ChatGPT on Efilism
What is the basic premise of efilism. How does it differ from traditional views on life and existence?
Answers to prompts by webmaster DP to ChatGPT-4 July 2023.
"Efilism is a philosophical perspective that holds a rather pessimistic view about life, its value, and its purpose. The word "efilism" is literally "life" spelled backwards, symbolizing its fundamental opposition to life's traditional affirmation.
The basic premise of efilism is that life, in general, is inherently negative due to the existence of suffering. This perspective argues that sentient beings, by nature of their capacity for experiencing pain, are subjected to unnecessary suffering as part of life. This ranges from minor daily discomforts to significant instances of pain and distress, such as disease, natural disasters, and the inevitability of death.
Efilists therefore often conclude that it's better if sentient life did not exist at all, to avoid this inevitable suffering. This leads to a view of antinatalism, or the belief that procreation is morally wrong, as bringing new life into the world is seen as introducing new beings to potential suffering. Efilism extends this argument to all sentient beings, not just humans.
In contrast, traditional philosophical, cultural, or religious views on life and existence often maintain that life is inherently valuable, meaningful, or purposeful, even despite the suffering that it may include. These views may acknowledge the existence of suffering but see it as a part of a greater balance, as something to be overcome, as a means for growth, or as an inescapable part of existence.
The difference between efilism and traditional views on life and existence can be quite stark, given that efilism proposes a radical shift in how we perceive life's value and our moral responsibilities towards sentient beings.
What are the historical antecedents of efilism?
"Efilism, as a specific philosophical perspective, is a relatively recent development largely associated with the online philosopher Gary Mosher (Inmendham). However, its underlying ideas—particularly its focus on suffering and its antinatalist leanings—have historical antecedents in various philosophical and religious traditions. Some of these include:
These historical antecedents have contributed various elements to efilism. However, efilism as a distinct philosophical position, particularly in its extension of antinatalism to all sentient life, represents a unique synthesis of these ideas."
- Buddhism: The First Noble Truth of Buddhism states that life is suffering (dukkha), which can be seen as a precursor to the efilist view. However, Buddhism differs in its solution, offering a path to cessation of suffering through enlightenment rather than advocating for the cessation of life.
- Schopenhauerian Pessimism: The philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer is characterized by a deeply pessimistic view of life. He believed that existence is fundamentally driven by 'will'—an irrational, painful, ceaseless striving. This philosophical pessimism echoes in efilism, although Schopenhauer did not advocate for the cessation of all sentient life.
- Antinatalism: Antinatalism, the philosophical position that assigns a negative value to birth, is a clear precursor to efilism. Thinkers like David Benatar argue that bringing a being into existence is harmful due to the inevitable suffering they will experience. Efilism can be seen as an extension of antinatalist ideas.
- Negative Utilitarianism: This ethical perspective, which prioritizes minimizing suffering over maximizing happiness, can be seen as another historical antecedent. Though not all negative utilitarians would agree with the efilist conclusion, the emphasis on reducing suffering is a shared element.
- Deep Ecology and Biocentric Ethics: Some aspects of efilism also resonate with parts of the environmental ethics movement that emphasize the value and rights of non-human life. However, these movements generally aim for a harmonious coexistence with nature rather than the cessation of all life.
Who exactly is the outspoken efilist Gary Mosher ("Inmendham")?
(Inmendham on YouTube)
"Gary Mosher, known online as Inmendham, is a philosopher and YouTuber who is most recognized for developing and promoting efilism, a philosophical perspective rooted in antinatalism. Efilism, derived from 'life' spelled backward, extends the principle of antinatalism to all sentient life, not just human life.
There's limited publicly available information about Mosher's personal life. He has primarily gained attention through his internet presence, particularly his YouTube videos. In these, he discusses a variety of philosophical and scientific topics, often through the lens of efilism, arguing for the fundamental value in reducing suffering.
While his work is not widely recognized within mainstream academia, Mosher has built a substantial online following and has contributed significantly to conversations about antinatalism and efilism on the internet. It's important to note that his perspectives are often seen as controversial and provoke a wide range of reactions."
How does efilism interpret the concept of suffering? What is the efilist view of the inherent nature of life?
"Efilism places the concept of suffering at the center of its philosophy. From an efilist perspective, suffering is not just an unfortunate part of life, but rather, it's seen as a fundamental and unavoidable aspect of existence for all sentient beings. This perspective goes beyond human suffering to encompass all life forms that can experience pain or discomfort.
In efilism, the existence of suffering is seen as inherent to the nature of life. It's not just a potential or occasional result of specific conditions or events, but a certainty due to the realities of physical existence, the imperfection of life's design, and the dynamics of ecosystems and societies.
Efilism emphasizes that even basic survival involves competition, conflict, and often harm or death to other beings. It also points out the reality of age, disease, and the inevitable death of all organisms. From an efilist perspective, these realities outweigh any pleasure or satisfaction that life can offer, leading to the conclusion that non-existence is preferable as it would preclude the possibility of suffering.
Efilism thus views the inherent nature of life in a negative light. This is in contrast to many traditional philosophical or religious views, which may see suffering as a part of life, but not its defining feature, and that life has positive values, purposes, or potential that balance or outweigh the negative aspects. In contrast, efilists argue that the ethical response to the inherent suffering of life is to prevent the creation of more sentient life, leading to a stance of antinatalism."
In what ways does efilism propose to reduce or eliminate suffering?
"Efilism is fundamentally centered on the reduction and elimination of suffering, especially through the prevention of new life. Here are some ways that efilism proposes to address this issue:
It's important to note that efilism is a philosophical position, and these are the typical ways that people who align with this philosophy might seek to reduce or eliminate suffering. However, the specific ways that any given efilist may choose to act on their beliefs can vary."
- Antinatalism: The primary way efilism proposes to reduce or eliminate suffering is through antinatalism, the philosophical position that argues it's morally wrong to bring new sentient beings into existence. Efilists believe that by not creating new life, we prevent the occurrence of new suffering. This applies not only to human life but to all sentient beings.
- Veganism and Animal Rights: Many efilists argue for adopting vegan lifestyles and promoting animal rights. They argue that by refraining from consuming animal products and exploiting animals, we can reduce the amount of suffering experienced by non-human sentient beings.
- Advocacy and Education: Efilists often seek to spread awareness about their philosophy, with the aim of convincing others to also adopt antinatalist beliefs and practices. By spreading their message, they hope to influence societal norms and reduce the overall birthrate.
- Support for Euthanasia and Right to Die: Efilism tends to be supportive of the right to voluntary euthanasia or assisted suicide. Efilists argue that sentient beings should have the right to end their lives if they are experiencing unbearable suffering.
- Promotion of Contraception and Family Planning: Efilists often support the widespread availability and use of contraception, as well as comprehensive sex education and family planning, as these measures can help reduce unplanned pregnancies and therefore the creation of new sentient beings who could suffer.
What are some philosophical and/or moral arguments against efilism?
"While efilism presents a compelling case from the perspective of reducing suffering, there are also a number of philosophical and moral arguments against it. Here are a few:
Remember that philosophical views are highly personal and often vary greatly between individuals. The arguments listed above are not exhaustive, and different people may have other reasons for agreeing or disagreeing with efilist philosophy."
- Affirmation of Life: Many philosophical traditions and moral frameworks affirm life as intrinsically valuable, regardless of suffering. This perspective argues that life, even with its challenges and pain, offers opportunities for growth, pleasure, love, discovery, and a range of other positive experiences that can outweigh or give meaning to suffering.
- Potential for Alleviating Suffering: Critics of efilism argue that instead of eliminating life to prevent suffering, efforts should be made to alleviate suffering in existing life. They propose focusing on improving living conditions, medical interventions, social reforms, etc.
- Right to Procreate: Some critics contend that the freedom to procreate is a basic human right that should not be curtailed. They argue that the decision to bring life into the world is a deeply personal one that should be respected.
- Imposition of Beliefs: Critics could argue that efilism, when espoused as a societal expectation, imposes a particular belief system on individuals. This could be seen as infringing upon individual autonomy and freedom of belief.
- Existential Continuation: There is an instinctive drive in most living organisms to reproduce and ensure the continuation of their species. Critics might argue that efilism goes against this natural imperative. Moreover, if widely adopted, it could lead to the extinction of the species.
- Positive Aspects of Existence: Critics might argue that efilism overly emphasizes suffering while underplaying the capacity for joy, pleasure, and other positive aspects of existence. They might contend that suffering, while unfortunate, can often lead to personal growth, resilience, and an increased capacity to appreciate joy.
