Thursday, 10 October 2013

Clarence Darrow: America's Schopenhauer

Clarence Darrow is best known for being an American lawyer involved in some of the most famous trials of the 20th century (Scopes, Leopold & Loeb). What's less known is that he was a pessimist of the highest order, who believed life was a mistake and consciousness a burden. He frequently participated in debates with other well-known public figures on philosophical matters (often on a Sunday, now those were the days!).

Below are some addresses of the full debates. The top one contains links to a number of other philosophical contretemps he had during his life.

To provide a feast for the dark senses, I've compiled a collection of some of his juiciest observations below. Enjoy!

Darrow-Foster Debate 1917 ”Is Life worth Living?”

Consciousness was born in pain and struggle. If the machine had
been running easily and automatically, everything would have
been all right, and there would have been no consciousness.
But, it was born because something was wrong. And it lives
through pain and struggle, and it dies in the end, and that is
all; death is the only relief from pain and struggle.

What is life? Pleasant tnoments? Yes. But from the
time the infant is twisted with his first stomach-ache, up to the
time of the death agony, pain is always present, and pretty
much the only time you are happy is when you are released
from pain; then you soon get bored.

What is life, anyway? For that is a practical question.
What is it that we should prize it so highly? Do any of you
dare tell the truth to yourselves? There is not a person in this
audience that dares tell himself the truth about life.

Do you
want to live your lives over, any of you! Would 1 want to?
Would anybody want to? There might be vagrant parts of
my life. strong sensations, pleasant memories. But barring
those, the time I would want to live over, would be the time 1
was asleep-that is the time I was dead-that is all. And
every weary person comes home at night happy in the thought
that he can sleep. And if he cannot sleep without it, he takes
dope to make him sleep, because forgetfulness is the best of all.

As we reach out and ask ourselves questions, understand
the futility of all of it, feel our own pain and the suffering of
our fellowmen, see life as life really is, then we are unhappy
and must be unhappy forever.

“Is life worth living?” 1920 Starr – Darrow

Work is good because it brings non-existence,
and that non-existence is the most tolerable of all the forms
of matter in life. There is no other answer to hard work.
And I know of almost no one who has studied the philosophy
of life but does not finally come up with the proposition that
the only thing that makes life tolerable, is hard work, so
you don't know^ you are living. So, I characterize hard work
as dope for life.

The fact that life is here, to my mind, proves nothing, excepting
that if you got a certain amount of earth and heat and water—
if they were resolved into the simple elements—given these
elements in certain proportions under certain conditions, life
will develop, just as maggots will in a cheese. Does that
prove it is worth while? I cannot see it. It does not prove
it in any meaning of the words worth while. If it does prove
it, then everything is equally worth while, and the living man
is no more a part of nature than the corpse. And the well
man is no more a part of nature than the sick man. The
pleasurable emotion is no more a part of nature than the
painful emotion. The fact that it is here simply proves it is
here, that is all.

When I look back over
life, with the many pains 1 have suffered that happened, and
the many more 1 have suffered that did not happen, the
greatest satisfaction that 1 find in any of it is when I am
asleep. And, intellectually, I feel it will be the best thing
that can happen to me—to go to sleep again.

Life to me is a joke. That is the way I get by.
It is an awful joke.

"Foundations of Belief.
"Man, so far as natural science by itself is able to teach
us, is no longer the final cause of the universe, the Heavendescended
heir of all the ages. His very existence is an accident,
his story a brief and transitory episode in the life of one
of the meanest of the planets. Of the combination of causes
which first converted a dead organic compound into the living
progenitors of humanity, science indeed as yet knows nothing.
It is enough that from such beginnings famine, disease, and
mutual slaughter, fit nurses of the future lords of creation,
have gradually evolved, after infinite travail, a race with conscience
enough to feel that it is vile, and intelligence enough
to know that it is insignificant. We survey the past, and see
that its history is of blood and tears, of helpless blundering,
of wild revolt, of stupid acquiescence, of empty aspirations.
We sound the future, and learn that after a period, long compared
with the individual life, but short indeed compared with
the divisions of time open to our investigation, the energies
of our system will decay, the glory of the sun will be dimmed,
and the earth, tideless and inert, will no longer tolerate the
race which for a moment disturbed its solitude. Man will go
down into the pit, and all his thoughts will perish. The uneasy
consciousness, which in this obscure corner has for a
long space broken the' contented silence of the universe, will
be at rest. Matter will know^ itself no longer. "Imperishable
monuments" and "immortal deeds," death itself, and love
stronger than death, will be as though they had never been.
Nor will anything that is be better or be worse for all that the
labour, genius, devotion, and suffering of men have striven
through countless generations to effect."

