First off, I should mention that The Myth of Natural Rights and Other Essays is coming together, slow and sure. In the next few days, I expect to post the cover and will probably begin taking advance orders. I’m still shooting for a mid-summer release, but this may need to be pushed back as Mr. Rollins keeps providing new material, much of which is too entertaining and ornery not to go in. The man is on a roll, and I mean to give readers their thirteen dollars worth.
Recently, I’ve been engaged in some polite discussion with the Christian conservative folks at The Bear Diaries over the spirit-depleting subject of antinatalism. In the first round, I jumped in to correct a common misconception linking David Benatar’s ethical position with the more commonly encountered people-culling polemics of radical environmentalists. Soon after, I was joined by Jim Crawford, host of the singular Antinatalism blog, who proceeded to pollute the well with the usual counter-intuitive iterations. I chimed in to bat the pong and it went back and forth for a while, mostly to the snarkily professed amusement (and increasing irritation) of TBD habitués. The usual.
It must have jogged something, though, as it seems the eponymous Bear has since filed another antinatally-themed dispatch, this one banking off of Michael Cook’s overconfident dismissal of the dismal (which the Hog previously banked off of here). Rather than using the occasion to point up the meretricious content of Benatar’s thesis, however, the focus is trained more conveniently on the always available question of motive. Or more accurately, readers are asked to consider what environmental and nurtural factors might predispose a person to advance a particular view. "Did [David Benatar’s] mother not hug him enough as a child?" Herr Bear thus inquires, further averring:
It is important in our analysis of ideas to reckon with their origin.
If a given idea can be produced only by a certain kind of mind — well,
that should be of especial significance.
While I would not dispute that from a certain vantage this reckoning may be of marginal curiosity, it is too easily employed as a deck-shifting tack, and ultimately as means to avoid engagement with an argument that reflexively evokes hostility or incredulity. Such misdirectional responses are parcel not merely to antinatalism, but to the disparate catalog of "dangerous ideas" that inevitably rouse the synapses of mild-mannered thought criminals like me, who cannot but make the mistake of asking the next question.
When I read the work of those who question genocide, or who openly doubt that racial differences can be explained without reference to genetic factors, or who defend those hurtful Ron Paul newsletters, I am wisely aware of the fact that such views may be more or less informed by extra-rational factors. Atheism may be a badge of conformity in certain rarefied cloisters. And for all I know, Kevin MacDonald‘s dissident Jewish studies may be animated by an abiding hatred of Judd Hirsch. There’s simply no telling with these things. Suspicion may may be due, and trust is as reassuring as gossip. But even an argument made in bad faith by an unhuggable motherless child may yet prove to be correct on the merits. And if the argument fails, it will always be possible to demonstrate why this is so without trotting out the couch.
Comments are open, if anyone cares. .
2 thoughts on “Bear versus Hog”
Regarding the psychological analysis of proponents of non-normative ideas- I suppose we might come off looking…er…non-normative? I read an essay a couple years back in some psychology magazine concerning the relationship between mental ‘health’, and self-deception. The link was strong, and in fact, the treatments for depression (beyond the chemical kind) called for learning to lie to one’s self. That ability was actually indicative of progress! I’ve even had conversations with people who were fully aware that they were doing this, and had no problems with it at all, since it made them feel better.
I don’t suppose I should really have a problem with this; you know, live and let live. However, this almost universal trait of interpreting the world through platitudes allows people to justify to themselves the act of procreation, thus feeding the beast of suffering and mortality, which is the side of life that we all too adroitly ignore. And ignore it we do. The really interesting aspect of the dialogue between folks like myself and the ‘normal’, is that the issues I (we) bring up are always, always, always sidestepped. Responses are generally non-sequiturs, and/or emotive; fueled not by reason, but by an almost primal aversion to even acknowledging that there’s a conversation to be had. And as ostensibly interesting as questioning the personal motivations behind ANY philosophical position is, I’ve usually found this approach to be of the red-herring variety; a way to avoid the real weight of the opponent’s argument.
The arguments for antinatalism are clear, and straightforward. And now I find myself questioning the motivations behind people like Michael Cook; I suspect such knee-jerk dismissals are often fueled by an intuitional knowledge that I’m right. That the antinatalist argument is rubbing up against some sensitive places; breaches in the armor wrought of rose-colored outlooks, and wishful thinking.
Anyhow, Chip- enjoyed the conversations over at ‘the bear’s’. Where next to carry our ‘conspiracy’? (Can’t help but chuckle at Stillman’s paranoid allusions…hehehe!)
Glad to see the comments open. Don’t have anything else to say, as I said it at the Bear.