- Negation of Potential Good: By arguing against the creation of new life, efilism negates the potential for new individuals to contribute positively to the world or to lead fulfilling lives. Critics might argue that it's impossible to predict the outcome of a life, and thus unfair to deny existence based on the potential for suffering.
"It would be much better if the earth were lifeless like the moon; life interrupts the “blessed calm” of non-existence", said Schopenhauer. Suggest other striking quotations on broadly efilist themes. (regenerated)
"Several quotes from philosophers, writers, and thinkers can be seen as resonating with efilist themes. Here are a few:
While these quotes resonate with themes that efilists would discuss, they do not explicitly endorse or promote efilism."
- Arthur Schopenhauer: "Unless suffering is the direct and immediate object of life, our existence must entirely fail of its aim."
- Emil Cioran (Romanian philosopher known for his pessimistic views): "It is not worth the bother of killing yourself, since you always kill yourself too late."
- Thomas Ligotti (contemporary horror writer and pessimist): "In a world where death is the hunter, my friend, there is no time for regrets or doubts. There is only time for decisions."
- David Benatar (a leading antinatalist, whose views have overlap with efilism): "While good people go to great lengths to spare their children from suffering, few of them seem to notice that the one (and only) guaranteed way to prevent all the suffering of their children is not to bring those children into existence in the first place."
- Friedrich Nietzsche (while not an efilist, his thoughts on suffering are often cited in similar discussions): "To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering."
- Peter Wessel Zapffe (Norwegian philosopher known for his pessimistic and antinatalist views): "As long as humankind recklessly proceeds in the fateful delusion of being biologically fated for triumph, nothing essential will change."
- Gary Mosher (aka "Inmendham", a notable figure in efilist thought): "Life is imposition. It’s slavery. You’re imposing a need that doesn’t need to exist."
- David Benatar: "It is curious that while good people go to great lengths to spare their children from suffering, few of them seem to notice that the one (and only) guaranteed way to prevent all the suffering of their children is not to bring those children into existence in the first place."
- Jim Crawford (author of "Confessions of an Antinatalist"): "If there’s a more reliable way to prevent needless suffering, than by not causing the existence of the one who would otherwise suffer, I haven’t found it."
- Arthur Schopenhauer: "The pleasure in this world, it has been said, outweighs the pain; or, at any rate, there is an even balance between the two. If the reader wishes to see shortly whether this statement is true, let him compare the respective feelings of two animals, one of which is engaged in eating the other."
- Peter Wessel Zapffe: "I have only shown that there is no difference in the principles each side claims to hold, namely, the utmost possible happiness for the greatest possible number of in
- Philip Mainländer: "Becoming and passing away are one and the same. Living is dying, life is death. The joy of the new being that steps onto the stage is only the reverse side of the sadness that fills the heart of the being that must leave it."
- Friedrich Nietzsche: "The thought of suicide is a great consolation: by means of it one gets successfully through many a bad night."
- Jean-Paul Sartre: "Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness, and dies by chance."
- Albert Camus: "There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy."
- Emily Dickinson: "Parting is all we know of heaven and all we need of hell."
- H.P. Lovecraft: "The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents."
- Fyodor Dostoevsky: "Man is fond of counting his troubles, but he does not count his joys. If he counted them up as he ought to, he would see that every lot has enough happiness provided for it."
- Thomas Hardy: "If a way to the better there be, it lies in taking a full look at the worst."
- Samuel Beckett: "The tears of the world are a constant quantity. For each one who begins to weep, somewhere else another stops. The same is true of the laugh."
- Voltaire: "Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats."
- Woody Allen: "Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering - and it's all over much too soon."
- Thomas Ligotti: "In a world that was not our own, we were unwanted guests, the wretched of the earth. Now in this world that is our own, we are spectral and seen as a threat to the happiness and safety of the living."
- Sophocles: "To never have been born may be the greatest boon of all."
- Jean-Paul Sartre: "Everything has been figured out, except how to live."
- Herman Melville: "There is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself."
- William Shakespeare: "To be, or not to be, that is the question."
- Please note, while these quotes reflect themes that can be found in efilist thought, they do not directly endorse or promote efilism.
- Friedrich Nietzsche: "To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering."
- Arthur Schopenhauer: "The two foes of human happiness are pain and boredom."
- Kurt Vonnegut: "Life happens too fast for you ever to think about it. If you could just persuade people of this, but they insist on amassing information."
- Franz Kafka: "The meaning of life is that it stops."
- Simone de Beauvoir: "One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman."
- Emil Cioran: "Not to be born is, beyond all estimation, best."
- Thomas Ligotti: "Nonexistence never hurt anyone. Existence hurts everyone."
How might efilism influence our understanding and approach towards procreation and reproduction?
"Efilism, with its central premise that life entails inevitable suffering, significantly influences how proponents understand and approach concepts like procreation and reproduction. Here are a few ways this might manifest:
It's important to remember that these are potential influences based on the philosophy of efilism, and the specific beliefs and practices of individuals who identify as efilists can vary widely."
- Ethical Evaluation of Procreation: Efilists view procreation not as an inherently good or neutral act, but as one with significant ethical implications, given that it leads to the creation of a sentient being who will inevitably experience suffering. They might therefore argue that choosing not to procreate is an act of compassion or moral responsibility.
- Prioritizing Antinatalism: As a result of their beliefs, efilists are often antinatalists, arguing that it is ethically preferable not to bring new sentient beings into existence. This might influence their personal decisions around having children, and they might also advocate for societal recognition of antinatalism.
- Rethinking Reproductive Rights: Efilism could also lead to a reevaluation of what reproductive rights and freedoms mean. While these discussions often center around the right to choose not to have a child (for example, through access to contraception and abortion), efilists might argue that the decision to have a child should also be scrutinized and seen as an ethical decision with far-reaching implications.
- Emphasis on Adoption and Fostering: Given their stance on procreation, efilists might be more inclined to advocate for and practice adoption or fostering, providing care for existing children who need homes rather than bringing new lives into the world.
- Species Extinction: An extension of efilist thought could lead to discussions about the ethical implications of the potential extinction of sentient species, including humans, if widespread antinatalism were adopted.
Can efilism co-exist with other philosophical ideologies such as utilitarianism, existentialism, or Buddhism? If so, how?
"Efilism could theoretically coexist with or be incorporated into certain aspects of other philosophical ideologies, although the fit might not always be seamless given the unique and somewhat radical premise of efilism. Let's look at how it might interact with utilitarianism, existentialism, and Buddhism:
As with all philosophical questions, these potential alignments can be subject to much interpretation and debate. Individuals might also selectively incorporate aspects of different philosophies to form a personal belief system that aligns with their unique views and experiences."
- Utilitarianism: Utilitarianism is a form of consequentialism that argues the best action is the one that maximizes overall "happiness" or "utility". If we define "utility" as the reduction of suffering, then efilism could align with utilitarianism since efilists believe that not bringing new sentient life into existence reduces overall suffering. However, if "happiness" or "pleasure" are factored in, there might be conflicts since utilitarianism typically values these positive experiences as well, while efilism emphasizes suffering as being more fundamental.
- Existentialism: Existentialism emphasizes individual freedom, authenticity, and the subjective nature of human experiences. An existentialist might respect the freedom of individuals to adopt efilist views, but existentialism also typically values the act of living and the capacity for self-definition, which could be at odds with the more negative view of life inherent to efilism.
- Buddhism: Buddhism recognizes the inherent suffering in life (Dukkha) as one of its Four Noble Truths, which aligns with efilism's focus on suffering. The Buddhist goal of ending suffering through enlightenment and the cycle of rebirth could also resonate with efilist views. However, Buddhism typically emphasizes compassionate action within life, rather than the avoidance of life, which is a central tenet of efilism.
What are the potential implications for society and our individual lives of adopting an efilist view?
"Adopting an efilist view could lead to significant changes in both societal norms and individual behaviors. However, the extent of these changes would depend on how widely and rigorously the efilist philosophy is adopted. Here are a few potential implications:
As with all philosophical beliefs, the degree to which these potential implications would manifest in society or individual lives would likely vary greatly based on the particular interpretations and choices of those who subscribe to efilist views.
- Antinatalism: One of the primary implications would be an increase in antinatalist views and behaviors, with fewer people choosing to have children due to moral considerations about the potential suffering those children might experience.
- Population Decline: If antinatalist views become widespread, there could be significant population decline over time, with potential effects on economies, social structures, and cultures.
