Reproduced below is my essay “Promortalism and Suicide” which was recently published in issue #3 of the Antinatalism Magazine. You can purchase it in physical or ebook form on Amazon UK and worldwide.
Issue #3 is dedicated to the magazine’s founder, Jiwoon Hwang, and my piece reflects on some of his ideas. The original print and ebook release that was briefly available contained some errors which have since been corrected. I am uploading a corrected and extended version of my essay here for anyone who might have bought the original. This essay was created a long time ago and I have updated it somewhat to reflect my current headspace, but it is still mostly a product of where my thinking was in the past rather than where it is now. I still stand by it but it definitely doesn't reflect what future essays will be like. It's from another life. If you purchase the magazine now, this is the version of my essay you will receive.
Issue #3 also contains a fascinating piece by Théophile de Giraud on the Antinatalist roots of early Christianity. I heavily promoted a fundraiser a few years ago to get Giraud's book and a German Antinatalist history book translated into English. Despite the long delay, I have been told that these translations are still being worked on and will be released eventually. The moment I have any news on this, I'll share it.
In future I intend to produce an essay series on the state of contemporary Antinatalism and related subjects. Beyond that, I will probably only ever contribute essays or perhaps nothing at all. Antinatalism today is morphing into something new, and I am strongly critical of some of the directions it is moving in. Antinatalism once referred to a branch of pessimism, a small and precious space in which suppressed questioning of the goodness of the human project and the wisdom of perpetuating it could finally be permitted. In this sense I am still an Antinatalist, one who views life as it is currently configured as an unconscionable atrocity. However, I am deeply skeptical about the solutions proposed by Antinatalists today, let alone the likelihood of their success. Debating the world into childlessness seems to me as doomed a stance as that of being a conscientious objector to war. This piety is clearly wholly inadequate and the injunction by some Antinatalists that we should pretend that it is doesn't impress me all that much. For myself and many of the close friends I have in this community, Antinatalism itself (as in the focus on reproduction) was only ever a stepping stone to a deeper space in which greater questions and problems could be addressed. Although Antinatalism will remain ignored and deeply unfashionable at best and mercilessly despised at worst, I still have more sympathy with it than most of the rest of the obsolete ideologies people seem to still think are important.
Antinatalism is mutating into a relentlessly optimistic evangelical social movement that aims to scapegoat childbirth and seems to believe that prohibiting it is a workable solution to the problem of human suffering. It is completely opposed to the desolate fatalism of Ligotti and the pessimists who came before him and would once have come under it's banner. The imaginative horizons of contemporary Antinatalism begin and end around the issue of childbirth. For my friends and I, this was never enough and we are starting to recognize that we were always searching for something else, but it was necessary to delve into this space to find each other. It's probably necessary to now insist on making a clearer distinction that separates Antinatalism itself from the rest of pessimism into something distinct that is solely concerned with reproduction.
At it's worst, Antinatalist discourse today can be a deeply boring, depressive and misogynistic dead end for burnt out leftcoms, angry autists, oedipal teenagers looking for surrogate parents to vent their seething rage at and some deeply disturbed people. The sane Antinatalists who are actually living by their compassionate principles, or withdrawing from the world and pursuing a dignified quietude mostly agree with this assessment. They usually refrain from saying it too publicly in order to avoid the inevitable torrent of abuse that would come their way for criticizing the 'movement'.
This type of Antinatalism is definitely not what interests me or my friends, and the long standing and difficult tension between us and this larger faction erupted into some ugly drama recently. Most of the harassment has died down, but there are still a couple of genuinely worrying people, and some with a disturbing obsession with me. I refuse to allow them to shut me up but I certainly wish they'd go away. Since there is such a demand to label yourself, which I find hard to take as seriously as some others do, I'd rather use Ken Coates term and call myself a Rejectionist than an Antinatalist, but that's only if I'm forced to call myself anything at all.
The most telling aspect of what is currently happening in Antinatalism can be found in the new edit made to the Wikipedia page defining the term.
“A philosophical position that assigns a negative value to birth.”
“A philosophical position and social movement that assigns a negative value to birth.”
I shall again make my position clear, just in case there's any doubt. I have absolutely zero interest in being an Antinatalist evangelical that tries to proselytize childlessness to the world. I am merely someone with an interest in pessimistic philosophy. This position is so anathema to a large number of those who call them Antinatalists today that they often find it initially incomprehensible, or react with outrage when one does not share their zeal for activism.