Darrow-Starr Is Civilisation a Failure?

Civilization carries with it the germs of its own destruction,
and its physical destruction and its mental destruction, because
it is too far away from life. This is not a new question.
This is not a new civilization. Farther back than human history
can go-and there have been civilizations perhaps as
great as this at least-as far back as history can tell, there
have been civilizations which were most likely the equal of
this, that were the equal of this in every way that we can
measure the usefulness or the happinness of man. This world
even within historical times has been swept over and over
with civilizations which have grown and flourished and decayed,
and gone back to the primitive again.

Our civilization is just like the rest. To me, human life
is one great succession of barbarism, or savagery, of civilization,
of decay, back to barbarism and savagery, and again
on the to civilization and back. One thing after
another. But we people like every other people of the world,
live in the present, live for today, close our eyes to the past
and never dream of the future. We believe that this civilization
is the only civilization the world has ever seen; and
if it is going upward it will go on and on and on until man will
have a brain as tall as a flag pole. He can live on ideals,
although everybody knows that ideals do not go with civilization!

An intelligence test of nearly two
million boys between twenty and thirty, twenty being the age
put down in the test as being the time when the faculties are
perhaps the most alert. Not a test of knowledge, but a test
of intelligence and, coming from the great mass of young men
of the United States, between twenty and thirty. This test
shows that of our intelligent young men of America of those
between twenty and thirty, ten per cent average ten years of
age. That is the moron age. Fifteen per cent average eleven
years of age. Twenty-five per cent of all of them, thirteen
and a half years of age. Seventy per cent of all of them, of
all the young men of America, run below fourteen years of
age. Now, that is what we get out of civilization.

First, there is no evidence that the brain
power of civilized man is any better than the brain power of
the barbarous man. I think perhaps Professor Starr will agree
with me on that. If he can think of enough other things to
say I am sure he will agree with me on that. The brain power
is very poor and very weak. They are living on the verge
of want; they have no education; they could get along pretty
well with an easy life; they could get along in a land that was
not civilized; they could live in tribes where people live simple
and close to Nature. But, around these people is built the
environment of civilization, an environment which sends a
great mass of them to jail, to the insane asylums, and to institutions;
an environment that is too strong for the ordinary
man, no matter whether he is savage or civilized; and they are
decaying, and decaying fast.

We have reared a monster which we call civilization:
which leaves the great mass of men entirely unfitted for the
structure we have built; and they wander around blindly in
this dizzy maze until they destroy what there is and go back;
go back to the barbarism from whence they came; and we
go over the old, old weary round again. The great mass of
men are like the great mass of animals, of whom they are
a part. They must live close to life; they must live close to
Nature. Civilization cannot possibly maintain itself. I am
not obsessed of the human race. Perhaps the best thing that
could happen to it would be to die. But, it is not going to
die; that is the trouble with it.

Let me see what civilization does for the human race.
Build a high stone wall, north and south across Chicago, and
fence in about a mile adjoining the lake-that puts all of us
swells in that pen where we ought to be-and in two hundred
years, if we had no contact with the outside world, nobody
would be alive. They cannot produce life and they cannot
sustain life, and life comes from the primitive peoples who
are near Nature, who are near the source of supplies; from
those primitive peoples who come to us from other countries.
from those who have not been infected and destroyed by this
wonderful civilization which is the glory of everybody who
does not think about it!

Life cannot be sustained except through the primitive, and
the trouble with civilization-one trouble-it will not even
destroy life, because there will always be left enough of the
uncivilized to take up life where civilization throws it down,
and carry it on. Life is everlastingly being preserved by the
primitive people of the world and going over the same old
weary round.

The idea that
some evolutionists believe in-I don't know why-that insistent
in life itself is beneficience; which is another religious
idea, for beneficience implies consciousness, and the evolutionist
of the Ingersoll type, has imply taken God out of
the skies and put him into man and now you can see how
and what he looks Eike. Both of them are utterly unscientific;
purely religious; have no basis in fact; and cannot be proven
by any of the experiences of human life!

