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Is having children selfish?

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  • Seeing as how children are so demanding of time and resources, it is selfless to have them.
    Then again, many children came into this World because his/her Mother got pregnant in order to entrap/tame/keep the Father. I know 2 such children.




  • There may be many selfless acts after the child is born, but are they not done to satisfy the overriding want/need to have children? Doing selfless things to enable an overriding selfish act to take place? There was nothing to do that child before having them, so why do it? To help and care for what doesn't exist? No. Selfishness, with the best will in the world. This doesn't mean I hate or dislike those who have children, that would be a bit hard. But let's admit the obvious and especially in the case of those parents who go on at their kids as if they did the nicest thing ever by having them and giving up this or that for them. They do that for themselves, even if they don't like doing it they need to do it to get what means more to them - having children and having meaning in their lives. Then they can blame the child when it suits - priceless.




  • I have read some of the replies in the AH forum and they do raise some interesting philosophical points.

    The issue of free will was raised. i.e. Do we really have a rational control over our desire whether to have children or not. For most people, its not the moral question of whether we ‘ought’ to have children but rather a desire to have children.

    Another issue that was raised was the question of ‘psychological egoism’. Perhaps all our actions are (to some extent) selfish anyway. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_egoism
    But what about unselfish acts and altruistic love (true love seeks not its own) ?
    And if this is the case that all acts are selfish, why do we bother with the word (selfish) at all in this case?
    Perhaps we should go to the dictionary and look up the meaning of ‘selfish’.
    Selfish ( adjective).......(of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for other people; concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure.

    I think some people have children for selfish reasons. (for their own personal profit or pleasure).
    But some people have children for unselfish reasons. i.e. For the benefit of the children themselves and perhaps they think that having and rearing children is ‘good’ and meaningful.

    Finally, I think there is the question of pessimism and optimism. The pessimist perhaps sees life as full of dangers and suffering and hence perhaps does not want to bring children into an imperfect world. The optimist, on the other hand has a fundamental belief that there is always hope and that life is always worth living.




  • I don't think it's about pessimism or optimism - it's about facts in front of us. Most parents I know aren't half as optimistic as myself.




  • fr336 wrote: »
    I don't think it's about pessimism or optimism - it's about facts in front of us. Most parents I know aren't half as optimistic as myself.

    You might be interested in the debate about the fact/value distinction.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fact%E2%80%93value_distinction

    I think the question is about 'value'. i.e. What is the value of having children. And values can be said to be subjective and are really about attitude. i.e. What value do I place in having children?

    There is an 'informed desire' theory of value that implies that if I as an informed and rational person desire children, then these children are desirable and valuable to me.
    If I desire these children for there own sake and as an end in itself, then these children have intrinsic value. This has nothing to do with facts other than the fact that I desire them. I do however take these all kinds of facts into account when I make an informed desire.

    In the end, the argument could be said to be all about how you feel about the value of children and the boo/hurrah responses in the AH forum are predicable. (Emotivism)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotivism


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  • Thanks Joe. In layman's terms however, as I have yet to study Philosophy of be a generally educated kind of guy myself, what can be broken down from the 'informed desire'?




  • fr336 wrote: »
    Then they can blame the child when it suits - priceless.
    What? :confused:




  • I think you can take different perspectives in looking at the value of having children. For example, historically, tyrants often encouraged having children in order to build up the population in preparation for war etc. In the USA, there is a worry that the the white majority will be overtaken by other ethnic groups etc. From the environmental point of view, it could be said that we are over populated etc. So 'fact' can be used to put some type of general objective argument as to whats desirable from a particular point of view.

    However having children is also an individual choice and there is very strong empirical evidence (facts) of people going to massive efforts and expense and often at considerable health risk to have children.

    I think most people have children either by accident or individual (often non-rational) choice.




  • I think deciding you want to create a life is selfish. It has to be selfish because you make this decision because it is what you want. If it wasn't a decision you probably didn't take adequate precautions and this again is selfish, perhaps even more so. Obviously it's not entirely black and white given religious or cultural influences. What can be selfless is doing your very best to raise the child, for the child's sake. The world can be a indoctrinating experience, and people are susceptible to accept philosophical doctrines that appeal in the face of so much uncertainty. Life can be wonderful, but it can also be very harsh. Raising a child selflessly requires love and upbringing, but ultimately it requires us to let go and accept the person they become. Thrusting a person into the mire knowing full well how hard and confusing and cold the world can be it not a decision I am entirely comfortable with.




  • When you break it down - if nobody had kids, the human race would become extinct in under 100 years.

    Selfishness or lack thereof simply doesn't come into it - it's an essential thing to survive and is embedded in instinct, at a basic level.

