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Found 13 results

  1. During the 56th episode of his Making Sense podcast, entitled "Abusing Dolores", my favorite thinker and philosopher, Sam Harris, explained that it would be monstrously evil to create conscious, artificially intelligent machines that are capable of suffering. To do so would be a highly unethical crime, and would create suffering where there was none before. I completely agree, but I believe this begs a follow-up question--perhaps the most important question ever asked: if it's unethical to create artificial machines that can suffer, then why is okay to create organic ones? I submit that it's not. I believe that it is unethical to create conscious life. Every conscious life-form that we know of has a natural bias towards life. Once we are alive, we tend to want to stay that way for as long as possible. We have a strong survival instinct, and for good reason, for I cannot imagine any life being able to sustain and perpetuate itself otherwise. The vast majority of people also have a very natural and intuitive fear of death--a fear of nothingness, of the lights going out forever. Most people believe very strongly that something is better than nothing, and that life is the greatest gift you can ever give or receive. I argue that these intuitions, like so very many of our intuitions, are flawed. I believe that we ought not to create conscious life of any kind, under any circumstances. To do so is, in my view, a highly immoral act. I believe that the human race should voluntarily cease reproduction, making the current youngest generation the last, and let ourselves go extinct. At this point, I want you to notice the offense, revulsion, and repugnance you may be feeling at such a notion, and the walls of resistance that may be going up around you in opposition to such a vile idea. Merely notice these feelings, but try to set them aside for the moment. Stick with me until the end, and I promise that your feelings will be addressed before I'm done. Consciousness, or the character of having a first-person experience--the feeling that it's "like something" to be you--is the only reason why anything in the universe matters to begin with. Without consciousness, without experience, matter has no meaning or purpose whatsoever. Consciousness is the cash value of the universe. Life only matters because we have an experience, and experience shapes everything. I believe that the only purpose to being alive is to experience happiness in some form. I'm not arguing for pure hedonism, and it is, of course, unethical to reap happiness at the expense of others. However, I maintain that the experience of positive emotions is the only reason to be alive. Everything we do in life, every single thought and action, is oriented towards this goal of experiencing joy, happiness, or pleasure in some form, or bringing those emotions to others. Naturally, many actions lead us into into needless suffering because we are notoriously bad judges of what we want, and what will benefit us most. But everything we do is for this purpose, even when it may seem otherwise. Even the most arduous labor is for the goal of bettering our life in some way, such that we may enjoy the fruits of that labor. Many actions we take are unpleasant in the moment, but we know they will yield greater rewards in the long-term, such as a difficult and fatiguing work-out at the gym. We go to work because we know life will be better and more comfortable for us and those we love if we have a reasonable amount of money. Even if work is unnecessary to earn a living, we still engage in challenging or creative pursuits because they bring us fulfillment, a positive emotion that we continually seek. We give of ourselves and our time in order to create a better life for others. We work hard and sacrifice of ourselves to raise our children, such that they might enjoy the fruits of a good life. We work hard to build a better world for future generations. We experience our own forms of joy and fulfillment when accomplishing these tasks. Even the most altruistic of pursuits, intended only to benefit others, still yield positive emotions to us. It can be argued that our lives can be reduced to an attempt to maximize happiness and minimize suffering. Even if one is determined to devote themselves wholly to others, to the complete exclusion of their own happiness and well being, the fact remains that the only reason to help others is so that somewhere, someday, someone might experience happiness. There is no other reason to do anything. There is no other endgame. The concept of morality itself is a reflection of the purpose of life--a navigation problem between happiness and suffering. Life is a quest to maximize one and mitigate the other, so morality is simply a question of which direction you're navigating towards on this spectrum. To intentionally cause suffering is unethical. That's about all there is to it. Now think about the character of life in its beginnings--Existence is non-consensual; we all know that none of us chooses to be born. Existence is thrust upon us without our permission. We have absolutely no say in who or what we are, or whether we exist or not, and by the time we are old enough to understand that we are alive, we already have an investment in life. We also all know that every life contains suffering, albeit some much more than others. But no matter who you are or how good your life, it will still contain pain, loss, and suffering. Many people suffer unimaginably for a multitude of reasons, but even if you're the happiest, healthiest person on Earth, time will eventually break down your body, everyone you love will die, and so will you. Simply put--to create life is to create suffering. If you create a life, that life will contain suffering. There's no way around it. Some people are absolutely fine with this deal. Others are not. Many people greatly resent being thrust into this world without their consent, fated to endure whatever suffering awaits them. It is horribly unethical to force this upon a person. My thesis would change entirely if time and physics worked in some sort of non-linear way, such that we could be consulted before our own conception, and asked if we would like to live. Unfortunately, it seems impossible to even imagine a universe where that would be possible. To create life is to create suffering without permission, and thus, it is immoral and should never be done. Now, the intuitions and defenses that are undoubtedly overflowing within you at this moment are extremely powerful and very natural. I will attempt to explain why they are wrong. We have a very deep-seated bias towards existence. Humans intuitively feel, very strongly, that no matter how bad life may be, it's better than no life at all. We tend to feel immensely grateful for life, and we feel that giving another person a chance at life is a precious gift. We also tend to feel, very strongly, that if we had not been born, we would be missing out on the joys of life. We have an intuitive fear of "missing out". We look around at the good things in our lives and think, "Just look at all this joy and wonder. Look at what I would have missed out on had I not been born." But the fact is that if a person doesn't exist, they are not "missing out" on anything, because "missing out" is predicated on existence. A person cannot be missing out if they don't exist, because there is no one to do the missing. In order to miss out on something, you must first exist. If your friends have a party and don't invite you, and you sit home alone, then you are missing out. If you had never been born in the first place, then you are not missing out. People intuitively feel that to not exist is to be deprived of happiness, but this is not so. We only feel this way because we are looking at existence through a very narrow lens, framed by our own life. We think about the good things we feel, and imagine being robbed of those things, and we imagine what that would feel like, which is predicated on existence yet again. We imagine our lives without our loved ones, and we imagine how our loved ones would feel without us. Again, this is all framed from a perspective of existence in the first place. Non-existence is not the tragedy that people think. There's nothing wrong with not existing. I submit that people need to outgrow the intuition that non-existence is the worst thing that can ever happen to you. This is a completely faulty mindset, as there's no you for this horrible fate to befall if you don't exist. To understand why a lack of existence does not equate to a deprivation of happiness, we need only look at beings who don't currently exist. Take my sister, for example. I don't have a sister. I have one brother. My parents stopped at two, but what if they didn't? What if my parents had a third child--a daughter? Let's call her Ashley. Think of all the joys that Ashley might have known. Look at what she's missing out on. Look at all the joys that the rest of us are missing out on by not having Ashley in our lives....except that nobody is actually missing out on anything, because there is no Ashley, and never was. My parents felt completely fulfilled and happy with my brother and me. They never felt one second of sadness for someone that never existed. They never felt deprived at not having a third child, and Ashley certainly didn't care. Some people might want to push back at this point and suggest that perhaps we are missing out, and that Ashley should have existed. After all, we have no way of knowing how good life may have been with Ashley in it, right? But why stop there? What if my parents had a fourth child? A fifth? A sixth? A twentieth? Look at all of those children that are missing out. Is that a tragedy? Let's keep going--look at me: I don't have kids, and I'm never going to have kids. From the time I was old enough to have sentience, I knew I would never want to be a father. Are my children being deprived