live together in masses. Well, now, let us see about it.
The ability to live together in masses. Why in masses? I
am inclined to think that a great city is the most striking
evidence of disease that civilization has furnished. Why
should the human race live together in masses? They are
drawn together because the ideal of civilization is money.
And this ideal is responsible for every really great city on
the face of the earth today. And, it is destroying itself.
Why isn't the more primitive life of man, where he lived'
further apart and roamed a greater area, a more natural state
of man, and after all, a happier state for the great mass of
men who live upon the earth? Now what is our ability to
live together in masses? And is it a success or failure? How
do we do it? Why, I will tdl you how we do it. Take
Chicago, New York or London. Now about three per cent
have nearly all there is; they have most of all the lands, and
the wealth and the accumulated stores that the labor of the
- world gives; and they live together in manses, how? Why,
by hiring lawyers and policemen! By building jails; by keeping
the masses at bay by main force and by fear. And do you
suppose a civilization like this could rest, except through fear?
Not for a moment. Do you suppose two or three per cent
of the human beings of civilized communities could own everything
there is and see the great majority livinq close to want
and still live together in masses, except by the club and by
the jail? Is that a success?

No such condition of gross inequality, of hopeless brutality,
can be pointed to, I believe, amongst the uncivilized peoples
of the earth. The gross inequality and injustice which civilization
has given to the world is preserved as distinctions were
preserved in barbarism, by the club and by fear. And the
preachers and the teachers and the lawyers would never think
that they had created a civilization where a man could go to
sleep at night unless a policeman was etanding outside his
door with a club. Now, that is our civilization. And this
handful of civilized people who are the owners of civilization
and the dictators of life and of liberty, are kept alive by an
army of doctors, examining their blood, making tests, hunting
germs, vaccinating them for smallpox, for diptheria, taking
out appendix, adenoids, and pulling out whatever teeth
they have left. Everything to keep this bunch alive. Why,
look at the mass of lawyers, doctors, -policemen, jailers, newspapermen,
that are called in to aid to keep up this civilization!
Where men do not live together in masses because they know
the art of living together in masses; but where the chief pursuit
is some form of robbery, and -overreaching and where
men are held together by force and nothing else. Is it a
success! I will have to go to the dictionary and see if I can
find a new definition of success.

The Story of My Life

I am inclined to believe that the most satisfactory part of life is the time spent in sleep, when one is utterly oblivious to existence; next best is when one is so absorbed in activities that one is altogether unmindful of self.
I am satisfied that no one with a moderate amount of intelligence can tolerate life, if he looks it squarely in the face, without welcoming whatever soothes and solaces, and makes one forget.

Nothing is so cruel, so wanton, so unfeeling as Nature; she moves with the weight of a glacier carrying everything before her. In the eyes of Nature, neither man nor any of the other animals mean anything whatever. The rock-ribbed mountains, the
tempestuous sea, the scorching desert, the myriad weeds and insects and wild beasts that infest the earth, and the noblest man, are all one. Each and all are helpless against the cruelty and immutability of the resistless processes of Nature.

Whichever way man may look upon the earth, he is oppressed with the suffering incident to life. It would almost seem as though the earth had been created with malignity and hatred. If we look at what we are pleased to call the lower animals, we behold a universal carnage. We speak of the seemingly peaceful woods, but we need only look beneath the surface to be horrified by the misery of that underworld. Hidden in the grass and watching for its prey is the crawling snake which swiftly darts upon the toad or mouse and gradually swallows it alive; the hapless animal is crushed by the jaws and covered with slime, to be slowly digested in furnishing a meal. The snake knows nothing about sin or pain inflicted upon another; he automatically grabs insects and mice and frogs to preserve his life. The spider carefully weaves his web to catch the unwary fly, winds him into the fatal net until paralyzed and helpless, then drinks his blood and leaves him an empty shell. The hawk swoops down and snatches a chicken and carries it to its nest to feed its young. The wolf pounces on the lamb and tears it to shreds. The cat watches at the hole of the mouse until the mouse cautiously comes out, then with seeming fiendish glee he plays with it until tired of the game, then crunches it to death in his jaws. The beasts of the jungle roam by day and night to find their prey; the lion is endowed with strength of limb and fang to destroy and devour almost any animal that it can surprise or overtake. There is no place in the woods or air or sea where all life is not a carnage of death in terror and agony. Each animal is a hunter, and in turn is hunted, by day and night. No landscape is so beautiful or day so balmy but the cry of suffering and sacrifice rends the air. When night settles down over the earth the slaughter is not abated. Some creatures see best at night, and the outcry of the dying and terrified is always on the wind. Almost all animals meet death by violence and through the most agonizing pain. With the whole animal creation there is nothing like a peaceful death. Nowhere in nature is there the slightest evidence of kindness, of consideration, or a feeling for the suffering and the weak, except in the narrow circle of brief family life.
Man furnishes no exception to the rule. He seems to add the treachery and deceit that the other animals in the main do not practice, to all the other cruelties that move his life. Man has made himself master of the animal world and he uses his power to serve only his own ends. Man, at least, kills helpless animals for the pleasure of killing, alone.
for man himself there is little joy. Every child that is born upon the earth arrives through the agony of the mother. From childhood on, the life is full of pain and disappointment and sorrow. From beginning to end it is the prey of disease and misery; not a child is born that is not subject to disease. Parents, family, friends, and acquaintances, one after another die, and leave us bereft. The noble and the ignoble life meets the same fate. Nature knows nothing about right and wrong, good and evil, pleasure and pain; she simply acts. She creates a beautiful woman, and places a cancer on her cheek. She may create an idealist, and kill him with a germ. She creates a fine mind, and then burdens it with a deformed body. And she will create a fine body, apparently for no use whatever. She may destroy the most wonderful life when its work has just commenced. She may scatter tubercular germs broadcast throughout the world. She seemingly works with no method, plan or purpose. She knows no mercy nor goodness. Nothing is so cruel and abandoned as Nature. To call her tender or charitable is a travesty upon words and a stultification of intellect. No one can suggest these obvious facts without being told that he is not competent to judge Nature and the God behind Nature. If we must not judge God as evil, then we cannot judge God as good. In all the other affairs of life, man never hesitates to classify and judge, but when it comes to passing on life, and the responsibility of life, he is told that it must be good, although the opinion beggars reason and intelligence and is a denial of both.
Intellectually, I am satisfied that life is a serious burden, which no thinking, humane person would wantonly inflict on some one else.