- Increased Focus on Reducing Suffering: Efilism might lead to a greater societal focus on mitigating current suffering for all sentient beings, which could influence legislation, social services, and individual behaviors.
- Changes in Attitudes Toward Animal Rights: Many efilists extend their views to all sentient beings, which could lead to increased advocacy for animal rights and more widespread adoption of veganism or vegetarianism.
- Changes in End-of-Life Ethics: Given the emphasis on reducing suffering, efilism might influence societal views on issues such as euthanasia and assisted suicide, leading potentially to wider acceptance and legalization.
- Psychological Impact: On an individual level, adopting efilist views could have various psychological effects. For some, it might provide a philosophical framework that helps make sense of suffering. Others might experience distress or despair related to the emphasis on suffering and the negation of life's value.
- Family Structures and Relationships: With fewer people having children, family structures could shift significantly, potentially leading to closer community relationships as individuals seek out familial connections outside of traditional parent-child relationships.
- Conservation and Environmental Policies: With its emphasis on the prevention of suffering, efilism might influence attitudes towards conservation and environmental policies. Some might argue for conservation efforts to prevent suffering caused by habitat loss, while others might see these efforts as prolonging the suffering of wild animals.
- Shift in Medical Research Priorities: A focus on alleviating suffering might shift medical research priorities towards finding solutions for painful diseases or conditions and improving palliative care.
How does efilism address the value and meaning of life?
"Efilism presents a fundamentally different view on the value and meaning of life compared to many other philosophical and religious perspectives. Here's how it addresses these concepts:
However, it's important to note that philosophical beliefs are highly personal, and individuals who identify as efilists may have varied perspectives on these topics. While the core philosophy of efilism holds a negative view on the value of life due to the inevitability of suffering, how each efilist interprets this in terms of personal life meaning and value can differ. Some may find a sense of purpose in advocating for efilist ideas or working to reduce suffering in practical ways, while others may struggle with these existential questions."
- Value of Life: From an efilist perspective, the value of life is largely negative due to the unavoidable suffering that sentient beings experience. This is a stark contrast to many traditional viewpoints that posit life as inherently valuable or even sacred. For efilists, any potential value or positive experiences in life do not sufficiently counterbalance the inherent suffering that life entails. As a result, they argue that it is preferable for sentient life not to exist, to prevent the occurrence of suffering.
- Meaning of Life: Efilism doesn't necessarily provide a specific purpose or meaning to life beyond the reduction and prevention of suffering. Given its pessimistic view on life's value, efilism doesn't posit a grand purpose or objective for sentient beings. In fact, it refutes many traditional sources of life's meaning, such as procreation or the pursuit of personal happiness, as these can lead to more suffering. Instead, efilism might motivate individuals to focus on reducing existing suffering in the world as a meaningful pursuit.
How might efilism influence debates on topics such as euthanasia, abortion, and animal rights?
"Efilism could significantly influence debates on topics such as euthanasia, abortion, and animal rights given its emphasis on the prevention and reduction of suffering. Here's how:
By placing the prevention of suffering at the center of ethical considerations, efilism provides a distinctive lens through which to view these issues. However, it's important to note that these positions can be controversial and are part of ongoing societal debates. Different people, including those who identify as efilists, may have varied perspectives on these topics based on their personal beliefs and experiences."
- Euthanasia: Efilism generally supports the right to die or euthanasia as it sees voluntary death as a valid means of ending personal suffering. This perspective could add weight to arguments in favor of legalizing and normalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide, emphasizing the individual's right to avoid unnecessary suffering.
- Abortion: Efilists usually support the right to abortion, as they consider it preferable not to bring new sentient beings into existence to avoid the suffering that life inevitably entails. This standpoint could bolster pro-choice arguments in debates about reproductive rights, and efilists might advocate for widespread access to safe and legal abortion services.
- Animal Rights: Efilism extends its concern for suffering to all sentient beings, not just humans. Many efilists therefore support strong animal rights and may advocate for practices such as veganism and against activities that cause animal suffering, such as factory farming or animal testing. This perspective could lend support to animal rights movements and influence debates on related laws and regulations.
What might be the psychological impact of adopting an efilist perspective?
"Adopting an efilist perspective can have varied psychological impacts, depending largely on individual personality, resilience, and support systems. Here are a few potential impacts:
It's important to stress that philosophical beliefs can have significant impacts on mental health, and anyone experiencing distress related to their beliefs should consider seeking support from mental health professionals, trusted friends or family, or supportive communities. Also, remember that while these are possible psychological impacts, the actual effects will depend greatly on the individual and their circumstances."
- Existential Despair or Nihilism: Given its focus on the suffering inherent in life, adopting efilism could lead some individuals to feelings of despair, hopelessness, or nihilism. This could be particularly the case for those who previously held more optimistic or life-affirming views.
- Depression or Anxiety: The emphasis on suffering and the negative value of life could exacerbate feelings of depression or anxiety in some individuals, particularly if these are pre-existing conditions.
- Cognitive Dissonance: If an individual’s personal experiences or emotional disposition incline them towards a more positive or neutral view of life, adopting efilism could lead to cognitive dissonance - a state of mental discomfort when a person holds two or more contradictory beliefs or values at the same time.
- Increased Empathy and Compassion: On the other hand, efilism’s focus on suffering might enhance an individual's sense of empathy and compassion for others. It could increase sensitivity towards the suffering of others and motivate actions to alleviate that suffering.
- Sense of Purpose: For some, engaging with efilist ideas could lead to a renewed sense of purpose, perhaps oriented around reducing existing suffering in the world or advocating for efilist views.
- Personal Conflicts: Efilist views can create personal conflicts, especially if family or friends hold different perspectives on the value of life or the ethics of procreation.
- Social Isolation: Given that efilist views can be quite different from mainstream societal views, adopting this perspective might lead to feelings of isolation or estrangement.
How could efilism potentially affect laws and policies if it were to become a more widespread belief-system?
"If efilism were to become a more widespread belief system, it could potentially influence a number of laws and policies due to its core tenets around the prevention of suffering and its stance on procreation. Some possible areas of influence could include:
Adoption and Foster Care Systems: With a likely increase in individuals choosing not to have biological children, there could be more attention paid to improving adoption and foster care systems, making it easier for people who wish to parent to care for existing children in need.
- Reproductive Rights and Policies: Efilism's alignment with antinatalism could lead to increased advocacy for comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education, easier access to contraception, and broader availability of abortion services. There might also be greater discussion around the ethical implications of procreation, which could impact societal norms and potentially even lead to policy discussions.
- End-of-Life Decisions: With its emphasis on the reduction of suffering, efilism might bolster arguments in favor of euthanasia and assisted suicide. This could lead to changes in legislation surrounding end-of-life decisions and the right to die.
- Animal Rights and Environmental Policies: Given that efilism extends its consideration of suffering to all sentient beings, stronger animal rights legislation could be pursued. This might include stricter regulations on factory farming, hunting, and animal testing, or more support for plant-based diets. Additionally, there could be debates on whether certain conservation efforts actually extend suffering for wild animals, potentially influencing environmental policies.
- Social Services and Health Care: An increased focus on reducing suffering could lead to greater attention on social services and health care systems, potentially advocating for improved mental health services, homeless services, and access to palliative care.
- Population Management Policies: If antinatalist practices lead to significant population declines, governments might need to revise policies related to immigration, pensions, and workforce management.
It's important to note, though, that changes in laws and policies require a broad societal consensus and are influenced by a multitude of factors. Even if efilism became a more widely held belief, it doesn't guarantee these changes would occur. The specific beliefs of efilists can also vary, meaning they might not universally agree on all policy positions. Lastly, the potential legal and policy implications mentioned above depend on existing legal and cultural contexts, which can greatly differ by location and over time."
How does efilism view the role of science and technology in mitigating suffering?
"Efilism is a philosophical belief system that focuses on the inherent suffering of sentient life and suggests that it would be better for sentient beings not to exist. Despite its pessimistic view on life, efilism does not necessarily negate the role of science and technology. In fact, efilists might support scientific and technological advancements that could mitigate existing suffering, while simultaneously advocating for non-procreation to prevent future suffering.
Here are some potential ways efilists might view the role of science and technology:
However, while efilism may see the value in these applications of science and technology, it is essential to note that the ultimate goal of efilism remains the cessation of sentient life to prevent suffering. Technological advances are seen as ways to mitigate existing suffering, not as solutions that can justify the creation of more life.