Having a minor role in online Antinatalist spaces has given me enough exposure to these type of people for a lifetime and using the same negative utilitarian logic they so prize, I intend to remove myself from their company for the sake of minimizing my own suffering.
Pessimist spaces can be a merciful relief, and for some of us provide a psychological curative, a space in which our negativity and the futility, despair and suffering inherent to life can be admitted to at last without encountering the eventually aggressive insistence that one deny it. However a great many Antinatalists today are not pessimists at all. Some of them think they're building a secret club to sterilize the planet, kill the resisters and nuke the earth. As we soon learned from interacting with them, “Whom the Gods want to make mad, they first make mod”.
Since this is the internet and taking any of this inconsequential drama particularly seriously is a road to madness, I'm moving on. I am much more content writing my own, proudly ‘useless’ private content on my own blog.
There are crucial questions around Antinatalism that need to be properly thought through. There are crucial perspectives within it that are still simply anathema to consensus thinking. I'm fairly certain that the best way to accomplish anything in this regard is to just ignore a large swathe of those who call themselves part of the AN community right now. I simply won't be responding to any of them unless they have worthwhile criticisms or insights.
None of this should stop anyone from supporting the many smart and interesting people and projects taking place in Antinatalism right now. I just recommend people be a little bit more discerning.
Promortalism and Suicide
Jean-Michel Basquait - Riding with Death - Thought to be Basquait’s final painting before his death in 1988
"The cosmos is a gigantic annihilation camp. Let us end the vicious cycle of life; the curse of the selfish gene. Dear sisters and brothers, let us take the honourable course of therapeutic extinction. Anti-natalists of all countries, unite!"
Anti Procreation (Jiwoon Hwang) - Procreation Is Murder: The Case for Voluntary Human Extinction
Of all the things we can say a person gave their life to, it is rare indeed that we can say they made a deliberate decision to pursue a philosophical ideal to the point of death. If we are to place this dubious accolade on someone posthumously, the likely response is that we are reducing an event as complex and multicausal as suicide (the true motives behind which are likely now permanently foreclosed to us) to fit our specific agenda. Of course, such a response could itself also serve an agenda, perhaps one seeking to disavow the deceased individual's philosophical beliefs and instead reduce the explanation for their suicide to a description as vague as 'mental illness'. The point might be to imply that the suicide was an irrational, aberrant event that should not be given serious philosophical consideration. Something that should be viewed only as an unfortunate and ultimately somehow truly unintentional accident or neurological malfunction.
Let’s then, for the sake of this piece, posit Jiwoon's final act as the culmination of his philosophical pursuits. This would place him in the same historical lineage as Empedocles, Mainländer and most recently Heisman. These were men for whom one’s death must be integrated into one’s philosophy. Death is to be used to make a statement, as a promotional device for one’s work, or as a thought experiment. The posthumous publicity created by their suicide is intended to demonstrate that life is either beyond redemption or contains its only true redemption in death. These were thinkers who chose to embrace death on their own terms, using it fortify the philosophy they left behind and cause the world to take notice.
In this case, is it fair to claim that Jiwoon’s suicide was in some way the outcome of his philosophical project? Is it fair to say his suicide was intended as a demonstration of his commitment to his ideas? We cannot know for certain and can only speculate. We do know that after publishing and publicly presenting his paper on Promortalism, Jiwoon stated to David Benatar, Andreas Moss and perhaps others that he felt suicide was the logical conclusion of Antinatalist philosophy. We know he had told at least one friend not to expect to have a relationship with him that lasted very long. Clearly, Jiwoon’s suicide was a premeditated act.
Beyond the death of the person, the suffering involved in the act and the suffering caused to those left behind, another concerning and tragic aspect of this story is that Jiwoon did not initially achieve the death he aimed for. His botched suicide attempt put him into a coma. There was considerable worry among those in the AN community following these events that Jiwoon might survive in a brain damaged state and require constant care. I think it is probably reasonable to assume that the fact Jiwoon did soon die rather than languish in this disabled state indefinitely is most likely the outcome he would have preferred. Someone who took their intellectual endeavours as seriously as Jiwoon would likely have found it intolerably cruel to persist in a state in which he was robbed of these powers, along with the loss of his capacity for physical independence.