  1. Amazing. I had no idea that Darrow held these views. Thank you so much for sharing this, Karl.

  2. Great post as always Karl (as I told you on the fb group). I do however disagree with the notion of work that he presents. While it is true what he says that the more someone is involved in something, the more they forget about existence as such (hence, the astute observations of "non-existence") it is obviously not the same as being asleep and since work is the bane of civilization and a great disseminator of suffering, I don't think its an entirely valid example (although its surely logical and I consistent nevertheless).

    I don't think any work is worth squat, hard or not and sleep should be the only yardstick we judge existence by since it always loses out to non-existence is every conceivable way.

    1. I imagine he's thinking of people like himself, who obviously enjoyed their work and found it interesting. Unfortunately for most people, work is a drudge, and if you're of a pessimistic disposition, work is only likely to aggravate one's pain.

      Apart from that, though, he's on the money:-)

    2. Shadow and I were talking about this earlier today (yesterday for him). There are many things that are interesting, and that includes different kinds of work -- as in stuff that fetches upkeep. But that is to a certain point, after which you're saturated and want rest, or at least something else to do. For example, people may genuinely like drawing, cooking, playing a musical instrument, maintaining a garden, doing some math, understanding civil laws, whatever. But in this madhouse of competition the world has by now turned into, you need to dreg and dreg, far beyond this saturation, to keep up in this rat race.

    3. When he said "work" I think he meant vocation... never dreaming that unnamed slavery would become mandatory for 99.9% of 7 billion people. Or maybe he imagined it would be so and hoped it wouldn't.

    4. okay karl-I.concede that life is.flawed-but tell me this-if anti depression pills can.make it a wee better why.not take them?

    5. Take them all you want, just acknowledge that the effect is an artificially chemically induced one, and not the result of the world suddenly becoming objectively wonderful.

    6. Okay I acknowledge that the effect is fake-
      but if it feels nice,why not?
      Because the distinction between the real & the artificial is really an academic one.

    7. Not if you're being tortured:-)

    8. Sorry I didnot get it-could you please explain?

    9. Karl-may I ask you as to what is it that you do to earn a living?Whats your trade?

    10. Karl, I love you man! =) Awesome answers.

      Guys, I love you all also!

      Many cheers

    11. You're welcome, Shadow:-)

  3. The bit that resonates most with me here is

    " Life to me is a joke. That is the way I get by.
    It is an awful joke."

    That's my security blanket in a hideous nutshell. My god is Juvenal.

  4. As the Master, H P Lovecraft, said: '“The world is indeed comic, but the joke is on mankind.”

  5. "We survey the past, and see

    that its history is of blood and tears, of helpless blundering,

    of wild revolt, of stupid acquiescence, of empty aspirations.

    We sound the future, and learn that after a period...., the energies

    of our system will decay, the glory of the sun will be dimmed,

    and the earth, tideless and inert, will no longer tolerate the

    race which for a moment disturbed its solitude. Man will go

    down into the pit, and all his thoughts will perish."