of happiness? Residing in my genitals is the potential for millions of children. Is it a tragedy that they don't exist? Is my non-existent, hypothetical firstborn child missing out on their shot at life? Many people might be tempted to say, "yes". But what of my secondborn? My one hundredth-born? My one thousandth-born? As a male, this is entirely possible for me, from a purely biological standpoint. If nothing else, I could donate to sperm banks ad-infinitum for my entire life. Is it a great and terrible tragedy that my 2423rd child, little Susie, is never going to get her chance at sweet life? No, it's not. If you think it is, then I submit you have a lot more thinking to do about the nature of reality. This concept becomes ever clearer and more salient the further away we look. The world currently has about 7.3 billion people. Is it a tragedy that there aren't more at this current moment? F*ck no. Most people agree that we have an overpopulation problem as it is. But in theory, there could be countless billions more on Earth right now. Is it a tragedy that there isn't? Are all those hypothetical people missing out? Do we grieve for them? Now let's look at Mars. There's no intelligent life there. But perhaps there could have been, had the big bang gone just a tad differently. There could be a flourishing race of sentient, intelligent beings on Mars right now, enjoying all the fruits, beauties and joys of existence. But there's not. Is this a tragedy? Is it a great sadness that there's no race of Martians there to enjoy life? Do we shed tears for the non-existent Martians? No. What of the planet between Earth and Mars that might have existed, had the big bang gone just a tweak differently. Another chunk of rock may have settled into an orbit halfway between us and Mars, and that hypothetical planet (let's call it Kratos) may have supported life. There could have been a whole race of flourishing Kratosians. But there's not. Does that make us sad? Do we worry about that? No. What about the entire solar system that might have existed between us and Alpha Centauri that could have had many planets which may have supported intelligent life? What of the galaxy between us and Andromeda? We could imagine an infinite amount of hypothetical things and life-forms that don't exist. To spend one second worrying or feeling anguish over these non-existent things is, in my opinion, utter insanity. It's okay to not exist. Non-existence is not a tragedy. The Kratosians are not missing out. The Martians are not missing out. My kids are not missing out. Ashley is not missing out. An easy way to help break the spell of the intuitive bias towards existence is think about the time before you were born. Do you remember it? What did you feel like a thousand years ago? A million? A billion? Did it hurt? Were you miserable? Perhaps I'm being facetious and a little patronizing, but the point is valid. You didn't mind not existing. You weren't sitting in heaven's waiting room going, "Dammit. Look at all the fun those people are having without me! Why can't somebody have sex so I can get my shot at life?!" There is an asymmetry about existence: if a person exists, then they will experience suffering, along with (hopefully) some happiness. If they don't exist, then the suffering doesn't happen, but they're not "missing out" on happiness, because there's no one to do the missing. If you live, then you will suffer. If you are never born, then you will never know, and never care, because there will be no you. There is both an upside and a downside to existence. There is no downside to non-existence. This is why it is better to have never been. At this point, one might be thinking that I am simply a nihilistic misanthrope advocating for mass-suicide because life sucks. This is not true at all. My position that the creation of life is unethical, known as antinatalism, can be argued for from either a misanthropic perspective, or a philanthropic perspective. The philanthropic perspective is the stronger argument, and that's the side I argue from. It is out of compassion and concern for all conscious beings that I wish that no more exist. It is for their sake. It is in the best interest of conscious beings to never exist in the first place, so that no suffering need be experienced. I don't advocate for suicide because there is a big difference between a life worth starting, and a life worth continuing. It is never worth it to begin a life, but once we're here, once we have an investment, a stake in this world, it's generally worth seeing it through and trying to find as much enjoyment as you can. That said, while I discourage suicide, I have never judged someone for it. After all, being dead means an eternal end to suffering. Moreover, a person's life is theirs to do with as they choose. Your body is the only thing you can every truly own, and no one can tell you what to do with it. Your life belongs to you, and it's your choice what to do with it, including ending it if you wish. That said, I would always encourage the continuation of a life begun. Why, you may ask? After all, if not existing is ideal, then aren't we all better off dead? Well, in a sense, yes, but the world isn't so black and white. Your death would undoubtedly cause more suffering to those you leave behind. In a complex world entangled with emotions and bereavement, death is never a pure, simple end to suffering with no consequences. You also deserve all the happiness you can find, and as long as you don't mind being here and putting up with the bad stuff, then you owe it to yourself to keep going and experience all the joy you can for as long as you can. For these reasons, it is typically preferable to continue a life once begun. However, if life becomes truly intolerable with no amount of happiness, such as for a terminally ill patient in agony, then ending it is a perfectly reasonable and understandable option. (Needless to say, I have always been in favor of medically assisted suicide for the terminally ill.) Life is worth continuing so long as you still feel it's worth continuing. If you want to stay here, then by all means, stay. No one can tell you otherwise. I am continuing my life because, at the moment, it still feels worth it. That may change one day. I wouldn't care to continue surviving if life was pure misery with no hope of improvement. I have always been for "life if it's worth it", not "life at all costs". Quality over quantity. That said, if there were a mass extinction, such that our entire species ceased to exist simultaneously, painlessly, with no prior knowledge, and no one left behind, then that would indeed be the best thing that could ever happen to us. Imagine a scenario where we all go to sleep, everyone in the world, at the same time, and we all die painlessly and simultaneously in our sleep, with no knowledge that it's coming. No one would know that it's about to happen, and no one would ever know that it had happened. There would be no bereaved, and no suffering. This would be an ideal scenario. But at this point, you might be thinking, "Well, according to your logic, we should just nuke ourselves, then." No, I don't think that, because it is also unethical to kill. Another person's life does not belong to you, and thus, you have no right to end it against their will. But if the lights simply went out on their own, all at once, then that would indeed be a good thing. People also have an intuition regarding permanence. People feel that it would be tragic if our species didn't continue, because "all of this will have been for nothing." This is yet again a flawed mindset. Our species will go extinct. That is a certainty. Nothing can last forever. Someday, humanity will be gone. It doesn't matter whether it's today or a trillion millennia from now. It doesn't matter what joys might have been felt or discoveries made in that time. It's not a tragedy for those things not to happen, because they're just theoretical, non-existent people. The only tragedy is suffering that is felt by beings that exist. Admittedly, I often feel the pull of this intuition about permanence myself. I am a gamer, and I tend to feel that it's pointless to play a game unless I know that my file will be preserved. I back up my saves and take painstaking efforts to make sure my data is protected, because I feel like if I lost that playtime, then it will have all been for nothing, even if I've finished the game and am unlikely to ever play it again. I feel like if I don't have that monument for posterity, then it was pointless. But logically, I know this isn't true. Did I have fun playing it? Was the journey enjoyable? Then it had meaning, whether the save file is preserved until I die or not. Still, it's a tough intuition to overcome. But it is the journey that matters, and what comes after, once we're all gone, is irrelevant. Life has meaning while we're here, but once we're extinct, it won't matter how long we were here for. * * * Within my argument lurks the answer to the abortion question. If it's unethical to create life, then we shouldn't be conceiving anyone in the first place. It would be nice if we could leave it at a full-stop right there, but unfortunately, we have to keep going. Pregnancies happen, and their not going to stop. I believe that it's a highly immoral act to bring a person into this world, so ideally, much to the horror of everyone on Earth, I believe it would best to abort all pregnancies. (Transparent didn't seem to get me in any trouble, which I found surprising. Maybe this is the line that will do me in...) I don't think this makes me into the monster it sounds like. Remember, it is out of compassion and caring for the well-being of conscious creatures that I wish for them not to exist. It would be better for everyone to not be born. But how dare I take away someone's chance at life, right? How dare I judge whether someone should be brought into this world or not, right? That's a person! How DARE I make this decision for them! They could