So how do we explain Jiwoon's philosophy? To state it as bluntly and directly as possible - it is not only better never to have been, for those of us unfortunately still here and subject to any potential pain whatsoever it is better to cease existing as soon as reasonably possible.
While Benatar has strongly contested this idea, and in many respects his post BNTHB output is expressly stated as a project in pursuit of the opposite conclusion, it is indisputably the case that Jiwoon's Promortalist conclusion is, even if you disagree with it, a logical extension of Antinatalist thought. A Promortalist mindset, if not suicide itself, clearly lies at the end of journey many Antinatalists will travel; not merely as a philosophical destination but as the preferred and ultimate solution to the problem of their own individual suffering. Jiwoon was not the first and will not be the last for whom pessimistic and Antinatalist thought plays some role in their suicide.
The Hypothetical Promortalist
Since Jiwoon founded this very magazine, put forward his Promortalist hypothesis in writing and made a call for the consideration of his work and ideas, I wish to construct an account of a Promortalist subject in his honour. This is not intended to depict Jiwoon himself or to serve as some model that anyone should aspire to embody. It is merely a speculation on what inhabiting a Promortalist mindset might be like, a story mixed with a thought experiment that aims to take the idea seriously.
Convincing others that their best hope lies in death is a tall order indeed, and stressing this is likely to be met with hostility or perhaps even a shrug of indifference. People are often so entrenched in denial over their death’s inevitability that they take offense at even the calmest and most fair-minded reminder of it, particularly if that reminder has the temerity to become insistent. Even those rare conversations in which the reality of death is admitted directly, rather than alluded to impersonally, are unlikely to bring everyone even close to accepting the argument that non-existence is preferable to the kind of lives we live and can potentially create. It seems that a project of evangelizing Promortalist ideas would very likely be a dead end. Jiwoon himself either did not feel that it was worth continuing to exist in order to repeat his arguments or felt he was no longer able to, preferring to state them one final time and then make his own exit.
An extreme variant of the Promortalist position, one that reflects such an ultimate silence, might argue that this life is too treacherous and too inherently sustained by suffering that its continuation is a matter of too intense an existential risk. So much so that finding the quickest, safest and most humane exit is the individual’s primary and most urgent task. This is an emergency far more important than any attempt to collectively address the issue through ideological activism or philosophical discourse. Such a stance would make a mockery of the idea that it is worthwhile continuing to exist and suffer in the name of contributing to the organization of human extinction through an eventual birth strike, global sterilization project or the impotent and in my view frankly deranged promise of an omnicidal terrorist insurrection that we find in some parts of the EFIList discourse.
We should note that Jiwoon was far wiser than some of the irresponsible clowns the community has recently had the misfortune of finding on it’s fringes. Those that aggressively parrot a fundamentalist ideology that sorts the world into the damned and the saved, promises the end of suffering through totalitarian violence and is supported by impressionable and lost young souls naive enough to entertain the hope it could ever deliver on such questionable aspirations. Jiwoon did not fall into this sad trap and preferred to speak to our better natures. He did not think it was wise to dispense with the fragile social prohibitions and norms by which we strive for a delicate and difficult balance between maximizing our freedoms and rights while minimizing their likelihood of causing suffering to others.
"My pro-mortalism does not imply that it is obligatory or even permissible to kill other people without their consent, even painlessly and with good intent. There may be many reasons for this, such as autonomy and the right to life."
Jiwoon Hwang - Why it is always better to cease to exist
Yet, here the Promortalist Antinatalist activist sets himself an impossible task. He puts his faith in the power of rational argumentation and ethical deliberation as the ultimate means by which new births can be prevented and which current lives could be ended. He asks anyone who will listen to consider not merely the thought of their own mortality, (which we each of course find terrifying and mostly wish to deny and ignore), but also to embrace this fate as the best solution life has to offer. Inevitably, he is faced with the ultimate impotence of such efforts. The knowledge that he was brought into existence without his consent, could die at any moment and faces struggle and risk in his own life and among his fellow man is compounded by the grimness of the message he has set himself the task of delivering and his almost total hopelessness in delivering it. He is now suggesting to others that they take more responsibility than most can bear for not merely their lives and the lives of potential future offspring, but their very deaths. He is questioning the most dogmatic of all beliefs, the assumption of the supremacy of life and the creation of new life over death.
