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Philosophy And Morality

Jamie Stroud

Table of contents


The What And Where Of Harm

Harm: Anything that causes stress or damage.

I'm confident the optimal way to live life is by the following: To decrease harm and increase happiness.

Where does harm begin? This is an unfortunately difficult question to answer. I've come up with 4 rules that, if followed, should help to decrease harm and increase happiness in the world.

The Why Of Harm

I'd like to note that even though these are fundamentally different paths for causing harm, we should be careful not to take this dichotomy too strictly, for there could very well be overlap. For example, your mind can rationalize your harmful/bad desires as being harmless/good. Probably less likely, but still possible, your beliefs could cause you to have harmful desires which you wouldn't be inclined to have without such beliefs.

In terms of lack of control, there might not be much you can do to reduce such harm other than avoiding circumstances that would trigger such harmful impulses. In terms of belief, however, some people might easily be able to live happier and less harmful lives simply by gaining knowledge. This is simpler in theory than in practice, however, for most people are quite resistant to changing their beliefs.

"Seeing yourself as you really are or admitting that one of your beliefs is wrong isn't just a matter of information. It is a matter of affirmation."
- Anon

The Root Of All Evil

The 2 variables most likely to lead to a violent society are 1) affectional deprivation (neglect), primarily in early childhood, and 2) sexual deprivation/sexual repression, primarily in adolescence. (Prescott, 1975)

"We're depraved on accounta we're deprived."
- Jets from West Side Story

Child Discipline


People often say that "children are our future", if that's the case then we should put in a lot of effort towards figuring out the most efficient way to raise children, lest we want a grim future.

"Parenting is a very important profession, but no test of fitness for it is ever imposed in the interest of children."
- George Bernard Shaw

Forms Of Discipline


I'm intentionally using a broad definition of discipline. Because any action, or lack of action, can affect a child, there are a wide variety of behaviors to consider. Before I discuss the various forms of discipline, I'd like to note one of the most fundamental aspects of child raising, and that's that "learning is repetition", meaning that whatever discipline is used won't be 100% effective, it takes consistency. Furthermore, using the same discipline method loses it's effectiveness over time, due to habituation. You need to change things up sometimes.

Rewards, restoration, and explanations should probably be the primary forms of discipline. That combination will help increase a child's good behavior and decrease their misbehavior, while also developing their empathy and moral reasoning.

Operant Conditioning Discipline

A lot of people think a no-spanking approach to child-rearing automatically means no discipline. That's not true, restoration is a great alternative to spanking.

Nonconditioning Discipline


Try not to compare or label children. For example, "he's the athlete and she's the brains". Even though labeling in such a way might seem nice, it can cause discord amongst children. It can also have a self-fulfilling prophecy effect. For example, a child you label ADHD might get the impression he's doomed to be a trouble maker and so he embraces that role.

For young children, get down on their level, and I mean that in a literal sense. If you bend down or take a knee so that you're face-to-face, almost all kids will appreciate that. They'll feel more connected to you and likely respond better to communicating with you. For older children or adolescents, however, this has the possibility to feel awkward or dehumanizing.

Explain to children the difference between "needs" and "wants". A need is something that's required for health or survival. A "want" is something that's desired but not required for health or survival. Explaining this might help a bit for children that demand you buy them every new toy that comes out.

Child proof your house. For example, get outlet plugs, put a fence around your pool, and don't leave anything fragile where a child could get to it.

Keep in mind a child's mentality, that might help you deal with them better. Young children are more prone to take things literally, they might have difficulty differentiating fantasy from reality, and they might have difficulty seeing things from another's point of view.

If you're going to talk to a child about their misbehavior, try to tell them the positive before the negative. For example, you can say, "I love that you have such an energetic personality, but right now you're disrupting everyone that's trying to work, do you think you can try to be calm for a few minutes?".