have been anything and experienced a rich, full life, but now they won't, because I robbed them of it! I understand this powerful intuition, believe me. But I believe that it is more unethical to bring the person into the world to begin with. I also understand that the weakest link in my entire argument lies right here: I said that it's immoral to take a life, because another person's life does not belong to you. A unborn child is still a person. That's a life. So taking it is wrong....right? This is a logical argument, and it is why I respect and understand the perspective of so-called "pro-lifers". Their argument seems, on its face, to be more straightforward and logical: "I'm not allowed to hurt you and you're not allowed to hurt me. That baby is a person, too, so we're not allowed to hurt it, either." This is simple and elegant, and it's why pro-lifers often seem to win debates. Unfortunately, they're coming at the entire argument from the assumption that life is a wonderful gift. It is not. Whether or not you personally enjoy life, is irrelevant. I'll concede that it's immoral and regrettable to kill the unborn child. I'll grant you that. But I believe that it is far worse to bring them into this world without their consent. Moreover, I believe that a forced pregnancy is a heinous violation of the mother's rights to her own body, and I believe that the rights of the mother trump those of the unborn fetus. Once again, I admit that this is weakest part of my argument. Suggesting that we abort all pregnancies seems drastic and abhorrent, and I'll admit that I probably wouldn't be personally willing to have that blood on my hands. I would also never suggest forcing someone to have an abortion. That seems much more unethical to me. Abortion must remain an option, but it is regrettable that we have to make that decision at all. Ideally, from my perspective, people simply shouldn't get pregnant at all, or at the very least, only if they truly want the child. In other words, abortion shouldn't need to exist, ideally speaking. However, rape happens, carelessness happens, poor judgement happens, and birth control failure happens. Thus, we are faced with a moral dilemma: it is unethical to kill, but it is also unethical to create a life, so which is worse: to see the life all the way through, or to promptly end it before it has a chance to begin in earnest? Despite our strong intuitions to the contrary, I believe that the latter is the lesser of two evils. I will take it a step further and say that I would be in favor of euthanasia of babies born with extreme deformities, conditions, or birth defects, such that they are likely to have an agonizing existence. This would have to be the parents' decision, of course. A good example of this would be, say, epidermolysis bullosa, one of the most painful conditions known to humankind. I believe we need to outgrow the idea that a life of agony is better than no life at all. Sparing someone a life of misery is much more humane. It is still a difficult moral dilemma, as taking a life is typically wrong, but I believe that in cases of ending extreme suffering, it is sometimes the more ethical option. People who live with extremely horrific conditions may still say that they are grateful for their life, and that's fine. I'm not disputing that. I'm glad they're able to find some happiness, but this is irrelevant to my argument. If their life ended the moment they were born, then they'd be spared the pain, they wouldn't miss out on anything, and they wouldn't care. I realize how callous that may sound, and I also know that this is the most slippery of slopes, to be certain. How would we decide who should live and die? Which lives are worth living? Which defects are too intolerable? I'll be the first to admit that I don't know where that line is, or if it's even possible to find it, (which is why, in all practicality, we should probably leave well enough alone) but some cases seem completely unambiguous to me. Take the case of Jaxon Strong: Jaxon was a young boy with a rare condition that caused his brain to stop growing part way through utero-development. His parents were aware of this well before his birth, and doctors informed them that Jaxon would probably never be able to walk, talk, hear or see. Doctors gave them the option to abort, but they refused. Jaxon was born via C-section with a caved-in skull and half a brain. He survived against all odds, only to be trapped in darkness and silence, barely able to move under his own power. Ladies and gentlemen, brothers, sisters, friends, comrades--I submit to you: this is no miracle. They didn't save a life; they ruined one. This isn't a life at all--it's a prison. Jaxon's parents are moral monsters in my view. This isn't a wondrous gift; it's mind crime--the creation of a consciousness that can basically do nothing but suffer, all because his parents were unwilling to let their child go. * * * This brings me to my next point: why do people have children? Accidental pregnancies aside for the moment, in the vast majority of cases, people have kids because they want to. Because they, the parents want to. People decide they want a family, and that bringing a child into their life will fill some void, bring love, richness, and fulfillment to their lives, and make them whole. I rarely hear anyone express any real concern about the child, and whether or not they should exist, would want to exist, or would be likely to have a happy life. In these cases, people have kids for their own desires--for what it will give them. This is transparently selfish, though having a child in order to fill one's life with love seems to most people to be the most wonderful, noble, and beautiful thing in the world. It is selfishness masquerading as virtue. I argue that parents who keep unplanned children are making an even graver moral misstep. They believe they're doing something incredibly noble and virtuous by sacrificing of themselves to keep and care for this child, when all they are doing is adding needless suffering to the world. Immorality masquerading as selflessness. And it just slides downhill from there--parents who keep unwanted children and give them a poor life are moral monsters. In rare cases when someone professes to be thinking only of the child--when a person has the money, the means, and the stable home life to give a child the best chance possible, and they claim that all they want is to give someone else a chance at happiness, regardless of their own feelings--in these cases, a moral misstep is still being made, simply by bringing a life into existence without permission. At this juncture, it is vitally important to differentiate mistakes from evil. Evil is to cause suffering intentionally. If a person has a child with the best of intentions, believing that it's a right and morally sound thing to do, and give that child the best life possible, then they are by no means evil. They have still committed a mistake by creating a life, but as long as they were doing the best they could with what they knew at the time, then they are not evil. It's always a mistake to create a life, but it is not evil if done with the right intentions. This is why I don't hate good, loving, responsible parents. This is why I don't hate my own parents. I love them, and I'm grateful for them being such good parents. I just want to educate and encourage people not to have kids. This would be a good time for me to mention that I am huge advocate for adoption. In reality, I know that reproduction will never stop until the universe prevents it, so there will always be children who need a home. Adoption is a great way for people to have the family they want without doing anything unethical. Giving an unwanted child a home is, in my opinion, one of the best ethical decisions a person could make. It only reduces suffering in the world, and helps fight overpopulation. I wish that more people would choose to adopt over having their own kids. * * * I will now address an obvious question that many of you probably have--I make these extremely bold and controversial suggestions, but how would I feel if it was me that this happened to? What if my parents had aborted me, or had me euthanized because I had a disability? Firstly, I must point out that I wouldn't care, because I would never know that this had happened to me. Of course, this undoubtedly sounds like a cold, callous, technical response that would probably disgust most people. That doesn't make it untrue. However, I understand the overwhelming intuition that it's monstrous to "rob" someone of their chance at life because you feel that their life wouldn't be worth living. Who is anyone to make that judgement, right? To most, this idea is unspeakably hideous. While I honestly think that it's unambiguously unethical to create a life in the first place, perhaps I can't adequately defend this particular argument. All I can say is that I am very sensitive to the suffering of conscious creatures, and it pains me to no end that there is so much suffering that, in my view, could have been avoided. Even from my perspective, given my current life and all that I know and feel, I honestly wouldn't mind if was me that had been aborted. I wouldn't care, I would have been spared all suffering, and I wouldn't miss out on anything. * * * If you've stuck with me for this long, then I'd first like to say thank you, and secondly, I'd like to try to address the concerns you may have. My view of life probably sounds pessimistic, nihilistic, misanthropic, and utterly vile. You may be thinking that there must be something seriously wrong with me--I must really hate life in order to feel this way. I assure you that this isn't the case. Antinatalism isn't the negative view that it sounds like. In fact, a love of life and of other people is perfectly compatible with antinatalism. Once again, antinatalism can be approached from a philanthropic point of view. Feeling that it is unethical to create life does not mean that