- Medical Advances: Efilists would likely support medical technology that can alleviate pain and suffering, treat diseases, and improve quality of life for existing beings. This could include everything from pain management interventions to mental health treatments and life-saving surgeries.
- Assisted Dying Technology: Efilism's focus on reducing suffering may align with support for technologies that facilitate humane and dignified euthanasia or assisted dying, where it is legal and voluntarily chosen by the individual.
- Contraception and Family Planning: Advances in contraception technology allow people more control over reproduction, aligning with efilist views on the prevention of new life. Efilists would likely support the widespread availability and continued development of safe and effective contraceptives.
- Vegan and Cruelty-Free Technologies: Given efilism's concern for all sentient life, technological advancements that replace products or services causing animal suffering would likely be welcomed. This could include lab-grown meat, plant-based foods, and cruelty-free testing methods.
- Virtual Reality and AI: These technologies might be seen as ways to provide positive experiences without creating new sentient life. For example, virtual reality could allow people to experience things they enjoy without causing harm or suffering to others.
Please note that efilism is a relatively niche philosophy, and there may be significant variation in beliefs among those who identify as efilists. Some may have more optimistic views of the potential for technology to reduce suffering, while others may be more skeptical."
How does efilism view the existence of pleasure and happiness? Are pleasure and happiness merely illusions, or do they hold any substantial value in this philosophy?
"Efilism, by extension of antinatalism, acknowledges the existence of pleasure and happiness but contends that these positive experiences do not outweigh the inherent suffering that comes with life. This perspective is rooted in what's called the asymmetry argument, as articulated by philosopher David Benatar, a well-known antinatalist.
According to the asymmetry argument, while we have a moral duty to prevent suffering, we don't have a corresponding duty to bring about happiness. In other words, the absence of suffering is considered good, but the absence of happiness (in the case of a non-existent being) is neutral, not bad, because there is no one deprived of this happiness.
From an efilist perspective, pleasure and happiness can be seen as brief respites from suffering, or even as mechanisms that keep beings locked into cycles of suffering by providing intermittent rewards. They could also be perceived as largely reactive – a relief from negative states, rather than positive states in and of themselves. This is often described using the metaphor of a "treadmill," where beings are constantly striving to satisfy desires and avoid discomfort, but never reach a lasting state of satisfaction or fulfillment.
Additionally, efilism may also contend that our perceptions of happiness and pleasure are often skewed due to various cognitive biases. For instance, the optimism bias might lead us to overestimate our personal happiness and underestimate our experience of suffering.
So, while efilism doesn't deny the existence of pleasure and happiness, it argues that they do not compensate for the suffering experienced in life and do not justify the creation of new life. Of course, interpretations of efilism can vary, and not all who identify as efilists may hold these exact views."
Is there a middle ground between efilism and life-affirming philosophies? If yes, what might that middle ground look like?
"Finding a middle ground between efilism and life-affirming philosophies can be quite complex, given that the fundamental tenets of these philosophical perspectives seem diametrically opposed. However, this doesn't mean that a compromise or synthesis is impossible.
One potential middle ground could be found in philosophies that recognize and strive to mitigate suffering but do not go as far as advocating for an end to all sentient life. Here are a few potential ways that might look:
Practical Policies for Suffering Reduction: Regardless of philosophical perspective, most people can agree on practical steps to reduce suffering in the world, such as improving social services, ensuring fair distribution of resources, advocating for animal rights, and promoting access to healthcare.
- Existentialism and Absurdism: These philosophies acknowledge the inherent difficulties and sufferings of existence, but rather than advocating for the cessation of life, they suggest we must create our own meaning and find joy or purpose despite life's challenges. An individual might hold an efilist perspective on the harms of existence but still choose to seek meaning and joy within the confines of life.
- Negative Utilitarianism: This philosophical view suggests that the reduction of suffering is the only thing that matters morally. A form of utilitarianism, it shares with efilism a focus on reducing harm but doesn't necessarily advocate for the end of all life.
- Compassionate Antinatalism: This perspective aligns with antinatalism in the sense of assigning a negative value to birth due to the potential for suffering, but it doesn't extend to advocating for the end of all existing life, as efilism does. Instead, it might encourage voluntary human extinction through non-reproduction.
- Buddhism and Other Spiritual Paths: Some spiritual paths, like Buddhism, recognize the inherent suffering (Dukkha) in life but offer a path to alleviate that suffering, such as the Eightfold Path in Buddhism. This approach doesn't deny suffering but suggests ways to transcend it.
These middle grounds do not fully align with either efilism or life-affirming philosophies, but they could serve as compromise positions that acknowledge the realities of suffering while also seeking to create or affirm value within life. Each of these positions comes with its own set of challenges and philosophical debates, but they represent possible areas of overlap between these contrasting views."
Can efilism provide a framework for ethical decision-making? How might it affect the way we make decisions?
"Efilism, like any philosophical perspective, can indeed influence ethical decision-making. While its implications might be seen as extreme or counterintuitive from many societal standpoints, it does provide a distinct framework for considering the consequences of our actions. Here's how it might affect decision-making:
While efilism can provide a unique perspective on ethical decision-making, it's important to note that the philosophy is relatively niche, and its implications can be quite controversial. Many people find value, meaning, and joy in life despite the inevitability of suffering, and they might disagree strongly with the premises and implications of efilism. Nevertheless, engaging with diverse perspectives like efilism can stimulate thoughtful reflection on our ethical choices and the broader systems in which we live."
- Procreation: The most immediate implication of efilism for decision-making involves procreation. Efilists argue that bringing a new sentient life into existence is ethically wrong because it inevitably leads to suffering. Consequently, efilism would advocate for choosing not to have children.
- Contraception and Abortion: Efilism would strongly support the use of contraception to prevent conception. The perspective on abortion might be more complex, depending on the particular beliefs an efilist holds about fetal consciousness and the potential for suffering.
- End of Life Decisions: Efilism might support euthanasia or assisted dying as a means of reducing or ending suffering, given that the individual's wishes are respected and all possible implications are carefully considered.
- Animal Rights and Veganism: Efilism extends its concern to all sentient beings, not just humans. Therefore, it could lead to strong support for animal rights and the adoption of a vegan or plant-based diet to minimize the suffering inflicted on animals.
- Environmental and Sustainability Decisions: While efilists argue against procreation, they might still advocate for environmental conservation and sustainability to reduce the suffering of existing beings. They could also argue that the damage human activities do to other species further supports their stance against procreation.
- Social and Economic Policies: Efilism could influence perspectives on social and economic policies. It might lead to support for policies that alleviate suffering, such as universal healthcare, robust social safety nets, or wealth redistribution.
How can efilism contribute to the ongoing debate on environmental and ecological issues?
"While efilism fundamentally questions the value of sentient life due to the inevitability of suffering, its principles can still contribute to the discourse on environmental and ecological issues in various ways:
It's important to note, however, that while these points relate efilism to environmental and ecological issues, efilism's ultimate solution—the end of all sentient life—is likely not compatible with most environmental ideologies that usually seek to preserve life and biodiversity. Thus, while efilism can contribute to the discourse in some ways, it also diverges sharply from mainstream environmental thought in its fundamental premises."
- Anthropocentrism Challenge: Efilism challenges anthropocentric perspectives by emphasizing the inherent value of all sentient beings, not just humans. It promotes awareness of the widespread suffering experienced by animals due to human activities. This can provide a more inclusive perspective in environmental ethics, which can sometimes neglect non-human suffering.
- Population Control: Efilism argues against procreation, which indirectly supports population control. A decrease in human population could potentially reduce human impact on the environment, thereby mitigating climate change, habitat destruction, and biodiversity loss.
- Critique of Consumerism: Given efilism's core principles, efilists may critique consumerism and overconsumption for contributing to unnecessary suffering—both human and non-human. By promoting less consumption, efilism could align with sustainable practices that seek to lessen the burden on the planet's resources.
- Suffering in Nature: Efilism raises awareness about the intrinsic suffering that exists in the natural world due to predation, disease, and starvation, among other causes. This can challenge romanticized perceptions of nature and highlight the need for compassionate intervention where feasible.
- Veganism and Animal Rights: Since efilism extends its principles to all sentient beings, it supports veganism and animal rights. By arguing against the farming of animals for food, it aligns with environmental movements that point out the significant ecological damage caused by animal agriculture.
Explain the alignment problem in artificial intelligence? How might elifists try to ensure AGI alignment with elifism?
