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Critique of Asymmetry and Anti-Natalism

Updated on December 9, 2017
Jessie L Watson profile image

Student psychologist at Kaplan University. Writer. Philosopher.

There are some interesting yet disturbing propositions emerging that need to be addressed...

The asymmetry argument has four premises divided between two parts: symmetrical and asymmetrical.

Symmetrical
(1) The presence of pain is bad
(2) The presence of pleasure is good

Asymmetrical
(3) The absence of pain is good, even if that good is not enjoyed by anyone
(4) The absence of pleasure is not bad unless there exists somebody for whom this absence is a deprivation.

I can't see any pragmatic applications of this other than a possible reinforcement for pro-choice opinion... and you can't just toss the psychological variable of experience of life aside. Some people - like myself - welcome struggle because it catalyzes growth and strength. People around me appreciate it when I maintain this attitude. Just because there are those who suffer in this world and never come to realize that they can transcend or make use of suffering doesn't justify the argument of asymmetry.

There's no possible way we could argue on the basis of good and bad in terms of non-existence because good is defined by its opposition to the bad; as trite a statement as that is. It still requires a psychological being to make this distinction. I'm willing to grant that even in a hypothetical Eden, a good that's qualitatively lesser than another good must be interpreted as a form of bad from the perspective of a conscious person. We couldn't even perceive the world if it weren't for these inborn mechanisms of discernment. So, yes, the presence of consciousness is a prerequisite for internalizing bad.

But, it's a huge leap to assume that you can make a meta-analysis of good and bad by saying that any disproportionate amount of either is in fact good or bad. If we were born with a nervous system that could not facilitate the experience of grief, anxiety and pain, causal factors of what would otherwise constitute those experiences would still exist. The dichotomy seems to dissolve under this modification. Similar to the sentiments of Immanuel Kant, we cannot make purely accurate judgments to this effect. I can't help but conclude that these premises are flawed on the basis of natural bias alone.

Furthermore, we don't even understand the conditions of non-existence. We don't even know if the concept of non-existence is even possible. Sure, its likely that experience of existence ceases after death but it's STILL an assumption.

Assumptions aside, to entertain these notions for any length of time will undoubtedly result in quasi-nihilistic approaches to life and life that has yet to grace us. This flies in the face of a century's worth of effort piecing together a way of coping with the horrors of reality since the last global conflict.

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