    This is my favourite part and really sums up well the importance of antinatalism. I only think the obliteration of this planet will occur much sooner than projected by scientists (when are scientists ever right really? right bunch of morons most of them. "This ship can't sink"- Titanic). Anyway when it comes to the glorious end of things and Karl I do think the ends going to be something glorious. I don't expect to be alive still for it but I think theres something beautiful and awe-inspiring in the destruction of this planet. But I think of the great movie Artificial Intelligence and you've got the whole mad race of humans destroyed and two thousand years later the darling little robot boy awakens to begin his new life with other robots. It's just beautiful. The humans were so cruel and unworthy and finally theyre just- gone- and the innocent and loving robot goes on to live. As a spiritual person and intuitive person, though admitted moron, I think when you've got something really evil, and that's what the vast majority of humanity is, then something's got to give. The universe will purge it. And there's beauty in the cleansing. Making way for perhaps a worthy race of human-like beings. Sincerely, your fan aleis

    1. Aleis, please stop calling yourself stupid; you're obviously quite the opposite. I'll have to check out that movie:-) Thanks for the tip.

  6. I think most antinatalists just suffer from existential angst. Most haven't experienced severe hardship , are just stupid idiots who feel that life is meaningless, suffer because of it, and think that procreation should be criminalized.. Most people find life Worth living and perpetuating even if life doesn't have any inherent meaning. You just need realize that there is nothing inherently sad about life's futility.

    1. Glad that you're comfortable with all of the world's pointless misery as long as you're having a good time, dumbo.

    2. Yes, there is nothing inherently sad about life's futility. But when someone is not stupid idiot enough to put the hardship life brings and its futility together, they realize life is not "worth living and perpetuating", even if most people don't.

    3. Anon you are misguided. The antinatalist community is brilliant- taking the time to analyze the world (most people never do this), asking "taboo" questions (that's part of why our world's such rot. everything that really needs said is a "taboo" and people are too cowardly to say it. Antinatalism is brave enough to say anything: taboo or not). Who are you to say we have not experienced severe hardship, what do you know about any of our lives? Life's futility is sad, mind-bogglingly sad. All this effort, all this anguish, all this humiliation, bloodshed enough to fill an ocean, and for what!! What the hell has been accomplished on this planet that's worth an ocean of blood and tears? Most people might find life worth living but, to hell with most people. I suffer and I stand with those who suffer. Who matters more to you? Someone who's living a jolly good life or someone who is in unbearable pain? ~ aleis

    4. Why is suffering more important than joy?
      What about positive empathy?

    5. Why is suffering more important than joy? Lets play pretend then. I'll take you to Disney land every day for the rest of your life. Pay all your bills, make sure you're well fed, warm and want for nothing. But after fifty years of this, I'm going to slowly rip out your fingernails. Then I'm going to skin you alive. Deal?

    6. Deal,I won;t feel the pain of the fingernails or skin,cause I;m on Prozax.

    7. Anonymous,

      “I think most antinatalists just suffer from existential angst.”

      You're correct. Highly intelligent and empathetic people such as antinatalists do often suffer from existential angst. However, what makes us antinatalists is that we care more about the suffering of OTHER PEOPLE than our own suffering. We are against such things as child rape and murder, which are direct results of procreation. But please, do continue to play robot armchair psychologist instead of having empathy for your fellow human beings.

      “Most haven't experienced severe hardship, are just stupid idiots”

      You cannot know that. You are not the yardstick when it comes to measuring suffering. Way to continue showing lack of empathy for your fellow human beings. Absolutely appalling and inhuman behavior, sir or madam.

      “who feel that life is meaningless, suffer because of it,”

      We suffer because we are living beings, not because of our thoughts. But please, continue to blame us for our own suffering. Way to continue showing a lack of empathy for your fellow human beings. Again, absolutely inhuman behavior, sir or madam.

      “and think that procreation should be criminalized..”

      We think people should simply stop procreating. That's all. Because we give a shit about other people and all that good stuff.

      “Most people find life Worth living”

      That's fine if they do. I wish these people minimal harm (Nature doesn't give a shit about my wishes when it causes people to suffer, but whatever.) There's no need to create people who will suffer and die, though.

      “and perpetuating even if life doesn't have any inherent meaning.”