Delinquency In Children

The Difficulty Of Determining Parental Influence On Children

"If parents adjust their child-rearing style to fit the child's characteristics, then Baumrind and her colleagues might be measuring child-to-parents effects rather than parent-to-child effects. It's not that good parenting produces good children, it's that good children produce good parenting. If parents don't adjust their child-rearing style to fit the child, then Baumrind and her colleagues might be measuring genetic effects rather than environmental effects. It's not that good parenting produces good children, it's that good parents produce good children." (Harris, 1998, p. 48)

"Kids can always outwit you if they really want to. If you try to enforce your rules by grounding them, they don't come home at all. If you stop giving them allowance, they mooch off their friends or steal. The adolescents who can be monitored are the ones who are willing to be monitored, and they are the ones who need it least. Parents have remarkably little power to maintain control over the adolescents who need it most." (Harris, 1998, p. 318)

On the one hand, it's unfair that so much blame is put on the parents for the way children turn out. Practically all traits are a combination of nature and nurture, and it's difficult to discern what variables led to an individual turning out the way he did. On the other hand, parent-child interactions almost certainly can have long-term implications sometimes, so we also can't ignore parenting variables completely.

With all that being said, research seems to indicate that peers tend to have a bigger effect on the lives of older children/adolescents than parents do. Consider that older children/adolescents tend to have an accent and mannerisms more similar to their peers than to their parents. Also consider that peer influence is by far the biggest factor in regards to whether an adolescent smokes cigarettes. (Lloyd-Richardson, Papandonatos, Kazura, Stanton, & Niaura, 2002) Keep in mind, however, that similars attract, which brings us back to the main issue: is the child similar to his peers because of nature, or is it because of the effects his parents had on him (nurture)?

"Kids identify with a group because they feel it consists of others "like me." The parents think the group is having a bad influence on their kid and they may be right, because whatever the members have in common tends to be exaggerated by their influence on each other and by contrast effects with other groups. But the influence is mutual and the kids have a lot in common to begin with." (Harris, 1998, p. 318)

A Critical Analysis Of The Physical Punishment Of Children


Physical punishment is more likely to teach external inhibition rather than internal inhibition. In other words, the child learns to behave for fear of punishment rather than out of empathy or moral reasoning. However, it is of course possible to spank in conjunction with restoration or explanation discipline in order to still develop empathy and moral reasoning in the child.

Some parents believe that threatening to spank a child is just as effective as actually spanking a child, since the fear is enough to get the child to comply, and it's better since you won't actually have to physically hurt the child. It might very well be less harmful than actual spankings, but just like spankings, fear doesn't develop empathy or moral reasoning either.

A Comparison Of Humans And Nonhuman Animals

It's interesting to note that it's rare to find nonhuman animals that physically hurt their children. In cases when they do, it's often because the adult animal has a dysfunctional amygdala. I've found only 2 species of animals in which physically hurting children is common, rhesus macaques and Nazca boobies (sula granti). (Bower, 2005; Müller et al., 2011) This point can be countered by saying that it's also rare to find nonhuman animals that give their children a time out. The point being that humans operate much differently from other animals, and that's a fair point to be made. However, I think it's important to question why we operate differently.

Human children have a lot more rules and boundaries compared to other animals. A human child might take a cookie from the cookie jar when he was told not to. A monkey, for example, wouldn't have such a restriction and, therefore, no rule to be broken and no broken rule to be punished for.


I find it interesting how some people say there's a difference between hitting a child and physically abusing a child. Yet many would be offended to hear someone say that there's a difference between having sex with a child and sexually abusing a child.

Some people say it's unrealistic to expect a parent to never hit a child and many people accept this. However, many would find it offensive to say that it's unrealistic to expect a husband to never hit his wife or that it's unrealistic to expect a teacher to never hit a student.

Some people say that they were spanked as children and they turned out okay, the implication being that spanking must be okay if they turned out okay as adults. The thing is, you can say that about anything. You could say you were sexually traumatized as a child and you turned out okay. Maybe it's true too. Maybe you were spanked as a child, maybe you were sexually traumatized as a child, and maybe you are okay as an adult, but that doesn't mean you wouldn't be okay without those things either, you might have even turned out better.

spanked and turned out okay?

