there is an ought in the argument, it's just that the 'is' does not directly proceed the 'ought', which avoids the fallacy.

1) Discomfort is undesirable (is)
2) Life is more discomfort than comfort
3) Therefore, life ought to be considered undesirable undesirable (ought)

The is-ought fallacy occurs like so:

1) Life is more discomfort than comfort (is)
C) Therefore, life ought not be lived (directly followed by the ought)

I think that's better. This debate was really hard to judge, hence why there have only been two votes, despite a voting commission getting a hold of it. Feel free to question what I've written here, again.
Posted by FuzzyCatPotato 7 years ago
Aye, thanks Zarroette!

I don't quite understand your take on the is-ought fallacy portion of my argument. If this debate is about morality, then clearly "ought" is coming from somewhere, and if the reason for "ought" is that living things reduce discomfort, then ought is unbased; and if it is based elsewhere, then this is not the reason why discomfort is bad. Or am I seeing this wrong?
Posted by Envisage 7 years ago
Thx for vote zarroette
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by iamanatheistandthisiswhy 7 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: This debate was a good debate and like Con pointed out this comes down to whether Antinatalism can be defended. Both Pro and Con were essentially presenting the same philosophical argument yet reaching for different conclusions considering the proposition of the debate. While these positions are technically different, they way they have been presented are too similar to be separated. For this reason I have to consider whose evidence best supports their arguments. At this point Pros arguments have stronger backing than Con and as such I must award Pro argument points. As BOP was shared, it was essential that Con make a solid case and I feel this was not accomplished.
Vote Placed by Zarroette 7 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments. Feel free to argue and yell at me. I will listen and explain myself.
Vote Placed by Sagey 7 years ago
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Total points awarded:23 
Reasons for voting decision: Practically, BOP is in this case is Pro's as Pro stated. Pro's consideration of effects on the environment, are subjective, the new humans might become vegetarian and only consume renewable resources. Con's Utilitarianism (Consequentialism) was very good and I don't think Props rebuttals were strong enough. Childbirth is required to maintain both social and economic systems so the consequences of negative population (via no new humans) would be detrimental to society. Though I agree that bringing new children into the world in many nations of extreme poverty and malnutrition is immoral. I don't really think Pro fulfilled the BOP commitment successfully, Though I think Pro's sources were better.

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