      Again, people can feel how they feel about life. But it's arguably fucked up to deliberately cause people pain via procreation for such a reason as “Because I want to do it.” Such a mindset justifies ALL atrocities. Such a mindset is dangerous. Do not be so mindless for your sake and the sake of others. The “need to breed” is a mindless instinct put in many of us by mindless nature. Since we are not mindless animals, we do not have to follow this instinct. I repeat, WE ARE NOT MINDLESS ANIMALS SO WE DO NOT NEED TO BREED LIKE MINDLESS ANIMALS. Unlike mindless animals, we have no excuse for the atrocities we commit. We have the potential to be better than that.

      "You just need realize that there is nothing inherently sad about life's futility.”

      In a technical sense, you are correct. We cannot objectively prove that the futility of life is “sad.” However, your appear to have missed the point. You have missed the point that as a human being you should be appalled by such things as child rape and child murder. You have missed the point that as a human being, you should want to be against things that lead to child rape and child murder. (Hint: Procreation) I hope you are able to increase the level of empathy you hold for your fellow human beings someday. You have the potential.

  7. I like the part in "Is Civilization a Failure" where Darrow equates the pro-life attitude of many secularists with religion.

    It's strange that atheist use the problem of evil to attack Christianity and then declare that you are actually extraordinarily lucky (rather than unlucky) to have been born. They think that this thing we have, which is woefully inadequate if God made it, is suddenly beautiful and valuable if natural processes made it.

    So a piece of shit that was created by a brilliant scientist is nasty but a piece of shit you find in the woods is majestic and worthwhile.

    1. Not strange, just dumb, and pathetic. "OMG TEH BIG BANG MADE ME!!! ME: FUCK YEAH!!!" ......... Pure, simpleton wonder. Best expressed in the nauseating platitude about birth being a miracle.

      Most people are easily impressed. A fact which is a lot of the reason for religion's popularity, whether the woo-woo or secular kind.

  8. Impressive honesty. Thanks for sharing!!!

  9. Karl and others,

    How should we respond to this recent blog entry at Scientific American titled "10 Sublime Wonders of Science":

    "Conscious experience, along with existence itself, is the greatest scientific wonder of all. We are a part of nature that can know and experience truth, invent, love, be moral, feel indescribable emotion, and consciously plan for the future. Ideas and passion can now transform the world. As far as we know, this level of cosmic self-awareness is being realized in only one tiny fragment of the universe—in us.


    And here is a scientific astonishment that should hit home deeply for every one of us: The odds of a “specific me” coming into existence are so statistically and incalculably improbable, it is, quite bluntly, a deep wonder and privilege just to be alive.

    The rest can be read here:


    1. Thanks, Nicholas. I've already spat my bile on it:-)

  10. Nice long post. It actually made me drowsy.


    Why is falling asleep in one's computer chair so pleasurable?

    More to the point, why is SLEEP so pleasurable?

    Pleasurable because the cessation of all of 'life's' evil nagging needs, desires and boredom?

    In other words, quite like -death-.

    So why is sleep universally enjoyed, but death universally feared?

    Humans are so fucking dumb. If they really knew anything, they would envy the dead.

    1. This is in reply to Foxinabox and Anonymous,

      Goodness, don't you ever get fed up with being fed up with everything all the time? There really couldn't be a more of a self-defeating mentality. Discrediting one's life is merely another way (among many) of affirming it, whether you like it or not.

      Also, bringing in sleep is not helping your case. Quite the contrary, in fact. Why is sleep pleasurable? Well, for the same reason eating is pleasurable - both are restorative (basic biology), and not some sort of 'abnegation' of life as you seem to presume.

      Carol M.

    2. A great example of the totalitarian thought police: 'Discrediting one's life is merely another way (among many) of affirming it, whether you like it or not.' So no matter what you say or do, you are affirming life.

      Life is an automatic function, and turning against and destroying it in oneself is a damned hard business, given our biological programming. That's why people find relief in sleep, as nature lets you off the hook for a few hours. Can you really not grasp that?

      But it's clear that you're another mindless life-worshipper with zero empathy.

    3. ...which is why insomnia leads some to suicide, I presume. It's truly a curse to beat all.

    4. Yup, check out E.M. CIoran on the topic.

    5. Jesus, I wish my sleep were more pleasurable. I spent what felt like the entire night last night trapped in a dream about waiting tables, except one of my coworkers at this impossibly immense restaurant (packed with people who wouldn't let me through with giant trays of food; I kept being assigned table after table simultaneously) was a current unpleasant coworker, who I'm pretty sure has never had to wait tables. Woke up sweating and already exhausted. No breaks!

    6. Like a metaphor for life, Ann, except that it's all too real!

    7. Ann, you would get more commenters on your goddamn blogs if you allowed unregistered comments.

  11. Life is good for almost everyone.

    1. So, if 99.99 percent of the population never suffer in the manner that Joseph Merrick (the elephant man) did with his severe deformities, does that make his suffering any less horrific? In fact, it would cause him much deeper suffering knowing that everyone else gets spared from his condition, and not him.