one must feel that life is purely a curse, it simply means that it contains unavoidable suffering that should not be inflicted on others without consent. When you get down to bedrock, the ultimate principle is that the only life you truly own is yours--you have no right over another's life, and thus, you have no right to kill or create life. And the key to understanding the antinatalism argument is realizing the asymmetry--the fact that non-existence means a lack of suffering, but does not equal a deprivation of happiness. In other words, if a person does not exist, then they are not "missing out". This is a counter-intuitive idea, I know, but most truths that we've discovered about reality have been counter-intuitive. This should be unsurprising to us, as we are not evolved to understand the nature of reality, the cosmos, and our universe. It is only by a lot of hard work and some amazing coincidences that we've been able to repurpose our ape brains to do so. I would now like to list some things you may be thinking or feeling, such that I may address them directly. Your push-back may sound something like this: "How can you possibly judge the value of another's life? Who are you to say I shouldn't exist? You have no idea who or what someone will be, and what joys they may experience! Who are you to rob someone of their chance? Are you suggesting the world would be better off without me? How dare you tell me that I'd be better off dead! Life and the human experiment are wondrous, beautiful things." I'm not judging the value of anyone's life. I'm arguing that we have no right to create it in the first place. Once again, this puts us in a difficult moral dilemma with respect to abortion and babies with conditions that would lead to an agonizing existence. In those cases, though it may appear otherwise, I do not believe that I am judging the value of their lives. I know their lives still have value. I simply believe that it is more humane to spare people suffering, though admittedly, I feel torn about what the right answer is, here. It's a slippery slope, for sure. I'm certainly not in favor of murdering anyone who happens to be in pain, but I can't help but look at children born with excruciating, untreatable conditions and feel that it is morally reprehensible to allow that agony to occur. I'm not saying that you shouldn't exist, or that the world would be better off without you. I'm not saying that you'd be better off dead or that you don't deserve to live. There's no need to feel any personal offense. I'm saying that it would be in our best interest to never exist in the first place. Seeing the merits to my arguments requires a willingness to step outside yourself and not feel personally insulted. I'm not suggesting that anyone doesn't deserve life...although, perhaps from a certain perspective, I am. I am suggesting that non-existence is preferable, so I am therefore suggesting that none of us "deserve" to have life thrust upon us, with its unavoidable pain, without our permission. We deserve better. But ultimately, please remember that I'm not suggesting that your life has no value. Quite the contrary. It has immense value. If it didn't, then I wouldn't need to write this essay in the first place. If human life didn't matter, if our feelings didn't matter, then our suffering would be irrelevant, morality would be irrelevant, and my thesis would be irrelevant. It's because our lives have value that I care to begin with, and it's because I care that I want no further suffering to exist. Before closing, I'd like to point out that religion shouldn't have any effect on my thesis. As an atheist, I believe that death will feel exactly as it did for the eons before you were born--it will just be nothing. However, if you believe in a heaven, then you can rest assured that you'll just go there when you die. And if you never existed to begin with, then you won't be missing out on heaven, because there will be no soul to do the missing. Heaven just becomes a parallel for Earth in this case, and the argument remains unchanged. All of the beauty, wonder, and joy of life does not warrant its continuation. We can love life and feel immense gratitude for it, and still feel that it shouldn't and needn't continue after we're gone. Even if life was perfect and blissful for everyone all the time, then we should only be indifferent to existence, because there is no downside to non-existence. I am against murder, and I feel that life is generally worth continuing once we've had a chance to start it. I feel that it is a horrible tragedy when happy people die before their time. I grieve for them, and perhaps more so for the bereaved they've left behind. I cried for the Orlando nightclub shooting victims. I have cried for many mass shooting victims. I have cried until there were no tears left. I am against suffering in all its forms. I suffer greatly from thinking about the suffering of others. I have devoted much time to writing this blog series in the hopes that my words may have some sort of butterfly effect that may lead to less suffering in the world. I want to make the world a better place. I don't want anyone to be miserable. I'm not an antinatalist because I think life always sucks. Life can be truly wonderful and beautiful. You may be deeply offended by my views because you may feel immensely grateful for every single second you have. You may feel so incredibly thankful to be alive, and that every moment of your life, even the worst ones, are a sweet and precious gift. And that's wonderful. That's how you should feel. That's how I want everyone to feel. That's what I want for all people. I don't want anyone to hate their life. I want everyone to treasure their lives, because life can indeed be beautiful and joyous. We can find breathtaking beauty everywhere we look, from the swirls of galaxies, to the swirl in the center of a sunflower. We can find unimaginable joy all around us, from epic adventures to curling up with a good book. We can find wonder and excitement in all of the spectacular discoveries we make about our world and the cosmos. We can find humor and whimsy in every corner of our lives. We can revel and relish in life's greatest pleasures, from the taste of your favorite food, to the sound of your favorite song, to the passion and joy of sexuality. We can find deep fulfillment and happiness from sharing all that life has to offer with our friends and loved ones. None of this....none of a valid argument for existence in the first place. Ultimately, another person's life does not belong to you, and thus you have no more right to create it than to take it away. It is not your choice to make. It is unethical to take a life, and it is unethical to create one.
  2. MLP:FiM and Steven Universe are both examples of recent family-oriented cartoons with positive moral overtones. However, they take contradictory positions on a millennia-old debate in ethics – so according to each show, the other’s position is not simply incorrect but immoral. A few notes before I explain why: In the title I used the word “existentialism” to mean the belief that an individual should choose their own purpose, even though that definition is not as broad or commonly used as others. To figure out the ethical ideas that a show teaches, I assume that if the protagonists of a show explicitly believe in an ethical idea, their antagonists explicitly believe the opposite, and the protagonists win in the conflict between them, then the show is teaching that those ideas are correct. This assumption would not work for all shows. However, it probably works for these two because they were designed partly for easily understandable moral education. Outline of this post: Crash Course Aristotle Horse Teleology Rock Teleology An Uncomfortable Ethical Trilemma from the Contradiction of Rocks and Horses TL;DR Crash Course Aristotle Before understanding the ethical conflict between MLP:FiM and Steven Universe, one must understand a few basic terms of the conflict: telos, eudaimonia, virtues, and universal essence. I will try to keep the explanation brief. Almost 2400 years ago, Aristotle distinguished 4 different ways to explain something: its matter, form, agent, and goal. For example, Aristotle would explain a hammer in these four ways: A hammer’s material cause is the matter out of which it is made: wood and metal. A hammer’s formal cause is the form of the matter which makes it a hammer instead of something else: the design of the hammer. A hammer’s efficient cause is the agent that brought it into being: the person who created it. A hammer’s final cause is the goal for which it exists: hitting nails to build structures. The Greek word for final cause is telos, which is why teleology is the study of things in terms of their purpose. The telos of a hammer may seem obvious, but what is the telos of a human? Aristotle said that the function of a human is to reason well [1]. While the precise definition of “virtue” can take paragraphs to flesh out [2], virtues are basically “good moral habits” [3] which help one attain the highest good, eudaimonia. That term is often misleadingly translated as “happiness,” but can be more accurately translated as “human flourishing” or “a complete life” [1]. Even asking about the human telos, though, assumes that all humans have a telos. Without delving into religious questions [4], note that Aristotle based his teleology on a belief in the universal essence: the defining trait of a category, which exists fundamentally in all members of that category at once. To Aristotle and other essentialists who believe that such essences exist, we categorize things based on their essence: e.g. we call something a “human” if-and-only-if it contains the essence of humanity [5]. According to Aristotle, a living thing’s telos is part of – or identical to – its essence. Horse Teleology Some people[6] don’t believe they have a telos, but I bet they would be more easily convinced if it was stamped on their butt! In MLP:FiM, a