Sadomasochism And Spanking Fetishism

Those that experienced high affection and low physical punishment were least likely to have masochistic feelings, those that experienced both high affection and at least moderate physical punishment were next most likely to have masochistic feelings, but it was those that experienced low affection that were most likely to have masochistic feelings, regardless how much physical punishment they experienced. (Straus, 1994/2001, pp. 130-134)

The high affection mixed with physical punishment seems to make sense in regards to masochism, since such a relationship mixes together pleasure with pain, love with violence. Why low affection would be more likely to lead to masochism might seem perplexing. It's probably due to the "use it or lose it" principle. Children that receive little affection during the first few years of life become permanently psychologically damaged. (Prescott, 1975) Because they don't get to experience much affectional love during a critical period in their lives, they lose or at least have a weakened capacity for affectional love for the rest of their lives. They tend to be nonsocial and have difficulty giving or receiving affection. Sadomasochism might then become a more tolerable way for them to handle touching and being touched when expressing their sexuality.

There's some overlap between sadomasochism and spanking fetishism, but they can also have distinct etiologies. Some people have a body that seems to naturally elicit sexual feelings when spanked on or around the glutes. Because the glutes are in close proximity to the genitals and anus, spanking might stimulate erotic receptors in some individuals but not in others. You might call such individuals "natural" spanking fetishists, because even if they were never spanked as a child they might very well still have a fetish for spanking as adults. However, these individuals might be even more prone to develop sadomasochistic feelings if spanked as children simply because they more readily experience sexual feelings from their painful spankings.

Laying a child over your lap to spank is even more susceptible to sexual implications since the child's genitals are prone to rub against your leg as you spank.

I find it interesting that forcefully spanking an adult is generally considered a sexual offense, but that's rarely the case for children. Fondling a child's glutes is generally considered a sexual offense, even if the child doesn't view it as a sexual act, but spanking their glutes isn't. People conceptualize the glutes as sexual in most ways, that's why exposing them is considered nudity in America and that's why people say they want a "piece of ass" when they want sex, yet people ignore the sexual aspect of glutes when it comes to spanking children.


Consider that the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals came long before the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

Consider that hitting wives as a form of discipline used to be legal.

Americans might find it surprising that it's illegal for parents to spank children in many countries. Physical punishment has been banned in Sweden and Swedish children seem to be doing great. Sweden is considered one of the best places to live in the world. People are generally much happier and healthier there. Sweden is also one of the least religious countries in the world. (Zuckerman, 2008/2010)

In Closing

Keeping in mind child-to-parent effects, it's a wonder if infrequent and mild hitting of children genuinely has much chance of causing long-term implications on children's personality.

"The logic is persuasive. By spanking your child, you are providing him or her with a model of aggressive behavior. You are teaching your child that it's okay to hurt people in order to make them do what you want.

For many years I believed this story and, in good faith, passed it on to the readers of my child development textbooks. I didn't notice that we also provide children with models for many other things that we don't want them to do and that they don't in fact do, such as leaving the house whenever they feel like it. And models for many that we want them to do but they don't do, such as eating broccoli." (Harris, 1998, p. 312)

Regardless if spanking children has long-term implications or not, it does have short-term implications. It causes pain in the urgency of now. It can also damage your relationship with your children.

"People sometimes ask me, "So you mean it doesn't matter how I treat my child?" They never ask, "So you mean it doesn't matter how I treat my husband or wife?" and yet the situation is similar. I don't expect that the way I act toward my husband is going to determine what kind of person he will be ten or twenty years from now. I do expect, however, that it will affect how happy he is to live with me and whether we will still be good friends in ten or twenty years." (Harris, 1998, p. 341)


Many individuals claim that unschoolers aren't going to choose to learn anything, but such individuals should consider that even public schoolers might not choose to learn anything. Many public schoolers do the bare minimum to get by since they have no interest in what they learn, and they probably don't retain much of the material. My only point is that "You can take a horse to the water, but you can't make him drink." People either need motivation, or they need to be directed towards something they enjoy, but with neither they'll suffer regardless of the approach. It should also be considered that many adults end up using little to nothing of what they learned in school.