      Almost isn't good enough.

    2. Did Merrick express the sentiment that he'd have been better not being born? Not being sarcastic here, I am genuinely curious

    3. I am unsure whether Joseph ever expressed the sentiment or not, but we can safely assume that he regretted his birth due to, of course, the magnitude of his sufferings and daily humiliations of being a living "freak show" in his society. Life had nothing to offer him. It is unknown if his death was a suicide or not. He enjoyed quoting a poem which stated "Could I create myself anew, I would not fail in pleasing you", obviously wishing to strip himself out of that horrible body and re-create a new body for himself. His life was so, so hellish, he was enduring it, trying to reach the end of it, we can safely presume he would have preferred never to have been subjected to that. Strong man, really have to admire him.

  12. Lol. Even christian antinatalism is emerging now. I just saw a book " No baby no cry" by Martin Smith, about christian antinatalism.
    I hope christians also join us and stop bringing children to this hell of world. lol.

  13. That'll be the day.

    The ink on the new testament hadn't dried before that anti-world slave religion got flipped into just another mass marketed breeding program.

    Call me pessimistic, but after 2,000 years, god endorsed pro-natalism is obviously not going away.

  14. Karl and others,

    I know this is a bit off topic but I'd appreciate your thoughts on this.

    Do you have empathy for intellectually slow people?

    Let me clarify what I mean by ‘intellectually slow person’. Obviously I am not referring to the person who meets the criteria for an Intellectual Disability (also called mental retardation)…. I am talking about the person who has the ability to learn necessary academic skills, but at a rate and depth below average same age peers. In order to grasp new concepts, this person needs more time, more repetition, and often more resources from teachers to be successful. Typically, this person has great difficulty with new and complex reasoning which makes new concepts difficult to learn.

    A slow learner has traditionally been identified as anyone with a Full Scale IQ one standard deviation below the mean but NOT as low as two standard deviations below the mean. The cognitive abilities of these learners are too high to be considered for an Intellectual Disability. However, the abilities are usually too low to be considered for a Learning Disability. Consider that a learning disability consists of discrepancies between average abilities and below average academics, coupled with a processing deficit.

    These individuals are prone to much anxiety and low self image which goes unnoticed by many in society. They often feel ‘stupid’ and begin hating school at an early age. Day-to-day academic life can be very draining and yet many somehow manage to make it through the system and through high school (in the United States)

    The psychologist and intelligence researcher Linda Gottfredson wrote a good piece titled Why g Matters: The Complexity of Everyday Life.

    An excerpt:

    “Life is replete with uncertainty, change, confusion, and misinformation, sometimes minor and at times massive. From birth to death, life continually requires us to master abstractions, solve problems, draw inferences, and make judgments on the basis of inadequate information. Such demands may be especially intense in school, but they hardly cease when one walks out the school door…”

    RTWT here:

    Two questions:

    1. Can you sympathize with a person who says that one of their major reasons for contemplating suicide often is that they just don’t feel competent to handle the mental demands of today’s increasingly complex social environment?

    2. Is it morally permissible for the intellectually slow person to commit suicide?


    1. 1. Of course!

      2. I think anyone has the right to commit suicide.

    2. If your life is directed by negative incentives, it is hard to make a compelling case against suicide.

      Let's say that we have someone who is attractive, someone who is smart, and someone who is neither. The smart person and the attractive person will eventually be rewarded for their hard work. The other person, who put in just as much effort (but didn't work "smart" and didn't get things handed to them for being attractive), will only maintain a zero sum. This person works just to keep their head above water.

      I'm not a sociologist or anything but this is just my personal opinion about how society generally works.

    3. I'm not sure that smart and 'attractive' people are necessarily rewarded. It's more obedient, goal-oriented drones. There are plenty of smart, intelligent and unhappy pessimists out there.

    4. Smart and attractive? Nikola Tesla? =D

      Anyway, Karl, it really doesn't matter. As long as one sees that this world is an unfair place to which no one should be brought, it doesn't matter whether they call the unfairly-rewarded THAT or "smart" or "attractive" or whatever.

    5. The link between attractiveness and quality of life has been pretty well established IMO (there is plenty of evidence but Daniel Hammermesh's research is nice to start with). I only say this because you put the word "attractive" in quotes and I am not sure why. Intelligence makes ones life easier as well, but not in all the same ways that attractiveness does.