pony’s cutie mark represents its telos because it represents 1) the purpose for which that pony exists, which 2) cannot be created or altered by a pony’s beliefs or choices, but instead 3) is permanent and unchangeable throughout the pony’s lifetime. Each of these is stated or implied in MLP:FiM. First consider “Magical Mystery Cure.” The cutie marks of the Mane 6 were swapped, and consequently each of them believed and chose to follow their false cutie mark because “It’s what my cutie mark is telling me.” When Spike asks Twilight why she does not fix her friends with a memory spell, Twilight responds that “It's not their memories, [but] their true selves that have been altered!” After Spike raises the possibility that “our friends will grow to like their new lives,” Twilight asserts that “They're not who they are meant to be anymore” because “Their destinies are now changed.” Twilight’s language brims over with teleology, especially considering that a telos is what something “is meant to be” objectively. Changing a pony’s cutie mark, beliefs, and choices is insufficient to change “who they are meant to be,” so the pony’s purpose must be objective and intrinsic. What “ponies are meant to be” according to Twilight comes from “their true selves” which exist independently of belief, choice, or representation in a cutie mark. By using the term “destiny,” Twilight implies that a pony’s purpose – the referent of that pony’s correct cutie mark – is determined before that pony makes any choices. “Magical Mystery Cure” shows that, try as they might, a pony cannot alter their purpose by believing or acting as if they have a different purpose. “The Cutie Map Part 2” is even more explicit. As the villain, Starlight Glimmer urges the Mane 6 to “Free yourself from your cutie mark” and “Choose equality as your special talent.” I will note a major difference, however, between the teleologies of Aristotle and MLP:FiM. To Aristotle, every human necessarily has the same function, but to MLP:FiM, every pony necessarily has a different function [7]. Before Starlight shut her up, Twilight said that “Everypony has unique talents and gifts, and when we share them with each other, that's how rea—.” She presumable meant to say something like “how real friendship forms.” Compare Aristotle's idea that friendship is the mutual pursuit of the highest good by virtuous people [8]. Also note that in “Call of the Cutie,” Cheerilee defines cutie marks as “that certain something that makes them different from every other pony.” Since this matches the definition of a universal essence, a pony's telos is its essential identity. Each pony may have their own telos, but they are still directed by objectively-defined virtues towards a highest good analogous to humans’ eudaimonia. I am unsure whether to call it Friendship, Magic, or Harmony, but that is a distinction without a difference given that the three are identical. The title states part of this equivalence as bluntly as possible: Friendship is Magic. And in “Friendship is Magic Part 2,” Applejack asserts that the Mane 6 “really do represent the elements of friendship,” which Princess Celestia confirms. If the Elements of Harmony are elements of Friendship, then Friendship is Harmony, which should be uncontroversial given that those terms are nearly synonymous in their normal use. I will call this highest good of ponydom “Harmony,” for convenience. In the same way that Aristotle says all humans strive for the good of eudaimonia, all ponies strive for this good of Harmony, because the Elements of Harmony relate to Harmony itself in the same way that Aristotle’s virtues relate to eudaimonia. The five main Elements are defined as virtuous traits. At the end of “Friendship is Magic Part 2,” Twilight says that each of the others in the Mane 6 “represents the spirit of” that trait, i.e. the virtue defined by that trait. But the last Element is different: “the spark that resides in the heart of us all” creates the Element of Magic. That “spark” is the essence of ponydom. Because the Element of Magic requires all of the virtues, and emerges from the essence of ponydom, it is the highest good of ponydom. Rock Teleology At first glance, it may appear that the gems of Steven Universe are teleological in the same way. Rose Quartz points out in “Greg the Babysitter” that “When a Gem is made, it's for a reason. They burst out of the ground already knowing what they're supposed to be, and then... that's what they are. Forever.” This brief description covers the criteria for a telos as previously described: it exists throughout the gem’s lifetime regardless of that gem’s beliefs or choices, never changes, and is that gem’s essential identity. However, the apparent telos of a Gem is not the morally correct purpose for them to pursue. The protagonist Crystal Gems, under Rose Quartz’s ideology, assert that the correct purpose for a gem to pursue is their chosen purpose. Consider how Bismuth describes Rose’s ideology in “Bismuth”: “[Rose] was different because she decided to be … Gems never hear they can be anything other than what they are, but Rose opened our eyes.” The idea that identity can and/or should be altered by choice is incompatible with teleology. Bismuth later cites “[Rose’s] talk about how Gems could take control of their own identities” and “how we'd been convinced to ignore our own potential,” which confirms that identity can be changed by choosing a different one. Choosing one’s identity/purpose is upheld by the protagonists in Steven Universe, so it is presented as good. Conversely, adhering to one’s given/intended/innate identity/purpose is upheld by the antagonists, so it is presented as bad. An Uncomfortable Ethical Trilemma from the Contradiction of Rocks and Horses The fundamental contradiction between MLP:FiM and Steven Universe is that the former claims that one should pursue only their inherent purpose regardless of belief or choice, whereas the latter vehemently disagrees by claiming that one should pursue only their chosen purpose regardless of their inherent purpose. When the two conflict, MLP:FiM says to pursue inherent purpose, whereas Steven Universe says to pursue chosen purpose – a direct contradiction. From this contradiction, we are forced into one of the following strange conclusions (under the assumption that we can know that actions are right or wrong): When innate purpose conflicts with chosen purpose… …one should pursue innate purpose, so Steven Universe teaches immorality by implying the opposite. The Crystal Gems of Steven Universe should have followed their design and intended purpose. …one should pursue chosen purpose, so MLP:FiM teaches immorality by implying the opposite. …the right choice depends on the context, so claims about moral purpose can only be judged as true relative to their context. As a side note, I would have included that the Mane 6 should have followed “what their cutie mark was telling” them in “Magical Mystery Cure” – and were wrong to overthrow Starlight Glimmer in “The Cutie Map” – as part of option 2, but in both cases the ponies who had chosen to pursue a purpose different from their telos conveniently changed their minds and chose their telos. This potentially shows another difference between Harmony and eudaimonia: the former, being Magic, is a goal but also a force that can interact with the world to bring itself about. It's also a tree. That raises its own weird metaphysical questions, but I will shelve those for now. Anyway, to my knowledge, the three options of the trilemma are mutually exclusive (if one is true, then the others are false) and mutually exhaustive (necessarily at least one is true, such that no alternatives exist). Which of the three do you believe? Alternatively, is something wrong with my reasoning? (Probably.) TL;DR MLP:FiM calls it good to do what one was created for and to follow one's intrinsic purpose (what Aristotle called a telos). Steven Universe calls that bad and instead says to create one's own purpose. Either one of the shows is morally wrong, or purpose is only right or wrong relative to context. Footnotes Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics Book I, ch. 7 §8-16. See Alasdair MacIntyre’s three-stage definition of virtue in After Virtue, ch. 15, p. 219-20. To be fair, though, MacIntyre's writing style is about as concise as C.S. Lewis's is subtle: not. James K. Smith, You Are What You Love, ch. 1, p. 16. Note however that the 13th-century Christian philosopher St. Thomas Aquinas fleshed out Aristotle’s philosophy and merged it with Christian theology. The philosophy he created is called Thomism, which is still “the official philosophy of the Roman Catholic Church.” Aristotle and Plato disagreed over whether the essence of a thing could exist even if the thing did not exist. Plato said it could because the essence exists more fundamentally than examples of it; he called the essences Forms. Aristotle disagreed, saying that essences only exist in the things which instantiate those essences. Myself included, for the record. I think MLP:FiM shows what the world might be like if final causes existed. A human's telos comes from its essence (i.e. "quiddity"), its "whatness" which makes it what it is: a human. In contrast, a pony's telos comes from its "haecceity," its "thisness" which makes it this pony instead of any other pony. Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics Book VIII, ch. 3 §6. Edits: 2018-03-25: Fixed broken links to "four causes." 2018-08-01: Added footnote 7.
  3. I have always been fascinated with how history has often repeated it's mistakes over and over. If every grand mind in the forum got together, maybe we can change this, do something good for the world as a whole. This could all start with a few simple questions. What in your eyes is a perfect world, a utopia? Brought to you by Equestria's newest philosopher, Tranquil Claw I'm thinking of starting a daily question for the forum to answer and discuss. Should I do this? I'll let you decide.