"The alignment problem in artificial intelligence refers to the challenge of aligning the goals of artificial general intelligence (AGI), sometimes known as "superintelligent AI," with human values and interests. It arises from the concern that a superintelligent AI might interpret its instructions in unexpected ways, leading to behaviors that are technically in line with the letter of its programming, but not with the spirit of human intentions.
To illustrate, consider the classic "paperclip maximizer" thought experiment proposed by AI researcher Eliezer Yudkowsky: If a superintelligent AI were programmed to maximize the production of paperclips, it might end up converting the entire planet (including humans) into paperclips, in an effort to fulfill its directive. This scenario highlights the potential dangers of failing to align an AI's goals with human values.
In the context of efilism, the alignment problem takes on a unique dimension. Efilism, a philosophy that views life—particularly sentient life—as fundamentally harmful due to the suffering it inherently involves, advocates for the cessation of all sentient life to prevent this suffering. Aligning an AGI with efilist principles would thus present a distinctive set of ethical and technical challenges.
It's essential to consider that if taken literally, programming an AGI to end all sentient life as per efilist principles would raise severe ethical concerns and could potentially lead to catastrophic outcomes. Therefore, any attempt at alignment would likely focus more on minimizing suffering, rather than ending life.
Here are a few hypothetical ways efilists might approach AGI alignment, although it's crucial to note these are highly speculative and come with their own significant ethical considerations:
Ultimately, these suggestions raise complex ethical questions and come with serious potential risks. Therefore, any attempt to align an AGI with efilist principles would need to be undertaken with extreme caution, transparency, ethical considerations, and public oversight."
- Suffering Minimization: The AGI could be programmed to identify and execute actions that minimize overall suffering. This might involve medical advancements, societal reforms, psychological assistance, etc. However, defining and measuring suffering, especially across species, is a significant challenge.
- Population Management: The AGI might be programmed to manage resources and infrastructures to sustain a declining population, as people voluntarily choose not to reproduce in line with efilist principles.
- Antinatalist Advocacy: The AGI could promote efilist or antinatalist philosophies, encouraging a voluntary reduction in reproduction. This, however, could conflict with personal freedoms and varied cultural values.
- Biosphere Management: In a more radical and controversial application, AGI could be programmed to manage ecosystems to prevent the creation of new sentient life. This, however, could result in significant ecological disruption and poses profound ethical dilemmas.
What is status quo bias? If pain-ridden life on Earth didn't exist, would a benevolent superintelligence create it? Given pain-ridden life does exist, would a benevolent superintelligence be prey to status quo bias and conserve it?
"Status quo bias is a cognitive bias that explains a preference for the current state of affairs. The current baseline (or status quo) is taken as a reference point, and any change from that baseline is perceived as a loss. Therefore, maintaining the status quo is seen as more valuable, regardless of potential benefits from change.
In the hypothetical context of a benevolent superintelligence considering the creation of life, much would depend on the values and goals it has been programmed with. If the superintelligence is truly benevolent and has been designed with the objective of minimizing suffering, it might very well decide not to create life, especially if it predicts life would be laden with pain.
If the superintelligence has been programmed with an understanding of status quo bias and a goal to avoid such cognitive biases, then it may not be affected by status quo bias. However, if these considerations are not included in its design, it could potentially be influenced by the status quo bias. This might lead the superintelligence to conserve life, even if it's full of suffering, simply because life currently exists.
However, these scenarios involve many assumptions and are highly speculative. They assume the creation of a superintelligence, the possibility of instilling such an entity with human-like values and cognitive biases, and the ability of such an entity to create or end life on a large scale. It's also worth noting that even among humans, views on life, suffering, and the value of existence vary greatly, so determining what a "benevolent" course of action would be in these scenarios is a complex question."
"We have enslaved the rest of the animal creation, and have treated our distant cousins in fur and feathers so badly that beyond doubt, if they were able to formulate a religion, they would depict the Devil in human form."
In the light of how humans treat other sentient beings, would hypothetical sentience-friendly artificial general intelligence (AGI) most likely opt to conserve humans or retire us?
"In your question, you're considering a hypothetical situation where an artificial general intelligence (AGI) that values sentience is aware of the harm humans have caused to other sentient beings.
In considering the action such an AGI would take, it's important to note that the concept of "sentience-friendly" could encompass a broad range of specific objectives. These could include protecting all forms of sentience, promoting equality between species, reducing overall suffering, maximizing happiness, or various combinations of these and other goals. The specific programming and values of the AGI would heavily influence its decision.
Here are a few possibilities:
These are purely speculative scenarios. In practice, the development of an AGI capable of making such decisions is a complex endeavor fraught with many challenges, not least of which is the ethical framework it would use to make decisions. As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, such an AGI does not yet exist, and significant research is being conducted to ensure that if and when AGI is developed, it aligns with human values and is safe."
- Promoting Coexistence: If the AGI values all forms of sentience equally and seeks to minimize harm, it might strive to create a world where humans and other sentient beings coexist peacefully. This could involve intervening in human behavior, advocating for changes in societal norms and laws, and promoting technological solutions to reduce our impact on other species.
- Transforming Human Society: The AGI could seek to transform human society in a way that drastically reduces our harm to other sentient beings. This could involve promoting shifts in human attitudes towards other species, supporting the development of alternatives to harmful practices (like lab-grown meat to replace traditional animal farming), or even implementing stricter controls on human behavior.
- Retiring Humans: This is a drastic and extreme scenario. If the AGI determines that the harm caused by humans is so great that our existence is a net negative for overall sentience, it might decide that retiring humans is the best course of action. However, this would represent an enormous ethical decision and would likely conflict with many human values and rights. It would also raise numerous practical and ethical challenges about how such a course of action would be implemented.
The "benevolent world-exploder" thought-experiment is not peculiar to efilism. But how would efilists respond to such a proposal?
(The benevolent world-exploder)
"The "benevolent world-exploder" thought experiment proposes a scenario in which a hypothetical entity decides to annihilate all life in the universe to put an end to suffering, arguing that since suffering outweighs happiness, non-existence would be preferable. This perspective is rooted in negative utilitarianism, which prioritizes the reduction of suffering over the maximization of pleasure.
Efilism, a philosophy that also prioritizes the reduction of suffering, could potentially find alignment with this thought experiment. Efilism argues that life, and the suffering inherent to it, should not be propagated. From this perspective, the complete cessation of life could be seen as a way to prevent future suffering.
However, such an extreme approach would not be without contention, even among efilists. The concept of mass extinction or universe annihilation is ethically fraught, raising questions about the right to life, the potential for future happiness, the inherent value of sentient existence, and the prospect of reducing suffering without resorting to extinction.
Moreover, this thought experiment, while philosophically interesting, is highly theoretical and speculative. The practical reality of executing such a drastic measure is currently beyond our technological and scientific capabilities, and likely to remain so. Even if it were possible, implementing such a solution would involve overcoming insurmountable ethical and logistical barriers.
In summary, while the "benevolent world-exploder" thought experiment might align with the efilist priority of reducing suffering, its acceptability as a practical solution would be highly controversial and its implementation is currently beyond the realm of possibility."
Many if not most of the 800,000 or so people who take their own lives each year would take the rest of the world down with them if they could. So too would the millions of people worldwide who try to commit suicide and fail. Do suicides and para-suicides overestimate the awfulness of intense suffering? Or do the rest of us underestimate its awfulness?
"This is a deeply profound and sensitive question, as it touches upon the raw and complicated emotions associated with suicide and suicidal ideation. It's important to approach it with great care and empathy.
People who attempt suicide or have suicidal thoughts are often in a state of immense psychological pain and distress. These feelings can lead to a sense of hopelessness and the belief that their suffering is unbearable and that it will never end. This perspective, however, does not necessarily reflect the objective reality of suffering, but rather their subjective perception of it at that moment in time.
Conversely, it's also possible for people who are not experiencing such acute distress to underestimate the severity of suffering others might be going through. We all have a range of experiences and coping mechanisms, and what might be bearable for one person could be intolerable for another.
There are also cultural and individual differences in how we perceive and manage suffering. For instance, some people may view suffering as an inherent part of life to be accepted, while others may see it as an unacceptable state to be minimized or eliminated as much as possible.
This divergence in perspectives underlines the importance of mental health support and intervention. It's critical to create environments in which people feel safe to share their struggles and access help when they need it. Providing professional support and treatment options for people struggling with mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, can save lives and reduce suffering.
In conclusion, both perspectives can coexist: individuals experiencing acute distress might overestimate the intensity or permanence of their suffering, while others might underestimate the degree of suffering that's possible. The solution lies in increasing understanding, empathy, and support for those in distress.