      But I agree, it does not guarantee happiness, just like ugliness or stupidity does not guarantee unhappiness.

  15. Finding life that useless and writing about the uselessness and pain at such length must have been exhausting to Clarence Darrow, but then again he was a lawyer and used to using optimum verbiage in defences. I don't mind life being pointless or misconceived-it makes no difference if one life is misconceived or a million, if that is the order we live with then it is better to not lie about it, the rest is just numbers. But in spite of myself l do value brevity, and where possible, humour.

    1. To clarify:

      a) the above is my own anthology from various talks, debates and pieces Darrow partook in over the years, so it is not just one long spiel.

      b) I admire his courage in defending such a relentlessly unpopular position in public, and particularly in the relentlessly puriticanical and god-loving USA.

      c) 'it makes no difference if one life is misconceived or a million' - I respectfully disagree. Particularly if millions of lives end up in complete misery, or the gaschambers.

    2. Disagreement accepted. Perhaps it would have been better if I had highlighted the aspect where we lie about being misconceived. Better to tell the truth as it was, whether it is one misconception or a million. As for the gas chambers, I reread 'If this is a man' and 'The Truce' by Primo Levi as my Chrstmas reading one year when I found the season of good will particularly disingenuous and I still regard the book as classic in it's scientific measuredness. The next best book in that line is 'Scroll of Agony' by Chaim A. Kaplan and my review of it is the only one on Amazon UK. maybe you will find yourself looking towards getting a copy for christmas, the quality of the prose vs the grizzly details is amazing....

    3. Thanks for the tip! Read and enjoyed (if that's the word for such subject matter) your review.

  16. Darrow pierced the veil, direct and accurate. I particularly enjoyed the line where he talks about how man judges in all facets of his life except when it comes to nature and the goodness of life itself. Scary stuff, that no one gives a fig leaf about us, no higher power, not mother nature-and this guy had the courage to state, and I agree with you, at that time puritanical America. Karl as always, thank you.

    1. Thanks, Michael:-) Glad you enjoyed it. Hope you're keeping well!

  17. Hi folks,
    I just read a book called Inferno by Dan Brown &the anatagonist in
    the book is a sort of n antinatalist-hes supposed to be the bad guy &the breeders are supposed to br the good guys-give dog a bad name & hang it!

    1. Yeah, read parts of it a while back. Oh well, at least it helps bring the issue of overpopulation more and more into the public realm. That, in turn, may lead to exposure to AN.

  18. Ok, here's a question:

    Let's say that in the future anti-natalism really takes hold in the Western world to the point where our already low reproduction rate reaches critical. However, muslims continue to breed at high rates. This eventually leads to them establishing their dream of the global calliphate, and Sharia law, with its stoning of adulterous women, female genital mutilation, execution of freethinkers artists and homosexuals, rules the earth until the sun explodes.

    Do you think that is no more than the human race deserves?

    1. I'm a historical fatalist. Europe thought it was it for centuries and then exhausted itself in WW2. It's religion, Christianity, is ebbing away in influence. If Islam does establish itself in Europe in political terms, it's just another case of the wheel turning. Anyway, there's also a fair chance most Muslims will become infected by consumerism and materialism, a la most nominal Christians.

    2. People that continue to breed will get what they deserve. You roll the dice you (and your hostages- your kids) pay the price. The big problem is the continual expectation-and demand for- a messiah: whether Jesus, Mahdi, or whomever. This expectation lulls people into a false security where they will continue to breed kids even if the sun goes out. Even if all around them the world is dying (as is already the case). Christians, Muslims, do you think you have a right to be completely irresponsible and selfish and then demand that someone else give their lifeblood to save you? Nobody is going to give a damn about you and the hole you dug yourself.

  19. Sometimes I think the anti-natalists have a gene which the rest of the humanity does not possess.
    The gene which helps us to the see the world the way it is-bereft of all the gloss & glamour.

  20. People ,sooner or later, will come to an essentially mathematical recognition that the earth's population is rising,people are living longer, & our natural resources are waning.The current trend can have no other outcome other than the apocalyptic collapse of society.The human race will not survive another century..unless we have some kind of mass extinction event.
    In fact, the best thing the ever happened to Europe was the Black Death.

  21. I have terrible news guys. It seems that Derived Energy aka Kirk Elliott Neville, commited suicide while he was in a drug addiction rehabilitation center in indonesia. Here is the link:

    It needs translation.

  22. Can anyone answer this-does the fact that humans have no free will leaves anti-natalism null & void?

    1. Not if you''re a compatiblist!