"Child labor laws are themselves curious. They permit children's being made to sit, often silently, at a desk in a school for six or seven hours a day (with sparse exercise, break, or bathroom 'privileges', and, in some schools, when they have lunch, they must still sit quietly and in assigned seats or with specified groups) and then being given homework assignments that take another two, three, or five hours a day, sometimes having to be done after athletic, band, or choir practice that itself takes a few hours. But they prevent a 14 year old from doing light work part time in an office where they might observe professionals at work and be given ever increasing responsibilities as they learn more and more of how a particular business operates." (Garlikov, n.d.a)

school slavery




Circumcision is painful. Perhaps some people assume hospitals would use analgesics when performing circumcisions, but not all hospitals do. Furthermore, even if they do use pain-reduction methods, they're not completely effective.

Some people minimize the seriousness of circumcision by saying "at least he won't remember it". I'm going to provide a thought experiment to help exemplify the fallacy behind this way of thinking: if there was a drug that could completely erase memories of events that occurred within the last hour, would it then be okay to rape and beat your children, so long as you drug them afterwards?

As much as American society might not like to think of children as sexual beings, most are. Most children have sexual thoughts and feelings and are capable of physical sexual functions as well. And when I say children, I'm including infants too. Some little boys experience sexual arousal and erection as their genitals are fondled before their circumcision. This potential mixture of sexual pleasure and sexual pain could have important implications for a child's psychosexual development, let alone his psychological development as a whole.

Psychological Implications

An often neglected and overlooked aspect of circumcision, is the psychological consequences it can have on individuals.

"When I think about what my parents let happen to me, I want to take a razor and slit their throats." (Erickson, 2000)

I tried several times to ask my mother about what had been done to me; but when I opened my mouth to speak, the words stuck in my throat and no sound came out." (Erickson, 2000)

"My feelings about the doctor who circumcised me are too violent to describe." (Erickson, 2000)

"I've wondered what it's like to have a foreskin all my life." (Erickson, 2000)

"When I was a child I prayed I would get my foreskin back in heaven." (Erickson, 2000)

Intact individuals can also suffer stress if their foreskin is unwanted, but please keep in mind Circumcision's Wager.


It seems the most commonly stated reason people give for circumcision is because they believe it's healthier. It's often said that "prevention is better than treatment", but how far do we take that notion? Usually amputation is a last resort. Usually we let people keep their healthy body parts, and even if they get an infection usually we try to treat it in the least harmful and least damaging way we know how.

"If you walk into a hospital and ask to have your perfectly-functioning appendix removed, the doctors will not do it. They will inform you that they cannot remove healthy flesh. They will cite their hippocratic oath, which dictates that they "do no harm." If this is the case, why on earth would they be removing healthy tissue at birth? And without the owner's consent? Do I have the spelling wrong? Is it "Hypocritical Oath?" Why on earth are we asking our doctors and healer to be blade-wielding agents of social customs where there is NO MEDICAL NECESSITY for their actions?" (wreckingboy, 2001)

"Circumcision is not a medical decision. Preventing an improbable future infection is a spurious indication. The standard of care is antibiotics, not amputation." (Wayne, 1998)

There's a lot of debate in regards to what role foreskin and circumcision play in the role of STIs. (CIRP, 2006; CIRP, 2009a; CIRP, 2009b; Laumann, Masi, & Zuckerman, 1997; Weiss, Thomas, Munabi, & Hayes, 2006; Williams & Kapila, 1993) Rather than get into exhaustive details over each individual type of infection, here's a more general consideration.

sexually transmitted infection rates by region

Of course correlation isn't causation, but what else explains the higher rates of STIs in America if not worse sex education? The risk of STIs probably has little to do with circumcision status and a lot to do with sexual behavior.

pam thompson - the circumcised don't need condoms?


An often stated reason for circumcision is so that their son will fit in with others. It seems people value conformity more than they do freedom and individuality. This reasoning doesn't have as much validity anymore since circumcision is no longer performed on the large majority in America anymore. However, even if it was, I think it's important to look at the logic behind this reasoning.