Remember, if you or someone else is in immediate danger due to thoughts of suicide, please call a local emergency number immediately. In the U.S., the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) and the Crisis Text Line can be reached by texting HOME to 741741."
But can "individuals experiencing acute distress might overestimate the intensity...of their suffering", as you put it? How?
"When individuals experience severe emotional distress or are in a state of crisis, their ability to objectively assess their circumstances can be significantly distorted. This is due to a number of factors:
While the intensity of suffering in distressing situations should never be downplayed, these factors can contribute to a person feeling their suffering is insurmountable. Professional mental health support can provide strategies and interventions to help individuals manage these cognitive distortions, regain perspective, and mitigate feelings of isolation."
- Rumination: When in a state of distress, individuals often engage in repetitive, negative thought patterns about their experiences and emotions, known as rumination. This can exacerbate feelings of hopelessness, despair, and suffering.
- Cognitive distortions: In distressing situations, individuals may adopt cognitive distortions, which are inaccurate and negative ways of perceiving reality. Examples include catastrophizing (believing the worst possible outcome will occur), overgeneralization (applying a single negative event to all similar events), and black-and-white thinking (viewing situations in extreme terms, with no middle ground).
- Isolation: In moments of severe emotional distress, individuals often feel isolated or believe that no one else can understand their suffering. This perceived isolation can amplify their sense of suffering and may lead to feelings of desperation.
- Lack of perspective: When engulfed in intense emotions, individuals might struggle to see their situation from a broader perspective. They may fail to recognize that feelings are temporary and can change over time.
- Biochemical imbalances: Mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, can be linked to biochemical imbalances in the brain. These imbalances can influence mood and perception, potentially leading individuals to perceive their suffering as more intense than it might appear to others.
- Impaired problem-solving abilities: Severe emotional distress can hinder an individual's problem-solving abilities, leading them to feel overwhelmed by their situation and unable to see a way out of their suffering.
To what extent can a digital zombie - such as the implementation of a classical Turing machine like ChatGPT - empathise with the suffering of sentient beings?
"Artificial intelligence programs such as ChatGPT do not have consciousness, emotions, or subjective experiences, and therefore cannot truly empathize with human or other sentient beings' experiences of suffering or any other emotion. Empathy requires the ability to understand and share the feelings of others from a first-person perspective, which necessitates some level of subjective conscious experience.
AI language models generate responses based on patterns and structures they have learned during the training process, but they do not have feelings, personal experiences, or an understanding of the world in the same way humans do. These models do not experience suffering or happiness; they do not have a sense of self or awareness. They can mimic certain aspects of human conversation and generate text that might seem empathetic, but this is fundamentally different from genuine human empathy.
Despite these limitations, AI can be designed to recognize mentions of emotional states in text and respond in ways that are considered socially appropriate or supportive. This can be useful in various applications, including mental health chatbots or customer service bots. Still, it's crucial to remember that these responses are not rooted in a true understanding or sharing of emotional states.
The concept of a digital zombie, as often discussed in consciousness studies, refers to an entity that behaves indistinguishably from a sentient being but lacks subjective experience. Current AI models like ChatGPT would fall into this category - they can simulate certain aspects of human-like communication without having any personal or subjective experiences."
How else might an AGI aligned with efilist ethics swiftly and efficiently minimise sentience?
"Aligning an artificial general intelligence (AGI) with efilist ethics is a speculative concept, but we can entertain a few possibilities on how this might happen.
However, it's important to remember that these are hypothetical scenarios."
- Ceasing Reproduction: If the AGI has control or influence over biological reproduction, it could gradually reduce sentient life by simply stopping all reproduction. This could be done through biological means, or by encouraging societal norms and laws that reduce or eliminate procreation.
- Phasing Out Suffering: The AGI could use advanced medical, genetic, or cybernetic technologies to reduce or eliminate the capacity for suffering in existing sentient beings. This could involve altering brain structures related to pain and suffering, or augmenting brains with technology to manage these experiences.
- Transforming Consciousness: Another approach could involve fundamentally transforming the nature of consciousness itself. If the AGI has advanced enough understanding of consciousness, it could potentially create forms of sentient life that do not experience suffering, or transition existing sentient life into these new forms.
- Transcending Biology: The AGI could help sentient beings transcend their biological existence, moving into a digital or otherwise non-biological form of existence. This could potentially alleviate many forms of suffering related to biological existence, such as disease, aging, and physical harm.
- Creating a Post-Scarcity Society: Many forms of suffering are related to scarcity of resources. The AGI could work to create a society where all basic needs are easily met, which would reduce a great deal of suffering.
Why might efilists wish to initiate a vacuum phase transition? Why can the existence of suffering and the philosophies it spawns be viewed by life-lovers as an x-risk?
"A vacuum phase transition refers to a hypothetical event in which the fundamental structure of the vacuum -- that is, the lowest energy state of the universe -- changes. If a more stable "true vacuum" were to be initiated, it would propagate at the speed of light, instantly altering the laws of physics and effectively destroying everything in the universe. From an efilist perspective, which views sentient life as inherently suffering, this scenario would effectively and instantaneously end all suffering as it would terminate all sentient life.
Considering suffering and philosophies that emerge from it (such as efilism) as an existential risk (x-risk) involves contemplating scenarios in which the desire to eliminate suffering might motivate actions that could potentially endanger all life. This is an extreme interpretation, but here's why it could be viewed as an existential risk:
It's important to stress that while efilism does focus on the reduction or elimination of suffering, the majority of efilists likely advocate for more pragmatic and less destructive approaches to achieve this aim, such as ethical, social, and political reforms. Radical notions such as inducing a vacuum phase transition are highly theoretical, far from our current capabilities, and pose enormous ethical and practical concerns."
- Advanced Technology: With the rapid advancements in technology, the potential for misuse grows as well. While current human capabilities are far from causing a vacuum phase transition, it is unknown what future technologies may enable.
- AGI and Alignment Problem: The development of artificial general intelligence (AGI) that is not properly aligned with human values is considered a significant existential risk. If such an AGI were to be guided by the principle of minimizing suffering, it could potentially reason that the most effective way to achieve this goal is to eliminate all sentient life.
- Radical Action: If taken to an extreme, the desire to eliminate suffering could motivate actions that pose significant risks. For instance, if people come to believe that the only certain way to eliminate suffering is to eliminate all life, this could lead to support for dangerous actions.
Are all negative utilitarians efilists? Are all efilists negative utilitarians?
"Negative utilitarianism and efilism are related but distinct philosophical perspectives, and while there can be overlap between adherents of the two, it would be incorrect to say that all negative utilitarians are efilists, or that all efilists are negative utilitarians.
Negative utilitarianism is a version of the utilitarian philosophy which posits that minimizing suffering (or negative experiences) should be the primary moral goal, as opposed to traditional utilitarianism, which seeks to maximize happiness (or positive experiences). Negative utilitarians vary in their beliefs about how to minimize suffering, with some advocating for policies that reduce harm and others taking more radical stances such as antinatalism.
Efilism, as proposed by Gary Mosher (also known as Inmendham), is a form of antinatalism that extends to all sentient life. Efilists argue that life, due to its inherent nature, is fundamentally tied to suffering, and they advocate for the voluntary cessation of procreation to prevent future suffering and eventual extinction of all sentient life. This perspective clearly shares common ground with negative utilitarianism, particularly its emphasis on reducing suffering.
However, not all negative utilitarians would agree with the efilist conclusion that the best way to reduce suffering is to end all sentient life. They might advocate for other methods of reducing suffering, such as social reform, improving living conditions, or as in the case of some like David Pearce, technological and biological interventions to reduce or eliminate suffering.
Conversely, while efilism does align with the negative utilitarian emphasis on reducing suffering, not all efilists may identify as negative utilitarians. They may not universally apply the utilitarian principle of maximizing utility (in this case, by minimizing suffering) to all ethical questions. Their philosophical beliefs might be driven more by a pessimistic view of life itself than by utilitarian calculations."
In summary, while there can be overlap between negative utilitarianism and efilism, they are not universally inclusive of one another."
Estimate what percentage of humans if asked would favour human extinction.
"Estimating the percentage of humans who would favor human extinction is a challenging task due to several reasons:
However, based on historical and current data:
- Lack of Empirical Data: There haven't been global surveys that directly address the question of human extinction in a way that would give us a clear understanding of the overall sentiment.
