Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Note and More on Ethics (Including The Case for Not Being Born)

Yesterday's NSW post came through email unformatted. You can see the correct version here

Feedback and notes:

"My past conversations with EA's suggest that they wouldn't think two happy children outweigh one miserable child, but a million happy children do outweigh one miserable child."

But this is just an intuition. At some point in counting from two happy children to a million happy children, they feel that the equation shifts. There is nothing objective about that feeling. That feeling really isn't any more valid than the feeling that a human life is worth more than a chicken's, or feeling that my child is more important than any number of other children in the world.

"How small does the suffering need to be before happiness outweighs it? Presumably a child with a good life is better off being born even if, for example, he had to have a limb amputated due to cancer."

This question has two parts. The first is inter-personal trade-offs. That is, would a lot of happiness in other people offset my stubbed toe? 

The second is intra-personal: would my stubbed toe be offset by a wonderful day with my partner? Will the torture I've gone through this year be offset by my future pleasure? 

I tend to think (feel?) that intra-personal tradeoffs are valid. I'm not sure about inter-personal trade-offs. I know many people think they are valid, but I think that might be wrong

But intra-personal tradeoffs might also be invalid. This is the basis for the philosophy of antinatalism, which I first learned about last year on this podcast. (You can also read about it here.) I know that the first reaction of many is just "of course pleasure can offset suffering," but that is just an intuition, just a feeling. I think if you take suffering seriously, antinatalism can't be dismissed out of hand.

Given my uncertainties, I agree with most of what Alexander Berger says, except I conclude that reducing suffering is the most certain "good" there is available to us.

OTOH, it feels a lot of suffering is offset by being married to a brilliant, brave, tough, model-foxy ├╝ber-babe.

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