When do you expect people to see your son's penis? If not until high-school, then is it really so urgent that he get him circumcised as an infant? Even if you expect people to see your son's penis as early as in elementary school, do you really think other children will know so well what it means to be intact, and that they'll tease him for it? And if he is teased, do you really think it'll be traumatizing?

"I've yet to see a kid that had enough money, enough clothes, the right name, the right penis, or the right collection of traits which allowed him or her to escape childhood taunting." (wreckingboy, 2001)

Similarly, there's the "a boy should look like his father" reasoning. Perhaps this caveat is especially severe since circumcision involves the genitals and the genitals are the most prideful aspect of anatomy to many males. For a circumcised male to say that circumcision is wrong is perhaps close to saying that something is wrong with his own genitals, and that's probably a difficult consideration for most males to even tinker with. I quote an anonymous father who said, "What was so difficult in leaving my son intact was not that my son would feel different in a locker room, but that I would feel different from him. I would then have to accept that I'm an amputee from the wars of a past generation." (Goldman, 1997, p. 70)

hugh young, circumcision, a boy should look like his father


Based on evolution, you might wonder why we even have foreskin. If you believe in God, then circumcision is blasphemy.

If someone tells me that their God is a loving God, and yet their God also wants them to cut off part of their child's penis, I'd find that hard to reconcile.


Some parents say they want to circumcise their son so that his penis will look more attractive. If you're a parent, when do you expect your son to start having sex? If not until adolescence, perhaps he can ask his sex partners what they like best, and then make his decision.

Different forms of genitals are found to be sexually attractive in different societies. (Ford & Beach, 1951, p. 86) In other words, if you grow up in a society in which foreskin is the norm, then intact penises are more likely to be found sexually attractive. Likewise, if you grow up in a society in which circumcision is the norm, then circumcised penises are more likely to be found sexually attractive.

Circumcised males, in general, have a less sensitive fine-touch pressure threshold than intact males. (Sorrells et al., 2007) Of males who were circumcised as adults, 48% reported decreased masturbatory pleasure after their circumcision, 8% reported increased masturbatory pleasure after their circumcision, 20% reported a worse sex life after their circumcision, and 6% reported an improved sex life after their circumcision. (Kim & Pang, 2007)


Intact males can produce smegma (essentially a build-up of sweat, exfoliated skin cells, and perhaps various other substances). It can be odorous, but it's easily prevented or taken care of by cleaning yourself. This is another often stated reason for circumcision, but it should be considered that intact females produce smegma too.

Natural Care Of The Genitals

Some people think an intact penis is so much more complicated to take care of, it's a wonder why they don't think the same about an intact vulva. Some people also conceptualize the foreskin as a dirty and infection prone piece of skin. The foreskin is actually fairly comparable to the eyelids, both protect an inner organ. Many people have gotten dirt caught in their eyelids before, but they don't usually cut them off because of that.

The foreskin is fused to the head of the genitals for most young children and doesn't require any special care. It'll naturally defuse as the child ages. Even if your child has foreskin that retracts, how hard do you think it is to get a little boy to wash his penis? Most likely, it's not even something you have to teach him.

Foreskin Restoration (Uncircumcising)

It's possible for a circumcised individual to restore his foreskin to some degree, though it won't be quite the same as it was originally. (Bigelow, 2002;


The genital mutilation of infants and children in general is something that occurs in many societies, to both males and females. In America, however, it's primarily limited to males. Many reasons are given to justify routine infant male circumcision, but it should be recognized that precisely the same reasons are given for routine female genital mutilation (whether it's a snip of their foreskin or more extreme procedures) in other societies, (e.g. health benefits, religion, sexual attractiveness, smell, etcetera). Most Americans seem to recognize the cruelty when they hear about female genital mutilation in other societies, but either don't seem to recognize or don't seem to care that something very similar is occurring here.

female and male genital mutilation (fgm and mgm) comparison

"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."
- Voltaire

"Custom will reconcile people to any atrocity."
- George Bernard Shaw

Animal Cruelty

Determining which nonhuman animals feel pain is difficult. After all, even single-celled organisms will withdraw from noxious stimuli. That doesn't necessarily mean, however, that they feel pain or suffer, for it can simply be a reflexive response. It's thought that a nervous system is required to be able to feel pain, so this would exclude bacteria and single-celled organisms.