Let us pause here to make a stronger and perhaps more devastating point to those who see themselves as embarking on a similar activist and philosophical journey. Those with what I would argue is a blind and unexamined faith in the liberal humanist conception of people as fundamentally rational animals. One we must point out is an invention of recent history, not universally understood or agreed upon and as noble as it may be, simply not an idea which holds true hegemonic power over our species. Within it lies the assumption that people are swayed by or at least receptive to the power of reason to an extent to which it can determine their ultimate destiny. That reason itself is something that is possible to finally master and embrace and which will deliver to us a harmonious global consensus. Is there much emerging in our current neuroscientific discourses that seems to validate such conceptions as describing our true nature? If our history, daily experience and an honest introspective account of ourselves is not enough to disabuse us of any hopes of the infallibility of such notions, perhaps their hold over us speaks to a greater capacity of delusion within ourselves. Isn’t contradiction and irrationality our more fundamental disposition and one that ultimately laughs, whether secretly or explicitly, at the vain pretensions of our reason to objectivity and the impossible hope that such things would gain mastery over our destiny.
Indeed, it seems that in the current moment the secular among us remain obsessed with such ideals while in many respects they seem to be crumbling all around us. We cling to these ideals as our sciences and industries learn to exploit our appetites and disable our rationality and control, manufacturing addiction so that we might be better harvested for profit. The idea that we are able to will, strive, struggle, master and defeat all our unconscious impulses, our biological programming and our own inbuilt capacity for delusion, faulty perception and ignorance could be seen as our last and greatest fantasy. One we desperately cling to in an era in which nothing we believe seems to matter very much at all, and the system, the machine, whatever you want to call it, simply commodifies and sells our idealistic conceits back to us. Is it any wonder some of us chose death after the demoralizing blow of trying to spread an anti-suffering philosophy and culture to a world that is mostly indifferent to it? And where does this leave us? Certainly not immune to the threat of extinction, but, as always, hurtling helplessly towards it, unsure of when it will finally arrive.
Perhaps in 2020, to take a truly disenchanted view of the world means to see through not merely the supernatural fallacies of religion, but to embrace the picture emerging from the neurosciences in regards to the fallibility of our sense of self. The horrifying realization, that we find repeatedly elucidated so well in the horror fiction of Thomas Ligotti, is that we are deluded puppets. Strung along by unseen forces, we hallucinate a sense of self, will power and control that the pinnacle of our scientific achievements seem to be confirming are merely narrativizing after effects, confabulations with little truly accurate explanatory power that we produce as part of our evolutionarily programmed drives to navigate our environments and each other. Do we have any more power over our deaths than we do our very lives? Is choosing to commit suicide the only remaining way by which any of us may escape? What then is left of our aspirations of control over our fates?
The Promortalist individual might come to a horrifying realization, through a sober diagnostic of his own internal cognition, that the hope of convincing anyone to overcome their unconscious programming, even the possibility of reason itself to defeat such a thing, is doomed. That such an aspiration is another delusional fantasy, another cruel hoax devised by the selfish gene machine to string its hapless, tortured puppets along in the hope it can trick them back into being reprogrammed to reproduce. Or to at least lure them into working tirelessly to become an aid to those that do or perhaps another exploitable slave resource for the natalist economy itself. Or perhaps again merely a scapegoat onto which that very natalist and pro-life/pro-suffering order can vent its own miseries.
Promortalism would in this interpretation regard the raw fact of corporeal sentience and its travails as an imminent emergency, the only resolution of which is death. There may perhaps be time to elucidate the argument for others benefit, but any kind of long term collaboration in the human project at all could be viewed as a security risk. Rather than appeal to a collective project of birth strike and global solidarity against suffering, Promortalists would perhaps view any kind of human relationship (beyond ones which can offer a route to the least painful death) as unnecessarily risky endeavours.
Here the Promortalist might ascend or even begin beyond the need for philosophical disputation at all. He might view existence as no more than a hostile terrain which must be haphazardly negotiated with in order to pursue a line of abolition towards the quickest and most humane death available. In situations where humane forms of death are denied us, as has been the case almost entirely throughout history before the invention and mass production of opiates and euthanasia drugs (which are still unequally accessible and heavily restricted), perhaps the least violent death available would do. Or perhaps simply the quickest, since the agony and torture of a violent death would be a price worth paying for the mercy of avoiding untold decades of possibly much greater agony.