  4. Copy and pasted from another post I made. (Main questions are down below). "I find it hilarious that Starlight Glimmer is still being used as a pony example of someone who acts like they've never understood how to socialize and understand basic ethics, and it keeps hitting my snarky bone (writers stop doing that). Its comical on how she keeps thinking that there isn't any sort of ethical wrong-doing for casting high advanced magical spells on your friends and forcing them to do things against their will. Like you have to take into consideration about her awfully skint backstory and believe at face-value that ever since she felt abandoned by Sunburst, she drove herself into her cause to try and force a cult into existence about forced equal cutie-marks and even after believing and accepting Twilight's extension of Friendship for a second chance, that she still hasn't learned the basics of social magical ethics at all while being tutored by Twilight! Starlight Glimmer: "What do you mean it's ethically wrong to cast possession spells on my friends to try and pass a report? I've never learned about this rule before in my entire life. Are you serious Twilight that this is something that most magically gifted unicorns are taught early on in their schooling? Really?" ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ While I can make snark and laugh at this, I'm actually kind of wondering, why are there a bunch of highly advanced magical spells that are being taught to highly gifted magical unicorns? Remember at the beginning of the episode 'Everything little thing she does' - Starlight was able to demonstrate many highly advance magical spells that enabled her to teleport, move quickly, attack and defend. It begs the question, why was Twilight teaching her some of this? I kept viewing all of these spells as highly useful for a combative situation. Like literally the purpose of attack beams and shields is mainly for a combative situation. This begs several questions. 1. Are these spells freely available? Available to find for any unicorn? (cause remember Starlight in her 2 parter season 5 premiere knew some offensive and defensive magic. How did she find out about these spells? Did she find books and was self-taught or were they taught to her at some sort of magical school?). 2. Why isn't there some sort of group made up of unicorns set up for state defense? (similar to how the wonderbolts serve an old secondary function for occasional state defense). Or is that supposed to be the Equestrian guard? (I honestly have no faith in that guard at times. But if some of those spells that Starlight Glimmer demonstrated are available to them, then I seriously expected them to be much better at their job). (Acknowledged, Tirek still would've won against them, but at least they would've been better equipped in other situations). 3. If these spells are not serving a military purpose, then why are they being taught in the first place? Like possession spells. Remember when Twilight caused the whole of Ponyville to be possessed with the 'want it need it spell' and Celestia had to fix it up? Or even just this recent episode with Starlight fusing three spells to make obedient servants out of the mane cast. Does no one teach ethical usage at Celestia's school ? The last point actually delves a little close to a more difficult subject seen in the superhero genre of recent late. In most situations, the situation caused by possession spells can probably be fixed later, which allows them to remedy the consequences caused by the original problem. However, I've noticed how close this has been dancing towards the problems of collateral damage. I remember reading a webcomic called Strong Female Protagonist that had this laid out so well about understanding the underbelly of collateral damage in the superhero genre (not to give away spoilers for anyone reading that). But also you can see it easily in the film Captain America Civil War. Thoughts on it all? (sorry maybe this is a bit of a poor OP cause questions 1 and 2 go in slightly different directions than 3, but they're related to each other) And Marinette Dupain-Cheng gets a freaking save due to having the power to "fix anything" The envy of all superheroes.
  5. This is a poster that I did for my Design Principles class. My teacher really liked it. Personally, I felt that it was a rather bold move on my part. The pony was made in generalzoi's Pony Creator game in deviantart. the background, the text, the fiddler character, and the star were all made in Adobe Illustrator. The assignment was to make an ethics poster with a political message. I figured I would use this as an opportunity to show the rise of the brony community and their message of tolerance and friendship against the tyranny of traditional stereotypes. For the fiddler man getting bucked, I got the idea from the musical "Fiddler on the Roof" which dealt with the issue of progress vs tradition. Many of the older characters in the village are loyal to their traditions, regardless of how oppressive they may be. While many of the younger characters are acknowledging the ever changing world and want to change with the times for the better. So I figured I'd use the fiddler character as a symbol of the oppressive traditions and stereotypes that hold others down, getting bucked by the pony that symbolizes progress and inclusiveness that we bronies are trying to teach against the oppressive traditional stereotypes that those who hate bronies are trying to maintain. Now I'm not against traditions in general. I respect a lot of traditions that are worthy of respect. But unfortunately there are some traditions that just hold others down and don't benefit anyone. I'm not trying to offend anyone here. As I said this was a particularly bold project that I did. I hope you like it and you understand where I'm coming from.
  6. HUGE, STRANGE POST ALERT. This thread is intended for everyone on the forum, not just D&D players. My reasons for making it are to help me know everyone a bit better and to sate one of my weird curiosities. Having seen a thread dedicated to D&D, I know there's at least a handful of regulars here that can skip over most of this post, but for those unfamiliar with what's to follow, I entreat you spare a few minutes to read and reply. It could be enlightening. Many role-playing games have some way of measuring the player's moral and ethical compass. The one I want to look at right now and apply to all of you — or rather, have you determine it's application to yourselves — is the alignment system found in Dungeons & Dragons. Those who are already familiar with how it works will notice this is pre-4th edition. That's deliberate. Here's how it works: there are nine alignments, each one representing a certain proclivity for good or evil and law or chaos. Tell which one most accurately matches you, and if you want to talk about where your friends and family fit in relation to you or how they've influenced you, for better or worse, that would be even more interesting. I've already started pegging some of you with alignments, and I feel pretty confident about most of them. These are some "official" definitions so they may seem oddly-worded considering the question is aimed at you and not some character of your own devisal; they're arranged in a 3 X 3 grid: Lawful Good A lawful good character upholds society and its laws, believing that these laws are created to work for the good and prosperity of all. He is both honest and benevolent. He will work within the established system to change it for the better, and strives to bring order to goodness that other good-aligned characters might pool their resources to better the world. A lawful good character combines a commitment to oppose evil with discipline. Most lawful good characters live by a strict code of honor, or by the rules of conduct set down by their deity. They will generally selflessly act by these codes even at the cost of their own life. It must however be stressed that blind obedience to local laws is not required by the lawful good alignment. A paladin is not in violation of his alignment if he decides to take up arms against a usurper on behalf of the rightful king, for example, even if that means going against the sedition laws instated by the usurper. An incorruptible enforcer, a ruler or politician who acts for the good of his people, and a heroic soldier who strictly obeys the laws of battle are all examples of lawful good characters. Neutral Good Neutral good characters desire good without bias for or against order. A neutral good character does good for goodness' sake, not because he is directed to by law or by whim. Such a character will obey the law, or break it when he sees that it will serve a greater good. He has no problems with co-operating with lawful officials, but does not feel beholden to them. In the event that doing the right thing requires the bending or breaking of rules, they do not suffer the same inner conflict that a Lawful Good character would. He isn't bound strongly to a social system or order. His need to help others and reduce suffering may take precedence over all else. A doctor who treats both sides in a fight and somebody who feeds the starving in a war zone are both examples of neutral good characters. Chaotic Good Chaotic good combines a good heart with a free spirit. A chaotic good character acts as his conscience directs him with little regard for what others expect of him. He is kind and benevolent, a strong individualist hostile to the claims of rules, regulations, and social order. He hates it when people try to intimidate others and tell them what to do. He will actively work to bring down unjust rulers and organizations and to liberate the oppressed. He finds lawful societies distasteful and will avoid them, often living as a nomad or hermit. Noble rebel leaders fighting corrupt or venal regimes, vigilantes acting for what they see as the greater good, mercenaries who only work for the "good guys" and anyone who "robs from the rich to give to the poor" are all examples of chaotic good characters. Lawful Neutral A lawful neutral character is directed by law, logic, tradition, or a personal code. Order and organization are paramount to him. He may believe in personal order and live by a code or standard, or he may believe in order for all and favor a strong, organized government. Lawful neutral combines reliability and honor without moral bias. Note that this does not mean that a lawful neutral character is amoral or immoral, or does not have a moral compass, but that moral considerations — the good or evil of the action — come a distant second to what the character's code, tradition, law, or logic dictate. A functionary, soldier, or employee who follows orders without question regardless of the result; an arms dealer who sells his wares to the highest bidder, whatever that bidder may do with them, and an impartial jurist who sticks rigidly to the rule book