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Opening Arguments

The line stops here

This essay about couples who are childless by choice doesn't come right out and call them selfish. But it throws around the term "hedonists" a lot, suggesting that the couples put their own pleasure ahead of everything else in life. But what if they're wrong, and in the end realize there should be much more to life?

If someone truly feels no sign of dissatisfaction at the prospect of pursuing one pleasure after another until both the desires and their satisfaction simply wink out of existence at the moment of death, then such a person might be a consistent hedonist, might really consider pleasure the highest good. But how many people truly, honestly feel that way? How many will truly, honestly experience no flood of regrets when faced with the prospect of annihilation?

[. . .]

It's true: The immortality afforded by procreation is an ersatz immortality. We won't really be around to go on living through our children's lives, and the lives of their children. But we can imagine those lives, and the ones following from them down through the ages, while we are alive, and know that something intangible about us will live on through them. Just as something equally intangible promises to live on from someone who devotes his life to the goods of honor or glory, or sacrifice for a noble cause.

To not have kids is one of the decisions I most regret in my life, for the reason of ersatz immortality mentioned above. I don't think the prospect of death would have been any less terrifying if I were leaving behind a kid or two. But it might have seemed more -- "acceptable" isn't quite the word I want. Natural? It would have been comforting, I know, to think about the bloodline I inherited from all the generations before me going on for generations after me.

But I wasn't being hedonistic. I simply thought I would be a bad father, too permissive to give children the right path to follow. Or maybe I was just terrified of the responsibility parenthood would involve and used that self-assessment as a rationalization. At any rate, after seeing how so many children have been raised in my lifetime, I have to re-evaluate myself. I think I would have been a pretty good parent.


Wed, 06/17/2015 - 1:10pm

Going childless isn't anything new.  2000 years ago, Caesar Augustus was angry that so many fellow Roman couples were not having kids.  He needed his future armed forces.

The essence of an 'immortality' through children is a philosophical point that is worth some discussion, but it is limited to reality.  Today there is only about 6 to 7 billion people on this planet.  If people had started to raise children from the beginning of homo sapien time and every 20 years a new crop of little ones were produced, and there were no wars, diseases, famine, etc., there might be over 8 billion today.  Probably over 8 trillion if they all had a couple kids.

Metaphysical philosophers are good at getting people to think about nonsense.