If we were to encounter this Promortalist in the wild they might decide the best strategy would be to completely obfuscate their intentions. They may not regard the possibility of convincing us that our own best interests are in making an exit from this life as being a worthwhile use of their time, and instead chose to avoid engaging in argumentative combat. They might find it better to lie, or even hyper-conform to the society of those who love and embrace life, expressing Pollyanna sentiment as a subterfuge in order to all the more discretely make their exit without drawing any suspicion. They might assume that those for whom the hell of sentience is not immediately self evident are victims of psychological repression and obfuscation mechanisms that are best left alone, since these will play out to their inevitable doom anyway.
If Promortalism and suicide are the lurking repressed inevitabilities of Antinatalist thought then where does any movement that aims at collective solidarity stand and how successful could it be in suppressing these tendencies? Jiwoon made the call for an emerging Antinatalist movement to unite, but after a few brief years of work on the subject he chose death.
Is this choice of death an affirmation or a rejection of his philosophy? Did he want us to realize that all aspiration to reduce any suffering other than one’s own is a dead end? A rejection of the idea there is any other solution but death and anything left to do or say that's worth staying alive a moment longer for? No bullshit faith in enlightenment, moksha, seeing through the veil of maya, renouncing the will - none of this transitory, time-wasting, useless compromise and delusion. Answer the problem of death with death. And some, like Jiwoon and so many others inside and outside the Antinatalist community really do so. Whatever inbuilt mechanisms nature bestowed us with to prevent our misery bringing us to suicide break down and whether they ultimately regret it before it’s too late or not, they kill themselves. The rest of us are left in their wake to wonder, weep, pick up the pieces, feel indifferent, or in most cases not notice at all
What we see occurring in the Antinatalist Community today are novel undoings of previous methods of the cultural and social repression of death. This is a process playing out broadly across new media technologies and subcultures, but the Antinatalist community has a special role to play in it. It is one of the few spaces in which the misery of life can be admitted to without meeting an instant insistence that such despair must be denied, sublimated, striven against or plastered over with some Pollyanna political or ideological project. Despite the determination of many to make Antinatalism itself into the latter option, there will still be moments in which the ultimate futility of our lives and endeavours are admitted to without rejoinder.
The simple fact of the inherent and inevitably returning agony of life will push the desperate to demand the world give them a good reason to live, and find increasingly hollow responses in turn. In Antinatalist spaces, this plays out at times in a chaotic community spectacle that can be both pitiable, moronic, demoralizing, frustrating or create in us a profoundly empathetic reaction and bind us in group solidarity, giving us a sense of finally having our emotions validated. We moan, joke and harangue each other. We unite and collaborate in a sad comedy, a tiresome and frustrating reminder of our misery, a determined and excited drive to better ourselves and the world that eventually becomes a frustrating display of our powerlessness, or perhaps is laughed off and ignored with an eventually sickening display of glibness. A site of emergencies, panics, collective traumas, ingroup solidarity, endless drama and perhaps some small moments of solace and consolation. There is no shame in repeating the cliche that most often, the most valued thing we gain from this journey are relationships with likeminded souls. In the end, the only real options lie in returning to denial, coming to a compromise with suffering or refusing to reproduce and either killing ourselves or waiting to die.
In our era, many chose to live-stream their own suicides. Submitting their final moments to the gaze of the internet, on which platforms will promote themselves with it as morbid entertainment and sentimental clickbait. While the individual ends their own suffering, someone else will profit from it and the rest of us will indulge in an emotional spectator sport, either thrilled or horrified, or perhaps both, at the dissociated distance that consuming such media gives us. Most who embrace Antinatalism do so ultimately not out of a desire to remedy anyone else's suffering, but in search of some solution to their own. The only ultimate answer we are ever likely to find is death. We can lash out, cloyingly embrace, reject or denounce our community, but in the end it is just another crutch by which we hope to kill time rather than confront what lies at its end. Only a precious few will include Antinatalist philosophy in their suicide, but we we will see more of them in the years to come. Those who hope to find in it an ultimate consolation or, more foolishly, a solution to the problem of life and death will be bitterly disappointed.
