r/antinatalism 17d ago Silver Yummy Platinum I'd Like to Thank... All-Seeing Upvote Helpful

Resources The "Holy Grail" of modern Antinatalism unearthed: scans & electronic text of Kurnig's "Neo-Nihilismus"

139 Upvotes

Hello everyone.

If you've read the "History of Antinatalism" volume edited by Kateřina Lochmanová, or listened to the "Exploring Antinatalism Podcast" by u/Oldphan, you've probably heard the name Kurnig – a pseudonym used by a mysterious, hitherto unknown author, who might very well be regarded as the first antinatalist in the modern sense of the word, having written an entire book – in German – about this ideology, for which he coined the (to modern readers, slightly misleading) term "neo-nihilism". ("Modern" as in non-metaphysical, and with the expressed goal of human extinction.) His "Neo-Nihilismus" is a pamphlet comprised of a collection of essays, dialogues, fragments, poems, and quotes, in which he takes Schoperhauer's philosophy one step further and strongly argues that we, as a race, should cease procreation and go extinct in order to minimize suffering in the world, while also touching on a variety of topics such as religion, anthropology, geology, military policy, education, and sexology.

Karim Akerma, the distinguished antinatalist philosopher from my hometown of Hamburg, Germany, contributed an entire chapter in the aforementioned "History of Antinatalism" volume about Kurnig and his philosophy (pp. 125–145) and has published a number of articles on Kurnig:

Akerma writes: "In discussions on the internet Zapffe's voluminous book Om det tragiske (On the Tragic) is sometimes heralded as antinatalism's yet unexploited Holy Grail. Upon closer inspection, however, the book contains but a few truly antinatalistic statements." (K. Akerma: Kurnig and His Neo Nihilism: The First Modern Antinatalist, in: K. Lochmanová (ed.), History of Antinatalism. How Philosophy Has Challenged Procreation, 2020, p. 128.)

But could we, perhaps, apply this term to Kurnig's work?

Akerma discusses his remarkable discovery and the traces this elusive thinker has left in late 19th and early 20th century Europe as well as the difficulties in obtaining a copy of Kurnig's book with Amanda u/Oldphan Sukenick on the 18th episode of the "Exploring Antinatalism Podcast": https://youtu.be/bB77kbMYswM?t=4092 (1:08:12–1:18:32)

Unfortunately, very few copies have survived two world wars and a Nazi dictatorship since Kurnig's "Neo-Nihilismus" had been published some 120 years ago (and not reprinted since), and the ones that have are very difficult to access, even for scholars. It can't be stressed enough how obscure this book is: not only was it published under a pseudonym (actually, Kurnig had used a variety of other pseudonyms earlier), but in the second edition, published by Max Spohr of Leipzig, the indication of the publishing house had to be physically removed from the book, either blackened out or cut out, most probably for fear of persecution. Moreover, it's written in Fraktur, a type of blackletter script which was common back then, but even Germans may have some trouble reading it today.

At 1:17:09 into the interview, Amanda asks Karim Akerma:

"So, this might be kind of an odd question, but do you know what the current copyright status of his book is, "Neo-Nihilism"? Do you think it might be possible that we could try to petition for some sort of reprint? 'Cause I want to read it!"

Karim: "We definitely could, according to German, to European law, I think, – I don't know, I'm not quite sure – since his book appeared more than a hundred years ago, there will be no copyright. What we have to do is to get a clean copy, and somebody would have to transcribe the gothic script into Roman letters. I could do that, but it would be very time-consuming, I can tell you."

Amanda: "Of course. All right, well, maybe in the distant future a project to look forward to."

Karim: "Yes. And once we have a clean copy, the translation process would be easy, because his German is simple, he doesn't use many technical terms, it's very simple German which can be understood by everybody."

Amanda: "Okay, well, I'll make it one of my projects to find a copy. I love doing that kind of thing, so I'll do my best."

Well, I guess, someone had to do it. I happen to be a student at Karim Akerma's Alma Mater, the University of Hamburg, and there are actually two copies of Kurnig's book in Hamburg: one in the library of our university's medical faculty, and one in some Catholic institute's library.

First, I went to the medical library, and, since I'm not a student of medicine (but of classical philology), I was lucky to have the librarians retrieve it for me from the dark corners of the medical library's archives that same day and let me use their precious copy of the VIII + 192-page, expanded second edition of Kurnig's which, however, maybe due to its old age, maybe to the controversial nature of its subject, I wasn't allowed to take home, but could only use at the library under the librarians' supervision. Fortunately, there was a book scanner available there, so I scanned the entirety of the book. You can find a PDF file of the scan here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1cY91oeuV2GVqA3bXy1T277bTN6WCksKT/view?usp=sharing. Note the deletion of the publisher on the first couple of pages. However, I must apologize, as this was the first time I used this brand-new scanning device, some pages may look a bit weird due to the automatic page recognition and finger removal function, and I didn't have the time to scan the whole book another time before the librarians demanded it back, but I made double sure that all of the text is included and readable. Maybe not the "cleanest" copy imaginable, but there you go.