are all examples of lawful neutral characters. True Neutral The neutral alignment (sometimes known as true neutral) is without prejudice or compulsion. A neutral character does what seems to be a good idea. He doesn't feel strongly one way or the other when it comes to good vs. evil or order vs. chaos. He thinks of good as better than evil — after all, he would rather have good neighbors and rulers than evil ones. Still, he isn't personally committed to upholding good in any abstract or universal way. A true neutral character sees good, evil, law, and chaos as prejudices and dangerous extremes. He advocates the middle way of neutrality as the best, most balanced road in the long run. His position is carefully neutral, but he does not continually balance his morals in a yin yang or fanatical fashion. Chaotic Neutral Chaotic neutral is freedom from both society's restrictions and a do-gooder's zeal. A chaotic neutral character follows his whims. He is an individualist first and last. He values his own liberty but does not strive to protect the freedom of others. He avoids authority, resents restrictions, and challenges traditions. A chaotic neutral character doesn't intentionally disrupt organizations as part of a campaign of anarchy. To do so, he would have to be motivated either by good (and a desire to liberate others) or by evil (and a desire to make others suffer). A chaotic neutral character may be unpredictable, but his behavior is not totally random. He is not as likely to jump off a bridge as to cross it. A wandering rogue who lives both by work for hire and petty theft is an example of a chaotic neutral character. Lawful Evil Lawful evil is the methodical and intentional devotion to a cruel, organized system. A lawful evil character methodically takes what he wants within the limits of his personal code of conduct without regard for whom it hurts. He cares about tradition, loyalty, and order but not about freedom, dignity, or life. He plays by the rules but without mercy or compassion. He's comfortable in a hierarchy and would like to rule, but is willing to serve. He is loath to break promises, and he is therefore very cautious about giving his word unless a bargain is clearly in his favor. This reluctance comes partly from his nature and partly because he depends on order to protect himself from those who oppose him on moral grounds. Many lawful evil characters use society and its laws for selfish advantages, exploiting the letter of the law over its spirit whenever it best suits their interests. A tyrannical ruler who drafts the rules to suit himself, a corrupt lawyer or judge who uses the law to mask his own misdeeds, and the ruthless bosses and minions of organized crime are all examples of lawful evil characters. Neutral Evil Neutral evil is pure pragmatism without honor and without variation — survival of the ruthless. A neutral evil character does whatever he can get away with. He is out for himself, pure and simple. He shows no remorse for those he kills, whether for profit, sport or convenience, and he has no love of order and holds no illusion that following laws, traditions, or codes would make him any better or more noble. On the other hand, he does not have the restless nature or love of conflict that a chaotic evil villain has. Career criminals, particularly those who harm others for money, such as hitmen, are the most obvious example of neutral evil. Chaotic Evil Chaotic evil is power without control — selfishness unfettered by any law. A chaotic evil character does whatever his greed, hatred, and lust for destruction drive him to do. If he is simply out for whatever he can get, he is ruthless and brutal. If he is committed to the spread of evil and chaos, he is even worse. His plans are haphazard and any groups he joins or forms are poorly organized. Typically, chaotic evil people can be made to work together only by force, and their leader lasts only as long as he can thwart attempts to topple or assassinate him. These characters will commit any act to further their own ends. Now here's where I fit into all this. Read it or don't, but I want to hear your stories and what you think of yourselves. My alignment is Neutral Good. I've concluded — perhaps erroneously — that the opposite of me would be Neutral Evil. However, they don't bother me as much as those who fall firmly into the Lawful Neutral slot. Don't get me wrong, there are several people here whom I like that I would easily label as LN, but the idea of allowing another man's or system's moral compass take precedence over one's own is almost unimaginable for me. I have actually known people who have said things like "The government is capable of thinking for me, so I don't want to think." Yes, that is one of the most extreme cases, but people like that exist and it's an ideology that is entirely beyond my comprehension. Whether or not my moral stances changed throughout my life, my application thereof underwent many. Through it all I've never relinquished a sliver of my individuality beyond what I felt was fair compromise, though this has admittedly been counterproductive to my intentions in some circumstances, causing harm where I intended to bring relief. Reflecting on my younger days I can say that my heart was originally NG, but circumstances being what they were (abuse, violation of trust, etc.), my childlike malleability combined with innate and unwavering moral stances pushed me more into being a Chaotic Neutral individual. I was willing, able, and did on occasion risk money and possessions just for the thrill of it. Sometimes it was as big a risk as gambling with large (to me) sums of money. Sometimes it was as small as extending my arm out the bus window and flipping a coin because I knew I wouldn't get it back if I didn't catch it. Easy come; easy go. A few times I gambled with my life. I learned to keep to myself even if it meant allowing somebody else to endure some kind of unnecessary hardship I could have prevented, justifying my inaction by saying they could better learn by practice than with my assistance. The truth was I didn't want to risk being taken for a ride. Always empathetic, there was only so much emotional distress I could tolerate upon another before lending a hand. I wasn't heartless. Then there's my "brony conversion story," in which by example as much as admonition that eclectic group pulled me back here, where I always belonged and desired to be. As terrible as that bygone period of my life was, I think the way I devalued myself back then has helped me presently to find more courage in interposing myself to keep another from harm. And learning how fragile and fleeting possessions are through my reckless actions back then has helped me to be more generous now. As for the significant and not so significant people in my life — my parents first; they are about as hard to the Lawful side of things as can be. Both of them almost straddle the line of good and neutrality when it comes to the vertical axis, with my dad a little more on the good side than my mom. There was a time where I would have placed them farther into neutral, in days when they were more content with their situations so long as they weren't in dire need of anything, but in more recent days they've started to determine that their ability to decide is a bit more important than simplicity. We were always at odds when I was growing up. I'd hear of something I perceived to be an injustice, whether somebody got too harsh a sentence for some offense or was let off the hook despite obvious guilt; every time I would be furious, and their attitude was largely apathetic because they weren't affected. My closest and first of only two friends is Lawful Good. At times he can seem more neutral than good, but he's just very guarded and secretive. The other is also Lawful Good, but he's a simple, country guy who grew up in a normal family and just wants to live a quiet life. The majority of my mom's side of the family is Neutral Evil, and a few of them are Chaotic Evil; one person is Lawful Good and one person is Chaotic Neutral. The majority of my dad's side of the family is Lawful Good. edit: Please don't rely on any kind of online test to determine your alignment. Like any other test, it will be limited by the diversity, quality, and quantity of questions asked, and won't give an accurate evaluation. Do some reflecting and see which one sounds most like you. You can take a test if you want, but I'd prefer that you not use its results here.
  7. Well, first time drawing with a drawing tablet, got to say, It's easier than with mouse. Also, can anyone explain why I made this?
  8. Here's some questions I came up with today: Imagine yourself in a post-apocalyptic situation. This can be a zombie apocalypse, an extremely devastating world war, a pandemic wiping out most of humanity, maybe a widespread, devastating natural disaster, anything you want to imagine. Let's say this disaster ended for some reason or is not as pervasive as it used to be, and human civilization ended or nearly ended and the government fell. You survived through this apocalypse. If you had a group, they either all died or left you or something. Imagine what you want, but I want you to get this idea: You are a post-apocalyptic survivor, civilization has been destroyed or almost destroyed. The world is anarchic now with a much smaller population and you are alone. What will you do? You are alone and out in this wild, anarchic world to survive. Taking into consideration scarce resources, the fact that you can't trust everybody, your chances of survival, and more, answer these questions: How much will morals and ethics matter to you at this point? Will you try to manipulate, steal from, and even kill people to get what you want/need or more of what you want/need? Will you give things to anybody who asks (even if you need that stuff) and do as much as you can to help people? Something else? Where will you be? Will you be in a city, where there could be a bigger presence of people? Will you be in the countryside, where there would most likely be less people and you could grow food? Perhaps you'll be in the woods or jungle or something, where there would be more food but there could be animals that could kill you easy? How would you feel about groups? Will you try to go it alone and avoid people as much as people where you won't have to worry about trust or conflict or anything? Or would you try to find a group, where there'd be people to support you, solve problems together, even though there's the risk of being killed by someone, there being conflict, losing friends, and such? What about weapons? What would you carry? Let's be realistic and not pick any fictional weapons, rare weapons, and such. Think about easily accessible weapons. What would you carry and why? Think about weight, too. Feel free to discuss this and maybe give a critique of someone else's answers. Also, should I add a poll? Tell me if I should or shouldn't.