    If you look at it purely from trying to assert whether or not the conscious decision to have kids is selfish, I'd say not on the whole. Yes, you might have kids because you want them, but parents tend to end up doing more for their kids than they give back overall. This is then paid forward when they have kids themselves.

    Having kids when you can't support them or provide for them is selfish, however.


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  • sdeire wrote: »
    Having kids when you can't support them or provide for them is selfish, however.

    So poor people should not have kids.?

    Is that what your saying.?:confused:




  • Tokarev wrote: »
    So poor people should not have kids.?

    Is that what your saying.?:confused:

    In a nutshell? There's a difference between working class and scumbag class.

    If you're genuinely unemployed and so on, then it's absolutely right that money be spent to help raise kids where the intention is that their parents will return to work and be able to support their family. People who deserve state assistance in this sort of situation should get it.

    On the other hand, if your intent is to be a dole-scrounger for the rest of your working life, then you should not have children. They'll be destined to misery until they can escape the toxic environment they'll live in, or pick up your habits and drain state/taxpayer's coffers until they're in the ground themselves.




  • sdeire wrote: »
    In a nutshell? There's a difference between working class and scumbag class.

    If you're genuinely unemployed and so on, then it's absolutely right that money be spent to help raise kids where the intention is that their parents will return to work and be able to support their family. People who deserve state assistance in this sort of situation should get it.

    On the other hand, if your intent is to be a dole-scrounger for the rest of your working life, then you should not have children. They'll be destined to misery until they can escape the toxic environment they'll live in, or pick up your habits and drain state/taxpayer's coffers until they're in the ground themselves.

    Is this about Ireland or the world.?
    Because there are millions and millions of poor people on this planet who can't afford to have children,
    But what are they to do.?
    What! Not have children.?




  • sdeire wrote: »

    Selfishness or lack thereof simply doesn't come into it - it's an essential thing to survive and is embedded in instinct, at a basic level.

    Is it?? I don't feel the urge - I just see other people's kids and think "Yeah that'd be nice" Purely from seeing it. I'm thinking independently from any overwhelming feeling, I feel - hence my internal debate about whether it's the right thing to do for unselfish reasons.




  • sdeire wrote: »
    When you break it down - if nobody had kids, the human race would become extinct in under 100 years.

    The arrogance of the human race lol...mankind's cool, sure, but extinction wouldn't be..scuse the pun..the end of the world :pac: Certainly planet earth would be happy.

    *Shrugs shoulders*




  • sdeire wrote: »
    When you break it down - if nobody had kids, the human race would become extinct in under 100 years.

    So what, there'd be nobody around to be concerned about the lack of humanity.

    Is having children hard wired into us or is it peer pressure and a developed desire.

    I agree having children is born from a selfish act and no parent has the the right to say something like 'you ungrateful so and so I went through x hours of labour for you...' Really, maybe you should have asked my permission first :-)


    Take women putting off having children later and later in life. That seems to go against the hard wired theory.




  • smcgiff wrote: »

    Is having children hard wired into us or is it peer pressure and a developed desire.

    This!!




  • MOD: This thread appears to cross several disciplines and discussion forums, so it has been moved from Philosophy to Humanities. Enjoy!




  • fr336 wrote: »
    The arrogance of the human race lol...

    Not all...Most are happy to go to day to day, It's just some, Seem to wish they could play some kinda god on this planet.

    edit. sorry mods only seen your post.




  • Tbh I found the OP you linked to a little confusing so I'll just address the title "Is having children selfish?"

    No. Becoming a parent can actually be argued to be the opposite of selfish.
    For the first time in your life another human being is more important to you than yourself.
    On the other hand the child is part you so yes, you are passing on your genes and this can be seen as egocentric.
    But selfish? No.

    Oh. and the part about "filling your life with meaning" - most species have pretty much one single function, to procreate.
    We aren't all that different from the other species on the planet so yeah, the point of your existence is partly to produce offspring.


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  • smcgiff wrote: »
    So what, there'd be nobody around to be concerned about the lack of humanity.

    Is having children hard wired into us or is it peer pressure and a developed desire.

    I agree having children is born from a selfish act and no parent has the the right to say something like 'you ungrateful so and so I went through x hours of labour for you...' Really, maybe you should have asked my permission first :-)


    Take women putting off having children later and later in life. That seems to go against the hard wired theory.

    Of course the desire to procreate is hard wired into all animals. It's the very basis of evolution, the very driving force of it.

    Humans can over come hard wiring instinct in some cases.




  • Of course the desire to procreate is hard wired into all animals.

    The human animal is very different and far more complex than other animals.