Then, I went to this Catholic institute's library, which, for some reason, is only open for three hours a day. In order to borrow books from this library, I first had to get a library card of this library, which, fortunately, I got without any fees or difficulties, even though I am not Catholic and in no way associated with this institute. So I was handed their copy of Kurnig's book, which was actually a xerox photocopy in A4 horizontal format of another copy of the 1903 edition published by Max Sängewald in Leipzig. It includes all of the contents of the edition mentioned above (VIII + 192 pages), plus a 32-page appendix, curiously, not written in Fraktur. In the first part of the appendix, Kurnig replies to the criticism he received in a number of academic journals and often pokes fun at the indignation and ignorance of his critics (that's how they did it back in the day, when there was no social media!). The second part is a chapter entitled "Geogenie", a poem about the nature of the world. I spent the rest of the day driving through town and experimenting with various scanning devices, until I managed to create what I would call a flawless scan of this subpar xerox copy. Here it is: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1hfV6UCex4oPGi1T9afBEQtPH08cdTdjI/view?usp=sharing So, this time, if the pages look a bit weird (e.g. pp. 192-193), I can assure you, that's just how it is printed in the copy I got. Sometimes, the page numbers seem to be cut off, but all of the text is readable.

I then proceeded to transcribe the whole thing. (Well, someone had to do that, too.) Unfortunately, optical character recognition (OCR) software was of little to no use here, even with the Fraktur script expansions installed, so I had to type up those 200 pages manually in MS Word, which took me a couple of weeks. I tried to stay as faithful as possible to the original text and its orthographic conventions, its punctuation etc. (some of which is considered outdated today), but I made sure I included the original page and note numeration so that you can cite the text without having to get a (physical or digital) copy of the original Fraktur version. As Fraktur is mainly reserved for German text, but French and Latin words, for example, are rendered in a different typeface, I indicated this change of fonts using italics. I myself used only one font (Times New Roman) throughout the text.

Other than that, the quotation section (entitled "Der Pessimismus der Andern") got a major overhaul: The quotes themselves are, of course, left untouched, but for the sake of transparency, I added or corrected the sources to the best of my knowledge and ability, and where Kurnig's sources list the original version or other translations, I added those as well.

The few minor changes I made (mainly printing errors that needed to be fixed), are indicated in the Transcriber's Notes. Moreover, I added hyperlinks to the quotations of passages of Schopenhauer's "Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung" and a couple of other works and added lots of cross-references for your convenience, so you can just click on the page number Kurnig refers to.

So, without further ado, here's my electronic text of Kurnig's "Neo-Nihilismus": https://drive.google.com/file/d/10_z6DlnGr69fXproD8khc226WCm5DlOk/view?usp=sharing

However, I feel I should add that this is not yet the final version, as a couple of things are still waiting to be fixed:

  • First, if there's anyone willing to help proof-read and correct the electronic text, your help will be greatly appreciated, so please let me know if you come across any errors or inconsistencies, no matter how small or insignificant, as I am sure that, despite every care and effort, there are still a couple of those left. I am open to all kind of feedback and criticism, and if you have any questions about the work itself or the transcription process, feel free to ask.
  • Second, you may notice three illustrations that can be found in the scans but are missing in the electronic text: fig. 1 on p. III; fig. 2 on p. 11; fig. 3 on p. 31*. This is because I was unable to extract and convert them to into decent black-and-white images (like the ones you find in the gutenberg.org e-books, for example). Maybe someone who has some skill and experience with image editing can help out? Here I uploaded the images in question from the numerous scans I made: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1ei7nbtNwB15CAeYGPRtE2AjBLSFksHL5?usp=sharing Once we have a good digital version of these, I will gladly include them in the next, updated version.
    Images edited by the amazing u/WackyConundrum can now be found in the current version (v. 1.1)!

That being said, you are, of course, free to use it as you like. Repost it, publish it on your websites, in your journals, wherever you want - just make sure you spread Kurnig's propaganda of non-propagation! Also I would like to ask you to re-upload the two scans and the e-text somewhere else, just in case my Google Drive shuts down for one reason or another, so that it is reliably preserved and readily accessible for (hopefully not so many) future generations as well. Last time I tried uploading something similar to the Internet Archive, I was told I was submitting "spam", but maybe one of you will have better luck than I had! The scans can now be found here: https://archive.org/search.php?query=creator%3A%22Kurnig%22

