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I’ve recently become interested with religious philosophy, and when researching I often come across this line of thought: “it would’ve been better if life hadn’t been created at all, because living is too painful.” Regardless of the school of thought, whether it proposes the spontaneous emergence of life or the existence of a creator, I find this particular line of logic to be a fairly popular attitude people like to assume.

I find it to be fallacious, though; it seems illogical to argue for the “what could have been” instead of substantiating your stance with relevant examples. I understand that hypothesizing can be a useful tool, but in this case the hypothesis is arguing for the absence of life, which is something that can’t be experimented on (for lack of a better term—maybe defended would be more apt?), as opposed to the presence of life. Negating the validity of something altogether on the basis of an alternative possibility seems illogical (particularly so in this instance, since non-life is not something we can entertain as an actual alternative). Is there a logical fallacy that describes such a thought trap?

P.S. If the entire basis of this question is incorrect, please kindly let me know. As excited as I am, I’m very new to the topic so I’d love corrections just as much as answers. Thanks in advance!

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    This is a sort of Pessimism... nothing specifically "illogical" in it. Oct 8, 2023 at 14:22
  • It depends on how the clause is used: if as some sort of rule-of-inference, it seems as if it would make for invalid arguments and hence be a sort of fallacy, but if used as a premise, then would it be fallacious to refer to such a counterfactual, or merely (morally) unsound? Oct 8, 2023 at 17:12
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    One wants to be careful in shifting from scientific concerns to philosophical ones. Hypotheticals that cannot be realized in nature are immediate grounds for dismissal in science, but since logic abstracts from all material content (logic is purely formal), it’s oftentimes why philosophy explores bizarre hypotheticals. Still, I think you have a valid concern, it does go too wild sometimes, so some general rule would be nice.
    – Hokon
    Oct 8, 2023 at 17:22
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    This position is called anti-natalism and "some find the view so offensive that they do not think it should be discussed. Others think their strongly intuitive disagreement with it is enough in itself to reject all arguments for anti-natalism". However, the argument you cite is not fallacious. There is no need to experiment on the absence to draw conclusions about it, nor is there anything "illogical" in comparing status-quo to hypothetical alternatives. The argument turns not on logic but on values, whether life should be valued higher than its absence.
    – Conifold
    Oct 8, 2023 at 20:01

2 Answers 2

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Hypotheticals are useful in philosophy, and also in science. Thought experiments are also useful and involve hypotheticals. I have no interest in religious philosophy, as an atheist. What you describe sounds like a toxic death cult. In short, hypotheticals are not fallacious.

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I believe that what troubles you is the teleological reasoning of theology.

Teleology ... is a branch of causality giving the reason or an explanation for something as a function of its end, its purpose, or its goal, as opposed to as a function of its cause.

If you want to explore further this kind of reasoning, you should study the Greek philosophers and especially Aristotle.

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