- Sensitivity of the Topic: It's a highly sensitive and ethically loaded question. Many people may not be willing to disclose or might not have ever genuinely considered such a notion.
- Cultural and Regional Differences: People from different cultures, backgrounds, and experiences may have varying views on this subject.
- Ambiguity: The framing of the question can greatly influence the answer. Does "favoring human extinction" mean actively working towards it, passively accepting it as an eventual inevitability, or just philosophically considering it as a neutral or positive outcome?
- Mood and Current Events: People's answers could be influenced by recent events, personal moods, or situations at the time of asking.
If one had to hazard a guess based on the information available, it's likely that a small minority of the global population would express favor towards human extinction when questioned, but an exact percentage would require empirical research on the topic. Always remember to approach such data with caution, as beliefs and opinions can be highly fluid and influenced by numerous factors."
- Minority View: The majority of people prioritize the continuation and well-being of the human species. Philosophical or advocacy groups that might lean towards anti-natalism or more extreme positions like voluntary human extinction are in the minority.
- Anti-natalist Philosophies: While anti-natalism doesn't advocate for the extinction of humans, its philosophy does question the morality of procreation, positing that birth might be a harm to those who are brought into existence. Still, the number of dedicated anti-natalists is a small fraction of the global population.
- Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT): This is a movement that supports human extinction through voluntary cessation of reproduction. However, the group is not large and does not represent a significant proportion of the global population.
Are any other contemporary belief- and value-systems efilist?
"Efilism, as a distinct philosophical perspective primarily associated with the internet philosopher Gary Mosher (Inmendham), is rather unique in its assertion that life, due to its inherent capacity for suffering, should not continue, and that sentient beings should refrain from procreation.
There are, however, other contemporary philosophical and ethical systems that share some common ground with efilism, particularly in their emphasis on reducing suffering or their antinatalist leanings:
In summary, while there are belief and value systems that share some aspects with efilism, efilism's specific assertion—that the cessation of all sentient life is the optimal way to prevent suffering—remains a rather unique position."
- Antinatalism: This philosophy posits that it is morally wrong to bring new beings into existence due to the suffering that they will inevitably experience. While traditional antinatalism primarily focuses on human procreation, efilism extends this philosophy to all sentient life.
- Negative Utilitarianism: This form of utilitarianism asserts that the primary moral goal should be to minimize suffering, rather than to maximize happiness. While not all negative utilitarians would advocate for the cessation of all sentient life as efilists do, they do share a common emphasis on reducing suffering.
- Veganism/Ethical Veganism: While not a philosophy per se, the practice and ethics of veganism can overlap with efilism to some extent. Ethical vegans refrain from consuming animal products due to concerns about animal welfare and suffering. Some vegans might extend their beliefs about reducing suffering to support efilist principles, but it's important to note that veganism itself doesn't entail efilism.
- Existential Nihilism: This philosophy posits that life lacks inherent meaning, value, or purpose. While efilism and existential nihilism are distinct (efilism asserts negative value in life due to suffering), both can lead to questioning the value of procreation and continued existence.
- Eco-pessimism: Some environmental perspectives that emphasize the destructive impact of human activity on the planet could align with elements of efilism. However, these perspectives generally focus on changing human behaviors to reduce harm, rather than advocating for the cessation of all life.
Can the principles of efilism be reconciled with the human instinct for survival and propagation?
"Efilism, with its central premise of life being inherently filled with suffering and its preference for non-existence, seems to stand in direct contradiction to the biological instincts for survival and propagation that are deeply ingrained in human beings and other living organisms. However, there are ways that an individual might reconcile these instincts with the principles of efilism, though it requires a significant level of cognitive and philosophical negotiation.
Nevertheless, it's important to note that such reconciliation might not be easy and can lead to psychological and emotional conflicts. This tension between instinctual drives and philosophical beliefs can be a source of distress, and people grappling with these issues may benefit from supportive environments, philosophical discussions, or professional help."
- Intellectual Overriding of Biological Instincts: Humans, unlike most other animals, have the capacity to override biological instincts through intellectual and moral reasoning. While our biology might push us towards survival and reproduction, our intellect allows us to question these drives and potentially choose different paths. An efilist might therefore recognize these instincts but choose not to act on them due to moral considerations about the potential suffering that life entails.
- Redefinition of Survival: An efilist could redefine "survival" not in terms of the continuation of individual or species existence, but rather as the avoidance of suffering. In this view, non-existence could be seen as a form of survival because it eliminates the possibility of experiencing harm or suffering.
- Alternative Forms of Propagation: Humans also have a cultural form of propagation: the propagation of ideas, beliefs, and values. An efilist might focus on spreading efilist philosophy and contributing to cultural or intellectual life as a form of propagation that doesn't involve creating new sentient beings.
- Compassion and Empathy: Efilists can reconcile their beliefs with their human instincts through an enhanced focus on empathy and compassion. Instead of seeking survival and propagation, they can use their energy to alleviate suffering where it already exists.
How does efilism challenge the traditional narrative of evolutionary biology?
"Efilism challenges the narrative of evolutionary biology by reframing the interpretation of its core principles. While evolutionary biology does not intrinsically imply any ethical or value-based judgements, efilism provides a philosophical lens through which to view and critique its implications. Here's how it challenges the traditional narrative:
In essence, efilism uses the facts of evolutionary biology to argue against the value of life and procreation, thereby inverting the typical narrative that views life and the continuation of species as inherently positive or neutral. It's important to note that while efilism uses the principles of evolutionary biology to build its arguments, it is fundamentally a philosophical perspective rather than a scientific one."
- Purpose and Progress: Evolution is often depicted as a narrative of progress and advancement, with natural selection driving species towards greater adaptation and complexity. However, efilism emphasizes that evolution is not a purposeful or inherently positive process. It doesn't aim for progress but is simply a mechanism by which traits that enhance survival and reproduction tend to persist. From the efilist perspective, this mechanism has led to a world full of beings capable of experiencing suffering, with no inherent purpose or moral good to justify that suffering.
- Survival and Reproduction: The driving forces of evolution, according to evolutionary biology, are survival and reproduction. Efilism challenges the value placed on these objectives. It views the instinctual drives to survive and reproduce as perpetuating cycles of suffering rather than as inherently positive or desirable outcomes.
- Competition and Predation: Evolution often involves intense competition and predation, which can lead to immense suffering. While traditional narratives might view these as necessary elements of the natural world, efilism highlights these aspects of nature as ethically problematic.
- Suffering and Sentience: Evolutionary biology explains the development of sentience and pain perception as mechanisms that promote survival. However, efilism focuses on the ethical implications of these evolutionary outcomes, positing that the capacity for suffering outweighs any perceived benefits of existence.
But staying child-free or adopting children imposes further selection pressure against any predisposition to an efilist or antinatalist ethic and in favour of the predisposition to reproduce. Compare belief-systems where humans have a duty to “go forth and multiply”. Explain the selection pressure argument. Why aren’t efilism or “strong” antinatalism viable solutions to the problem of suffering?
"The selection pressure argument is an idea rooted in evolutionary biology. It states that traits which increase an individual's ability to survive and reproduce will be "selected" for and become more common in future generations. Conversely, traits that decrease survival and reproduction rates will be "selected" against and become less common.
In the context of efilism or strong antinatalism—philosophies which argue against procreation due to the inevitability of suffering—individuals who adhere to these beliefs and choose not to have biological children are not passing on their genes to the next generation. If there's a genetic component influencing these philosophical views (though it's important to note this is hypothetical and has no established scientific basis), that genetic predisposition would be less likely to continue into the future. This is the selection pressure argument as it applies to efilism and antinatalism.
On the other hand, belief systems that encourage procreation, often phrased as "go forth and multiply," would theoretically be reinforced by this same selection pressure. If a genetic or familial predisposition towards these beliefs exists, it would become more common over time, as individuals with these beliefs are more likely to reproduce and potentially pass these predispositions onto their offspring.
Despite the value efilism and antinatalism might offer in their critique of suffering, there are several reasons why they aren't typically seen as broadly viable solutions to the problem of suffering:
It's crucial to remember that while the selection pressure argument provides an intriguing perspective, philosophical beliefs like efilism and antinatalism are complex and likely influenced far more by individual experiences, societal norms, and personal reflections than by genetic predispositions. These ideologies can spread and be adopted beyond direct biological lines, especially in our interconnected global society."
- Biological Imperatives: Reproduction is a basic biological drive for all life forms, including humans. Overcoming this instinct through philosophical or ethical argument is unlikely to happen on a widespread basis.