What are the prospects for the now rising global Antinatalist movement? If decreasing birth rates, declining fertility, rising male sterility, the profusion and acceptance of queer movements and statistically declining sex in advanced economies are any indication, then these ideas are primed for a further increase in popularity. But would it not be extremely naive of us to attribute this entirely to our movement, or imply that such tendencies manifest entirely from the rational choices of individual actors? Are there not a multitude of social, economic, technological and cultural factors driving this? Things our ideas do not create but rather merely appear after the fact to make sense of? Forces beyond the control of anyone one individual yet determining the lives of all of us and structuring the very opinions and views we like to imagine we arrived at independently? It seems that in this moment when Antinatalist thought is less fiercely persecuted and censored by the authorities as it has ever historically been, it is again destined to remain just another unworkable utopian hope that can never scale beyond a tiny and largely ignored minority.
As for Promortalism, global suicide rates have increased 60% in the past 45 years. As right to die movements and state/private euthanasia concerns proliferate, this number is likely only to increase. Yet thanks to modern studies that have been replicated in cultures across the world, we have now made the startling discovery that suicide rates decrease during times of war and birth rates increase during and after wars. Since that tendency shows no signs of abating, it it likely that as always, whatever gains Antinatalist culture could make in the territories that are most hospitable to it will be swept away by calamity, authoritarianism and war. It seems that Antinatalism will for the foreseeable future remain neutered by selection pressure, while Promortalism will become a slowly more common (if not explicitly articulated) worldview.
As baffling as our situation clearly is, it doesn’t seem entirely sensible to discount Antinatalist and Promortalist ideas, which may find current conditions more hospitable than ever and take-off in ways we cannot foresee. Or, we might find that these ideas become increasingly disconnected from a still rising global population, one whose current Antinatalist tendencies are less the signs of an impending decline into extinction and more the stalling of obsolete forms of production soon to be surpassed by a profusion of novel biotechnical solutions. We are obviously entering a new world of artificial reproduction: from artificial wombs, 3D printed organs, regenerative medicine and the Frankensteinian surgeries intended to allow the elite to upgrade their bodies indefinitely. There is a black and white market in body parts, surrogate wombs and reproductive materials. It might soon seem almost quaint to affirm an intent to personally sterilize one’s own body, as if this was still a limit production had yet to overcome, as if this was not a somewhat redundant posture in an era when such processes have been severed from our bodies and automated. The only thing we know for sure is that we can barely predict what’s coming next, yet the tendency is towards the technological transmutation of the body, sterility and lower birth rates in advanced economies and rising rates of suicide.
During Medieval times in the West, since suicide was illegal, many who made a botched attempt to hang themselves were charged as criminals and publicly executed. In modernity, those who wish to defect into non-existence are often forcibly incarcerated in psychiatric prisons and given for profit, widely untested and unreliable medications. Then, perhaps most cruelly of all, they are tasked with the Sisyphean endeavour of battling against their own knowledge of the futility and misery of life by labouring to continue and improve it in the hopes of perpetually delaying its end. This form of punishment is intended as a lifelong project in which one must work off the debt owed for the implicit crime of offending society with one’s own suicidal ideation. Failure to sufficiently self-report as positive thinking and adhere to a base level socio-economic conformity, while also remaining within the realms of the tolerated and intelligible, will result in ones repeat incarceration and one’s brain being served as an experimental resource for pharmaceutical capitalism's latest products. This one perhaps again having its test data suppressed (it would interfere with marketing after all), eventually to be taken off the market after enough profit has been extracted, hopefully before the threats of lawsuits from the neurologically wounded show up in a cost-benefit analysis, and the long term side effects have been quietly noted or conveniently forgotten.
The implication in this is that exposure to one's own suffering is a burden that others should be spared. That one has a duty to not impugn the vanity of the guardians of this species, the breeder legions who gladly regenerate it, by making any obvious displays that one does not both appreciate and find worthwhile one’s endless striving to maintain one’s own personal corporeal torture chamber. Perhaps in our age our unconscious contempt for existence produces within us a malicious form of masochism in which we refuse to even accept the others right to death, demanding of them submission to euthanasia by tribunal (a for profit enterprise, of course) or sentencing them to both live and disavow the futile and hellish reality that likely will consume them until death. Or perhaps it’s simply easier, let alone safer, to deny the nightmare to yourself and others in the hope you can keep on forgetting every time the hellishness reveals itself.
