Context: I was explaining to a natalist how life/existence is objectively bad because it leads to suffering, pain and death, while nonexistence does not. All he kept saying was that I was committing "The Baker's Fallacy", which I still think it's something he made up on the spot. I'll copy and paste it here:

Basically, the whole antinatalism thing is a Baker's Fallacy anyway; (0=bad->(0->(x->0)->x=bad), where x != 0

I don't get this at all and it sounds like a Fallacy Fallacy which means antinatalism is correct and natalist is wrong and bad.

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    Just a shot in the dark, but... Any chance it was a typo and that your opponent meant the banker's fallacy? Google turns up a couple of articles describing it as the fallacy of giving greater weight to more recent experiences. Maybe your opponent meant something like, antinatalists tend to overemphasize negative experiences near the end of life, that negate the value placed on positive experiences? Just a guess... – Adam Sharpe Dec 3 '19 at 20:16
  • Cherrypicking and False Dichotomy are the fallacies I see. Cherrypicking: yes, life has bad parts but it also has good parts-- you'd have to rate life overall before saying it's all bad. False Dichotomy: don't live or suffer. It's possible to live and not suffer (or at least have a "good life" overall) – user935 Dec 4 '19 at 16:51
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    Er, you make the Fallacy Fallacy yourself in the last sentence. Just because you can show your opponent made one bad argument, it doesn't make your opponent wrong He needs only ONE good argument to win, regardless of how many bad/invalid arguments he's made. – user935 Dec 4 '19 at 16:52
  • @barrycarter, just because life has some good parts does not mean it's not bad. Banatar's Asymmetry says that suffering matters infinitely more than pleasure because the nonexistent don't suffer which is good. – Hierarchist Dec 4 '19 at 16:56
  • But nonexistence doesn't experience pleasure either. Not experiencing pleasure is, by the opportunity cost argument, bad. – user935 Dec 4 '19 at 17:36

I have only a general knowledge of fallacies; I have never heard of 'Baker's Fallacy'. And the symbolism could do with some commentary. If valid, it's shorthand to an outsider.

Pure guess: If bakers never baked bread, no-one would suffer from eating bread. It doesn't follow that a world in which bakers don't break bread is preferable to one in which they do. A world of some bread is, all else equal, a better world of no bread.

Likewise, just maybe this is what is meant, a world in which no-one existed would be a world in which there was no suffering, pain and death. It doesn't follow that a world in which some people (or creatures) suffer, endure pain and die is not preferable to a world in which there is no suffering, pain and death (because no-one exists). On balance the lives of the suffering, the agonised and doomed to die might exhibit a a positive good or value, which the lives of the nonexistent could not.

I expect a flurry of criticism - and maybe even an informative alternative answer if there really is a Baker's Fallacy and someone can tell us what it is and can explain its relevance.

  • Yes, it DOES follow (necessarily) that a world where no one exists (and thus doesn't suffer), is preferable to a world where someone exists (and thus suffers). reddit.com/r/natalismVantinatalism – Hierarchist Dec 3 '19 at 19:11
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    Is that logical necessity, metaphysical necessity or axiological/ ethical necessity ? I thank you for the reference but would like to know exactly what is wrong with what I have said rather than what is right with what someone else has said in a reference. You must realise that point. I am grateful even so, of course. – Geoffrey Thomas Dec 3 '19 at 19:25
  • Look up Banatar's Asymmetry. – Hierarchist Dec 4 '19 at 14:14

I googled for that reddit thread (Gawd, reddit!), and the paragraph before the line you're citing reads like so:

That's the "asymmetry" part of Benatar's argument. He argues that the nonexistent cannot be deprived of pleasure (they are already at peak deprivation), and that the nonexistent will not experience pain (they are at peak lack of pain); thus, they are at a peak good state. But once you ask if the nonexistent can be deprived of pain (which according to the "cannot be deprived of pleasure" assumption, they cannot), the asymmetry falls apart.

Basically, the fallacy is this asymmetry: On one hand, it asserts:

The nonexistent cannot be deprived of pleasure and will not experience pain.

But at the same moment, it ignores the parallel assertion:

The nonexistent cannot be deprived of pain and will not experience pleasure.

The first assertion makes nonexistence sound like a positive; the second assertion makes nonexistence sound like pure hell.

The real problem with this argument is that it attributes a quality - namely, the capacity for experience — to a negational class. That is always problematic. Consider the difference between saying "men have hairy beards" and saying "not-women have hairy beards". The first is arguably true, at least in principle. The second is ridiculous, since 'not-women' includes chipmunks, goats, trees, glaciers, and planetary nebulae, none of which (aside from goats) are notable for having hairy beards. Nonexistence is characterized by the absence of experience, and only by becoming existent can we experience the qualia that we determine as pleasurable and painful.

The corrected assertion would be:

The nonexistent cannot be deprived of anything and will not experience anything.

Which is neither intrinsically good nor intrinsically bad, except as one adopts an optimistic or pessimistic attitude.

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