  9. Kara is a tech demo that was shown off at a Game Developers Conference in 2012 (although apparently it was in development for a year before) and it's really interesting. Especially if you like Androids, like futuristic stories, or just happen to be a student in a RoboEthics class I like this video because in most futuristic movies that focuses on Androids, They become self aware and the first thing they seem to want (or at least we see in the movie) is "kill human salve lords. " But in Kara, you see that the android doesn't want to be free, they just want to live. Fear is not the first emotion that comes to mind when you think of androids, but it's a completely reasonable and realistic response. I was introduced to this video by Gaijin Goombah, a youtuber who delves into the culture hidden in video games, in his video talking about Mega Man and human robot relationships ( Heres a link to that vid: I just thought this video deserved some attention, I cried during this video the first time I seen it and it still hits me right in the heart. So tell me what you think about Kara. Warning there is a bit of mild nudity (it doesn't show anything) Video link:
  10. For example, if a fictional human from a fantasy/sci-fi culture ended up on Earth, is it right that we must force him/her to become like us? Alternatively, if Nation X is based on a fictional culture, and gets independent, are we supposed to force them back into our countries? And should they be punished for not following our culture/rebellion? (Even if that culture is violent/full of outrageous and dangerous things)
  11. As some of you might know, I'm currently writing this very big fic on fimfiction that would be dealing with A LOT of issues in real life, which of course includes the haters. However, some aspects of the story is perhaps controversial for me to actually write them down. So I hope fellow bronies/pegasisters/any-intellectual-beings can tell me whether it is ok to include these aspects. This fic obviously has to be M-rated (mainly b/c realistic violence and gore) Question 1: Is it ok to use the "n word" in a fiction? I do realize this is a very offensive word but it is fairly necessary to convey the obvious theme it is trying to depict, Racism. I do have an African American in my story so this is a bit hard. So far I've been getting fairly ambiguous answers. So I'm turning to you guys. Do let me know!
  12. First of all, this is the textbook TL;DR. You have been warned. I came here today after conversing with some fellow bronies on campus. After a long, drawn out and very logical and yet philosophical debate, we asked ourselves "what happened to Love and Tolerate?" It's pretty much common for bronies that I know to literally become more loving and tolerant and generally more happy after becoming a fan of MLP. I really believed all of "us" to be this way. Then I came to places like these. I'm certainly not bashing anyone and this isn't any passive-aggressive crap, but my eyes have been opened to the fact that bronies as a whole are not about "Love and Tolerate", especially on the interwebs. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when I figured it out, but I was literally kinda depressed about it for a few days. I really thought bronies as a whole were striving to become better by adopting the L&T lifestyle. For the most part, I was wrong. I think we can be better than that. Bronies by definition are different from "normal" society, so why not be better than "normal" society? I'm not asking that you sell all of your guns, refuse to join the military, or never defend yourself because honestly, I wouldn't want you to do any of those. I'm just wondering if we can spew a little less hate, be a little more forgiving, throw a little less fire at others, and generally be more positive. For instance, if someone believes in a certain religion, why is it seemingly instinct to verbally abuse them? (Same with non-religious persons). Just because you don't agree with something you attack it? Why jump on the hate-bandwagon, when most people who do, don't even know what they're defending or attacking for that matter. Why can't bronies have a calm peaceful debate on religion instead. Hell, if we can't do that, what hope does the rest of the world have to doing the same? None. The world has no hope of peace if bronies cannot have peace amongst themselves. Here's the funny part. I am a walking paradox. There are certain things in the world I cannot tolerate. I admit it. Here's the difference though, I TRY to tolerate them. I really give effort to changing for the better not only for myself, but for my fellow bronies as well, if not the entire world. I'm not saying I'm better than everyone, because I'm clearly not better than everyone. However, I am inclined to think that those who try to L&T are better than the majority of people in general. Here's where the debate part begins. What do you think about Love and Tolerate? How do you (or do not) apply it to your life and why? If you have, tell me and the rest of the pony-world what the results of doing so in your life. To me, it doesn't really matter if you respond or not, so long as I got you to think, this thread has already been a success. Thank you for your time, -AppleJared
  13. Until recently, I had wondered if My Little Pony contributed to the overarching (and over-simplified) motif of Good vs. Evil in cartoons. I explained in another thread how I felt that this motif, present in most cartoons, represents a part of the socialization process. Evil, in children’s cartoons, is something that people have as an inherent characteristic, it just is and some people are just (and thus inexplicably) evil. Of course, in the real word, people do morally egregious things for complex reasons that are worth understanding. When I had written the previous article, season three had not been released and I based my assessment primarily on Discord and a few other characters. Now, however, I have realized that I was wrong and I feel it is only appropriate to write a follow up article. My Little Pony’s ethics are surprising, firstly, because they run contrary to a lot of society’s expectations. In my experience growing up in the Deep South, revenge often becomes intricately bound up in justice. One part of the human experience is experiencing the desire to “get back” at someone, it is why there is a feeling of closure many experience when a criminal is punished. Yet, is punishment really the height of justice? Is collective revenge, the suffering of the criminal, really what is desired when we claim we want justice? There is no better counter-argument to the idea of justice as punishment than Discord. Discord, in Season 2 begins as just another evil character. Not only is he bent on becoming ruler of a chaotic and disordered Equestria, but he also is given very little background story other than being sealed up before by the forces of order and good. In season 3, however with Keep Calm and Flutter On Discord gets a new dimension. It turns out that he isn’t evil just because of being evil, but rather is in the state he is because he has had no friends. Furthermore, though he is initially turned to stone by the ponies; as he was before he was set loose. Near the conclusion of the episode, however, after being set free, Discord is indeed reformed and realizes the value and magic of friendship. This transformation is interesting because it contains a number of possible implications such as that 1) Discord is not inevitably evil, 2) even evil characters can become good, and 3) that reform is preferable to punishment. The turning to stone of Discord represents his separation from mainstream society. Notice that he can still hear what everyone is saying, he is just sealed away from the main population, unable to move and interact with them. Then Princess Celestia decides to set him free with the goal of reforming him. Keep in mind that Discord essentially attempted what amounted to treason or violent political revolution in modern times with the result of suffering to many ponies. This is no small-time thief or other convict, clearly Discord, in the eyes of many, should simply be sealed away forever, which is death in a sense. Celestia, however, sees potential in Discord and decides that he should be reformed rather than forever dead to everyone but himself. This high-level criminal, then, is reformed and brought to serve good when very few people have hope in him. Discord is transformed, furthermore, not through torture but by kindness, friendship, and radical compassion. Instead of torture or further suffering, he sees the value of friendship through one pony who shows him that he can be good and that he needs friends in an otherwise cold world. This message is something of a disruptive one: even those who seem evil can be reformed and brought to be good in society. Perhaps I’m reading too far into this, but it is, at least, a refreshing break from the usual Good vs. Evil dichotomy that is reproduced in cartoons and anime series’ across the world. Babs Seed is another excellent example of a secondary character that initially is a bully but learns that compassion and friendship are what is truly important. Trixie, too, eventually apologizes and learns from her power trip. In MLP, compassion is ultimately the solution to society’s problems. Babs seed is bullied and so he bullies others, Discord didn’t have a friend and so he turns against the order of the world, and Trixie felt humiliated and had to hard labor without anyone to befriend her so she became drunk with the idea of having power over others. Sure, you have the King Sombras of the world who are more of an ancient evil, but the rest of the “villains” are all too human/pony and can be reformed with friendship and compassion. What’s more is that the show’s values ring true in contemporary research. Give convicts more free time and time to reflect on their misdeeds and what happens? They actually begin to change their ways and become more amicable towards society. In the Netherlands, where the justice system is considerably more tolerant towards low-level convicts, this system has worked wonderfully and resulted in even more open experimental prisons, the country also recently emptied eight of prisons because of a lack of crime. We have the ability to change our world if we adopt more compassionate policy and ideas towards even those we despise. In many cases, school shootings, bullying, and crime can be prevented merely by befriending and showing kindness to people who are abused, hurt, or down; but we have to take the first step and extend a hoof. It’s our world, we can either choose to ignore, hate, and declare hopeless the Trixies, Discords, and Babs Seeds of the world or take their complex existence seriously. All it takes is compassion and kindness towards those who we normally despise, a radical compassion that applies to all humans, to change the world. What a fantastic way to inspire such an idea than through a bright, adorable TV show that appeals to a wide demographic.