The current consensus amongst researchers is that most invertebrates (despite having a nervous system) probably can't experience pain or suffering, but that most vertebrates probably can. This is an issue that's currently highly debated and still being heavily researched, but even if there were only a small possibility that nonhuman animals suffer, they should be given the benefit of the doubt and treated compassionately.

Unfortunately, many food companies in America are notorious for treating animals cruelly. This is a popular reason for veganism, because individuals don't want to support companies that are cruel to animals. While I don't think individuals can be held morally responsible for unintentional harm by proxy (you're paying for the food not for the harm of animals), I do think it's a noble reason to be vegan which can potentially raise awareness.

While it's wrong for companies (or anyone) to be cruel to animals, it should be recognized that nonhuman animals can also be cruel to nonhuman animals (and humans). For example, sometimes dogs will chase, attack, and brutally murder cats just for fun. This point is not to belittle any cruelty done to nonhuman animals by humans, but simply to clarify that animal cruelty is not just a human-perpetrated problem, but a problem of nature itself.


Notes: In discussing self-harm in this section, I'm only referring to behaviors done specifically with the intention to self-harm.. Many people do things which might harm themselves, but without actually wanting to cause themselves harm. For example, consuming foods, drinks, or drugs that are bad for one's health.

People generally want to feel pleasure/happiness and avoid harm, so to intentionally harm oneself is a perplexing behavior to many people precisely because it seems so contradictory to nature. Understanding the Gate Control Theory Of Pain might help in understanding self-harm.

Most people will recognize the Gate Control Theory of Pain at play when they've been hit hard somewhere on the body and they then rub their body precisely where it's been hit to make it feel better. The theory is that the brain can only handle a limited number of signals, and new signals can reduce the severity of other signals.

One reason that people will intentionally give themselves physical pain is in order to reduce emotional/psychological pain. It should be noted that utilizing physical pain to reduce emotional/psychological pain isn't the only type of self-harm. Sometimes people will induce emotional/psychological pain to reduce a differing emotional/psychological pain. For example, social self-sabotage when feeling anxiety, boredom, or guilt. Sometimes people will induce emotion/psychological pain to reduce physical pain. For example, aggressing others or forcing a cry when there's nagging physical pain. Finally, sometimes people will induce physical pain to reduce a differing physical pain. For example, hitting oneself while suffering from a nagging physical pain.

It should be considered that boredom is also a form of suffering. Sometimes experiencing the same type of pain/harm for a long period of time, even if it's intensity remains precisely the same the entire time, might seem to become more severe simply because the boredom of the same feeling amplifies it. This is another reason one might self-harm, simply to experience a pain/harm that's different from the current pain/harm, which eases suffering through decreasing boredom.

There are many reason an individual might self-harm besides just to reduce another from of suffering. Sometimes people self-harm to punish themselves when they feel guilty, sometimes people self-harm because they have suicidal tendencies, sometimes people self-harm due to obsessive-compulsive tendencies, and sometimes people self-harm for social reasons. In regards to the last reason, this can include piercings, tattoos, genital mutilation/mutilation in general, having friends that self-harm and so it becomes a socializing behavior, and potentially other reasons.

It should be recognized that self-harm can take many forms. Some examples include biting, burning, cutting, hitting in many forms, pulling one's hair out, punching, scratching, slapping, and potentially more.

It should be recognized that sometimes people self-harm without being aware of it. For example, being in a bad mood then opting not to wear a sweatshirt when going outside when it's cold.

Life And Death


Some people believe that if the amount of harm you experience in your life is greater than the amount of pleasure/happiness you experience, then life is not worth having lived nor continuing to live. There are also some people that believe that experiencing any degree of harm at all makes life not worth living.

An exception many people will make is for an individual who either reduces a greater amount of harm or produces a greater amount of pleasure/happiness in others than the total amount of harm he suffers in his own life. His life is essentially a sacrifice, not worth living for its own sake, but worth living for the sake of others.