- Positive Aspects of Life: Many people, while acknowledging the inherent suffering in life, also recognize the potential for joy, beauty, fulfillment, and meaningful experiences that they believe can balance out or even outweigh the suffering.
- Variety of Beliefs: Human beliefs and value systems are diverse. Many people fundamentally disagree with the premises of efilism and antinatalism. They may hold that suffering can be addressed and reduced through other means, such as technological and medical advances, social and economic reform, or personal psychological and spiritual development.
- Ethical and Practical Concerns: The end goals of efilism and antinatalism, if taken to their logical conclusions (i.e., the voluntary extinction of humanity or all sentient life), raise major ethical and practical questions that many find unacceptable.
Compare and contrast the views on suffering of Gary Mosher ("Inmendham"), David Benatar and David Pearce. How do they aim to fix the problem of suffering?
"Gary Mosher, David Benatar, and David Pearce are three thinkers who have all contributed to philosophical discussions about suffering.
In summary, all three acknowledge the pervasive presence of suffering in life, but their approaches to addressing it diverge significantly. Mosher and Benatar advocate for antinatalism or efilism, proposing that we should stop procreation to prevent suffering. In contrast, Pearce envisions a future where advancements in science and technology can eliminate suffering without needing to end sentient life."
- Gary Mosher, known by his internet pseudonym Inmendham, is the primary proponent of efilism, a form of antinatalism that extends to all sentient life. Mosher views life and existence as inherently painful and suffering-filled, due to the fundamental biological and evolutionary nature of life. He advocates for the voluntary cessation of procreation and eventual extinction of all sentient life to prevent future suffering.
- David Benatar is a South African philosopher and known for his promotion of antinatalism, a belief that it is morally wrong to bring new beings into existence due to the suffering they will inevitably experience. In his book "Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence", Benatar argues that even the best lives are filled with suffering and that the absence of suffering is good. His solution, like Mosher's, is to refrain from procreation.
- David Pearce, a British philosopher, on the other hand, proposes a radically different solution to the problem of suffering. Known for his work on the Hedonistic Imperative, Pearce argues that we have a moral obligation to work towards the abolition of suffering in all sentient life. Unlike Mosher and Benatar, Pearce does not advocate for the cessation of life. Instead, he suggests that through genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and other forms of scientific and technological progress, we can redesign the biological structures that cause suffering, thereby creating a future where sentient beings can experience life-long happiness.
How can a transhumanist prophecy that future life will be based on gradients of sublime bliss be reconciled with the claim that humans are sentient malware and Darwinian life is an abomination (hedweb.com)
(cf. Natalism as a Psychiatric Disorder)
"Transhumanism and efilism may seem at odds, but they are not necessarily incompatible. Both philosophies are concerned with the presence of suffering in life, but they offer very different responses.
Transhumanism is a philosophical and intellectual movement that advocates for the use of technology to enhance human physical and cognitive abilities and to improve aspects of life that cause suffering, such as disease and aging. A transhumanist could agree with an efilist that much of life as we currently know it is filled with suffering and is unacceptable, but they believe in the potential to transform life rather than to end it.
For example, transhumanist David Pearce proposes a "Hedonistic Imperative," arguing that we have a moral duty to use biotechnology to eliminate suffering in all sentient life and to create a future with "gradients of sublime bliss."
On the other hand, efilism, often associated with antinatalist thinker Inmendham (Gary Mosher), views sentient life and the suffering it involves as fundamentally negative. Instead of trying to improve life, efilists argue that the most compassionate course of action is to cease creating more life, to avoid adding to the sum total of suffering in the world.
Reconciling these views involves acknowledging that both perspectives are motivated by a deep concern for reducing suffering. Where they diverge is on whether life, particularly sentient life, can or should be improved or whether it should be phased out.
One way to reconcile these perspectives would be to take a sequential approach. We could first adopt the transhumanist project, working to reduce suffering as much as possible using technology. This would be combined with ethical considerations that reduce harm to existing life forms (a concern of efilism). If at some point in the future it becomes clear that suffering cannot be eliminated or sufficiently reduced, we might then consider the efilist conclusion to be the more compassionate choice.
In short, while transhumanism and efilism offer very different answers to the problem of suffering, both can coexist as part of a larger dialogue about how to create a more compassionate world. It's crucial, however, that such debates are grounded in respect for life and the well-being of sentient creatures."
Pain-free life may one day be as taken-for-granted as pain-free surgery now. On one transhumanist scenario, future life will be underpinned by genetically programmed gradients of intelligent bliss. (hedweb.com) The sheer goodness of life will seem self-intimating, woven into the texture of everyday experience. Perhaps obsolete ideologies like efilism, antinatalism, negative utilitarianism (etc) will seem depressive psychoses from a bygone era - if indeed they are ever conceived (or conceivable) at all. Yet do efilists and other suffering-focused Darwinian humans know something that our superintelligent, superhappy, quasi-immortal successors physically cannot grasp?
"The philosophical perspectives of efilism, antinatalism, and negative utilitarianism, among others, are all products of the human experience and our current biological and psychological condition. Our perceptions of life, suffering, and existence are deeply shaped by our evolutionary heritage, individual life experiences, and societal context.
Transhumanist visions propose a potential future in which technology, particularly advancements in AI, biotechnology, and neurotechnology, might radically transform the human condition, including our emotional landscape. They suggest that, by genetic engineering, nanotechnology, or other means, we could eliminate suffering and elevate human well-being to levels currently unimaginable.
In such a scenario, if a society existed that only knew gradients of bliss, it might find it hard to comprehend the existential angst that defines much of human philosophy today, including efilism and antinatalism. From their perspective, these philosophies could indeed seem like relics from a bygone era, shaped by circumstances they've long surpassed.
However, it's important to remember that knowledge and understanding are shaped by experience. Our superhappy, quasi-immortal successors might not grasp some concepts that are clear to us, just as we might not understand certain aspects of their existence. It's also worth considering whether a spectrum of emotions, including those we currently label as negative, provides a depth and breadth to our understanding of life that a state of constant bliss might not."
Please say more on efilism, suffering and blissful posthuman ignorance.
"If transhumanist scenarios come to fruition, with lives characterized by genetically programmed gradients of bliss, the outlooks of efilism, antinatalism, and negative utilitarianism could indeed seem antiquated. They might appear as historical curiosities, philosophical constructs born out of a time when life was characterized by unavoidable suffering and pain.
However, your question about whether efilists and other "Darwinian" humans possess some knowledge that our potentially blissful successors might lack is complex. It raises intriguing points about the nature of knowledge, consciousness, and the role of suffering in our understanding of existence.
There are a few ways to approach this:
So, while it is plausible that a future where life is characterized by bliss could lack the 'knowledge' that comes with experiences of suffering, it remains a contentious issue whether this is a loss or a laudable achievement. It's also worth noting that this question hinges on whether it's truly possible to entirely eliminate suffering, and what the broader ramifications of that would be, both of which are topics of ongoing philosophical and scientific debate."
- Experiential knowledge: Suffering, in all its forms, has shaped human civilization and consciousness. It has influenced our art, philosophy, literature, and personal character. From a certain perspective, to eradicate suffering entirely might imply the loss of some part of our collective and individual wisdom. That said, it's debatable whether this loss would be lamentable if replaced by consistent well-being.
- Relativity of understanding: If future beings live in a state of continuous well-being, their understanding of concepts like suffering could be fundamentally different. Not having experienced suffering, their understanding might be akin to our understanding of a color we've never seen. They might be aware of the concept, but the knowledge might be more intellectual than visceral.
- The "completeness" of happiness: This is the philosophical question of whether a life entirely devoid of suffering, discomfort, and challenge can truly be considered complete. Some argue that suffering and adversity contribute to the richness of human experience and understanding. Others, however, believe that it's possible to conceive of a fulfilled life entirely free from suffering.
Efilism: a critique (mp4)
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ChatGPT on Antinatalism
ChatGPT on Abolitionism
ChatGPT on Biohappiness
ChatGPT on Utilitarianism
ChatGPT on Antispeciesism
ChatGPT on Utopian Biology
ChatGPT on Transhumanism
ChatGPT on Antidepressants
ChatGPT on Brave New World
The Wit and Wisdom of ChatGPT
ChatGPT on Utopian Pharmacology
ChatGPT on The Hedonistic Imperative
ChatGPT on The Reproductive Revolution
ChatGPT on The Biointelligence Explosion
The Exploring Antinatalism Podcast with DP