    Evolution is completely removed from procreation, it of course derives from it but nobody thinks I'm going to have a baby and hope the child has a mutation in their genes. Evolution would happen regardless of whether it was hard wired or a conscious decision.




  • Two ideas and links that come to mind and might be relevant to the discussion.
    The first is the 'selfish gene idea' that our genes are hard wired to reproduce and they act in the interest of its own genes
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Selfish_Gene

    The second idea is in the whole area of human population control. This could be discussed from a geography or economics point of view. Is the world over-populated?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_population_control




  • the selfish gene is a good analogy. Dawkins said that this theory is very often misunderstood. many people shy away from it because they erroneously believe it's akin to social Darwinism. i think that each child is created for a huge number of reasons.

    These include
    the parents maternal and paternal instincts.
    Some genetic hard wiring to propagate our genes
    environmental and economic considerations (more people are having less children these days due to the cost/there is also a rights of passage theory about people having children)
    Culture
    consciousness (as in many people do not consider having children in these terms, an act being selfish might require some conscious placing of one's needs above a childs)

    to reduce the future of the human race to a question of whether it is a selfish act or not is simplistic and wrong




  • Joe1919 wrote: »
    Two ideas and links that come to mind and might be relevant to the discussion.
    The first is the 'selfish gene idea' that our genes are hard wired to reproduce and they act in the interest of its own genes
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Selfish_Gene

    The second idea is in the whole area of human population control. This could be discussed from a geography or economics point of view. Is the world over-populated?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_population_control

    That book - the selfish gene - is on the shelf but I've never opened it. I don't know how much we are influenced by our genes to reproduce; if it was such a strong urge and one we have little control over, we would be reproducing from adolescence (some are, but because of 'accident' not a desire to reproduce) and we would be far less insistent on contraceptives. I've yet to personally experience a brooding urge but I have given thought to having a family and it wasn't just to transfer my genes.

    I disagree completely with the population control movement for two main reasons:
    1) Populations in the 'Western' World are aging and need more children to be born. Japan and Germany ran some campaigns a few years ago, to encourage more people to have children within the context of a family.

    2) There is more than enough food being produced in the World to supply for nutritional requirements. In Europe, we are guilty of producing 'wine lakes' and 'butter mountains' that are left to waste. We are giving more and more quality land to growing eco-fuels which consume more energy to produce than they will generate.




  • No it's not selfish. Its a natural thing. As long as you have the means and wherewithal to raise a child. If you feel you are in a position to help an orphan baby by giving him/her a better life than that is a great thing to do.




  • If you feel you are in a position to help an orphan baby by giving him/her a better life than that is a great thing to do.

    It is a great thing, but it's also irrelevant to this discussion.

    Human's are able to weigh up the ramifications of bringing life into the world in a way no other animal can.

    What about people in poor countries having lots of children in the hope that enough will survive to provide them with support in their old age. Is this an example of hard wired behaviour?




  • That book - the selfish gene - is on the shelf but I've never opened it. I don't know how much we are influenced by our genes to reproduce; if it was such a strong urge and one we have little control over, we would be reproducing from adolescence (some are, but because of 'accident' not a desire to reproduce) and we would be far less insistent on contraceptives.
    What's missed in the "desire to reproduce" idea, is that it's nothing to do with a desire to reproduce. Nothing in nature has a natural urge to reproduce.
    The urge is to mate. Reproduction is a consequence of mating; a complex result from a simple action. Very few people can say that they have no desire to mate. Nature doesn't care whether or not you want children, it only wants you to mate. And if you mate, children will result.

    It's a subtle distinction, but important to note when talking about these things. A desire for children specifically is an emotional development resulting from a large number of things; sentimentality likely being a large factor in it. It's constructed from social and personal experiences and norms.
    All your body tells you to do is go off and shag people.

    Like you say, we have the urge to mate from adolescence (and to a certain extent it influences our behaviour even before that).
    The very reason we have contraceptives is because we have difficulty controlling the urge to mate, but we have the intelligence to understand that this urge has consequences.




  • seamus wrote: »
    What's missed in the "desire to reproduce" idea, is that it's nothing to do with a desire to reproduce. Nothing in nature has a natural urge to reproduce...........

    But there is a desire to reproduce. This 'desire to reproduce' not only applies to our desire to reproduce children but also applies to our desire to reproduce ideas, works, art etc. This is seen as part of a greater mechanism of nature. Ideas actually compete with one another etc. Dawkins talks about 'memes' but some of this idea can also be traced back to Plato (Diotima's speech in the Symposium).


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  • Tokarev wrote: »
    Is this about Ireland or the world.?
    Because there are millions and millions of poor people on this planet who can't afford to have children,
    But what are they to do.?
    What! Not have children.?
    Wear condoms or take the pill..


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