Determining where pleasure or harm begins isn't easy, as it exists on a continuum. However, most people describe an inclination before something actually becomes harmful or pleasurable. For example, pressure exerted on the bladder signifying you should urinate soon is generally not experienced as harmful at first inkling but can be if waited on for too long. For another example, listening to a new song sometimes starts off with a mere inclination that it might be pleasurable but isn't actually experienced as pleasurable until the song progresses.

pleasure-harm scale

"It is curious that while good people go to great lengths to spare their children from suffering, few of them seem to notice that the one (and only) guaranteed way to prevent all the suffering of their children is not to bring those children into existence in the first place." (Benatar, 2006/2008, p. 6)


"Abortion is often debated as a women's rights issue or as a rights issue for the unborn. It is neither. It would be wrong to protect women's rights by simply ignoring the case for the unborn; and it would be wrong to protect the unborns' rights by simply ignoring the case for women. The issue is not who has rights; both sides have some rights, or at least considerations to take into account. The issue is not who has rights, but what is right, and when, and why." (Garlikov, n.d.b)

Amongst many species of nonhuman animals, who don't have the option of abortion, infanticide is common. As a thought experiment, it might be interesting to consider what life would be like if abortion wasn't an option for humans, and how we would feel about infanticide as a method of dealing with an unwanted child. There are many variables to take into consideration, what makes an infant different from a fetus or embryo, and what makes adults different from infants?

The ability to feel tactile sensations develops possibly as early as gestational week 7. (Fetal Pain, 2011/2013) Without the ability to sense, the fetus probably isn't even considered conscious until that point. The ability to feel pain develops possibly as early as gestational week 16. (Fetal Pain, 2011/2013) In regards to abortion, consideration should be given to the well-being of the embryo at that point.

Self-awareness generally develops somewhere between ages 1-2. (Rochat, 2003) In addition to having self-awareness, another important variable that adults have and infants lack, is time put into useful abilities. An adult might have, for example, 20 years put into developing knowledge or skills which could help society. An infant wouldn't have that, so in that regard at least, the murder of an adult would be a bigger loss than the murder of an infant.

It's a common meme for pro-life advocates to refer to abortion as "murder" because it "prevents potential life". Consider that every second you spend not trying to get pregnant/impregnate is "preventing potential life". Even if abortion does meet the definition of "murder", that fact alone says little to nothing about the complex pros and cons of the situation. While abortion and infanticide might be tragic, it's quite possibly much less tragic than raising a child whose life adds extreme stress to the lives of the mom/parents who aren't ready to or don't want to raise a child, whose life is going to be filled with more harm than happiness (possibly largely due to the aforementioned reason), and whose life might also make the lives of others filled with more harm than happiness.


It's a common meme to say that "suicide is selfish" and often extrapolated as saying that individuals who commit suicide should've considered how much it'd harm those that cared about them. However, it could also be considered selfish to want someone to continue to suffer through life simply so that you don't have to suffer from their loss through suicide.

It should also be noted that some individuals have little to no attachments to others, so suicide doesn't even have much risk of harming others through their loss. Furthermore, some individuals break attachments and cause harm to others even without suicide, for example, by running away from home or otherwise abruptly leaving a family. Like suicide, these are also complex issues and moral conundrums. Sometimes the breaking of attachments is for the greater good, sometimes it's not.

While many people claim that "suicide is selfish", an exception many people will make is for individuals that are considered evil or otherwise harmful. It's certainly an important consideration, that if you have significantly harmful compulsive behaviors, suicide might very well do more good than bad. However, another option might be making a secluded prison type of system, one that's not punishing or noxious but would simply prevent an individual from compulsively harming others.

Even if suicide can sometimes be more good than bad for an individual, or even for others, it might be worth exhausting all options first. Sometimes all people need to make life more pleasure/happiness than harm, to make life worth living, is an understanding friend to talk to. Other times people get stuck in bad circumstances, and all they need is for their situation to change.

"Believe, that life can change, that you're not stuck in vain."
- Billy Corgin (Smashing Pumpkins - Tonight, Tonight)

"It is better no longer to exist than to exist only to suffer." (Rousseau, 1762/1979, p. 48)


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