Our hypothetical Promortalist either never did share or no longer shares the same intellectual striving to find rational and logistical solutions to humanity’s suffering that characterized Jiwoon’s young adult life. As a Rhodes Scholar and writer who sought novel solutions to ailments as wide ranging as the refugee crisis to the burden of male sexuality, he maintained an interest in rational inquiry and the use of reason in service of the public good. But does our Promortalist subject perhaps map onto what must have been Jiwoon’s penultimate psychological orientation? One who seriously intends to defect from the conspiracy against the human race must ultimately do so in secrecy. We have also assumed that Jiwoon, if he had been diverted from his path towards suicide, would not have come to eventually feel relieved that he had abandoned this idea.
We cannot definitively answer if Jiwoon ultimately felt his contribution to philosophy and advocacy of Promortalism was a worthy endeavour. What we can say is that the methodical, rigorous and analytic rationality he applied in philosophy may have reinforced his will to die. But in its written record, we can use it as a tool and an example of what strategies, failed or still to bear fruit, that others who suffer from the same fundamental existential predicament as us have already tried. It is likely his final psychological state was deeply anxious, yet might he also have felt to some degree joyful? Perhaps he even organized his demise with a certain pride or satisfaction? Or perhaps it was a result of unvanquishable despair, despair which might have revealed philosophy itself as another useless vanity, if not even another malicious trap by which we are bound more tightly to the perpetuation of our own suffering, ensnared into believing we can ever think our way out of it.
Still, I would invite anyone to convincingly challenge the logic of Promortalism. Life as it is currently configured inevitably contains suffering and is inherently useless and unnecessarily. Great pain and distress await anyone determined to defy that fact, let alone their progeny. It is clearly not a project any sane person will ever maintain unshakable faith in without constantly battling off their suppressed, ever-gnawing desire to have it finally stop. However, to claim that an individual is always better off avoiding suicide and prolonging their life as long as possible is a tall order indeed. To find a single reason why an immediate and painless death should not be the safest and sanest option for any individual to pursue is a challenge that clearly remains open. And given just how deluded, insane, greedy and malicious the Darwinian malware that is the human race, that is us, truly is, we shall continue to see such challenges used for all kinds of conflict, self-promotion, denial, scheming and nonsense.
Perhaps then, we should conclude that Promortalism is a sign we inhabit a reality in which the only sane thing to do is return to nothingness as soon as possible? Already in the Antinatalist community we have clearly seen the sad comedies that can result from the efforts of some of those who announce their intent to dedicate their lives to this project. If we wanted another reminder of the impotent derangement of human aspirations of control over the fate of not merely themselves, but others and the entire world, we can now find glaring examples amongst ourselves. Jiwoon remained smarter and sharper than them all, and his work is of far higher quality.
How far could Promortalist sentiment spread? Will it remain forever underground, pushed to the fringe and viewed as evidence of psychological malady rather than a legitimate existential orientation? What will become of a species battling against the duel drives of its own desire for oblivion and the techno-scientific re-engineering of its body, brain and environment in directions that are scarcely comprehensible but seemingly guaranteed to inevitably reveal us as the hapless puppets of forces no individual can master? What will become not simply of our indomitable will to survive and thrive, to perpetuate ourselves indefinitely, at whatever cost, for no reason, forever, but our subterranean desires to abolish our species, every other and the entire universe itself?
Of course, Promortalism and Antinatalism are mere philosophies and do not in themselves have a sufficient solution to the regeneration of consciousness in newly individuated forms. Refusing to reproduce and killing yourself can only serve as means to halt your individual collaboration with the conspiracy. The great irony in advocating non-existence as the highest ethical goal is that each of us will inevitably return to it anyway, no matter what we think or try to do about it. Death not only delivers us from suffering; it removes our capacity to protest it. When the living leave us, as Jiwoon did, we can remember them, pour over the traces they left behind and search for some meaning or clue for as long as we live. We are only ever left with the knowledge of our own impending demise, and an ever returning sense of unease and fear in regards to it.
In death we cancel our union membership of a species capable of reflecting on and caring about itself at all. The great temptation of the suicidal is to simply leap into this void in silence, leaving behind no judgement or comment on the life they have exited.
Let us give the work that Jiwoon left behind the consideration and attention it merits, and agree that the promotion, distribution and reinforcement of failsafe and humane methods of suicide are of the utmost ethical importance. That serious thought and work is needed in this regard, and let us endeavour to strive to think seriously about whatever we can do to ameliorate our suffering while alive, while maintaining a realistic and sober conception of our actual powers.
"What is my strength, that I should wait? And what is my end, that I should endure?"