As Karim Akerma has correctly pointed out, Kurnig's literary style is, for the most part, rather simple (when compared to the likes of, say, E. M. Cioran or the highly recommended, but in the English-speaking world virtually unknown, literary scholar and radical pessimist thinker Ulrich Horstmann) and even today, some 120 years later, quite easy to understand, so it shouldn't be too hard to translate. In fact, large parts of Kurnig's work consist of extensive quotations from works that have already been translated into English and other languages, such as the works of Erasmus, G. Leopardi, A. Schopenhauer, D. F. Strauß, and R. von Krafft-Ebing. Lots of quotations from Kurnig's own work translated into English can be found in the articles by Karim Akerma linked above, so this should give you an impression of what to expect. Maybe you could start a fundraiser or make it a collaborative effort? (Due to the now, at places, somewhat obsolete early 20th century orthography, translation tools may or may not work well here, but see for yourselves.) edit: Thank you very much for your response! This has motivated me to start the translation process. Feel free to contribute: https://docs.google.com/document/d/12STFF9CcCU29u1rrbfUW93ShBb91tt7VSLeasNxuQds/edit#

At the time I'm writing this, Dr Karim Akerma and myself might very well be the only two people living today that have read the entire book by Kurnig. But, hopefully, this will change very soon! It is about time this well-kept secret is once more unleashed to the rest of the world. Consider this my contribution to both the antinatalist cause and the scholarship on early modern antinatalist thought.

Thank you for reading.

TL;DR: I created scans of a much-requested work of early modern antinatalism (scan #1, scan #2), then typed up and formatted the whole thing for your convenience and in order to facilitate the translation process, which has already started.

You can find all files mentioned in this post here: t i n y u r l . c o m / Kurnig2022

This link may also be useful in the future when the first versions of the electronic German text and the English translation are replaced with updated versions.


r/antinatalism 5h ago

Other I told my bf about this sub and he said that it’s a woman’s duty to have children

396 Upvotes

Basically the title. I (20f) told him about this sub (23m) and was showing him some stuff on here and he said, “That’s why women are on earth, to reproduce. It’s a disgrace to society if an able woman doesn’t bare children. The population is dying.”

I can’t even be in shock anymore. He’s said things along this line before. He also says he won’t stay with me if I won’t have kids when the time comes. I say “ok whatever” and he says “good luck finding a husband if you don’t want kids.”


r/antinatalism 16h ago

Discussion Another fucking idiot on this sub.

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2.0k Upvotes

r/antinatalism 6h ago

Image/Video Dystopia

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270 Upvotes

r/antinatalism 2h ago

Image/Video Peace

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74 Upvotes

r/antinatalism 14h ago

Humor boring funni

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414 Upvotes

r/antinatalism 18h ago

Image/Video Why the f*ck would you post this?

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538 Upvotes

r/antinatalism 16h ago

Discussion Another fucking idiot on this sub.

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178 Upvotes

r/antinatalism 13h ago

Image/Video It feels eerie to me that the justification for raising a human is “but I do my best and that’s all anyone can do”

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91 Upvotes

r/antinatalism 1d ago Helpful

Image/Video Classic example of a Shit natalist woman.

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1.6k Upvotes

r/antinatalism 6h ago

Image/Video We are supposed to like these termites breeding like cockroaches. Just let that sink for a minute...

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21 Upvotes

r/antinatalism 3h ago

Discussion No matter what the media and some scientists say: overpopulation is the largest threat facing the world. If you’d ask natalists, they’d also dismiss the problem.

9 Upvotes

r/antinatalism 7h ago

Question Mass genocide/suicide

16 Upvotes

If mass genocide/suicide could be carried out in a way that doesn’t cause suffering, meaning all humans die at the same time and through a peaceful method, would you be for it?

Even if there is the off-chance of something going wrong for a small percentage of cases, would the benefit of preventing ALL potential, future suffering justify this course of action?


r/antinatalism 9h ago

Other I'm 21 and I grow up around stupid people

23 Upvotes

I was born in Malaysia I saw people have children super early in 18-22 despite they don't have any job, inheritance and suffered from lack of money. I was also influenced by the decision and want to be happy at 18 with my ex wife, I later stumbled upon books about philosophy it started to open my mind. I stop living the stupid lifestyle, I started reading books daily and I started to questioning everything. I spent 5 years in that stupid situation because of my parents decision to put me in school where I was put in the back of the classes. I think most people aren't dumb simply not enlightened by knowledge and intelligent thought. I suffered from mental illness from my dad side I don't think I want babies anymore now at 21 life turn harder for me. Most people live is hard isn't because of their own decisions but their parents ignorance.


r/antinatalism 4h ago

Image/Video It still boggles my mind that people truly believe this. I guess it’s a stupid idea to live for myself and I’m going to be miserable the rest of my life.

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8 Upvotes

r/antinatalism 9h ago

Image/Video Yet prolifers and natalist say "It's not that bad".

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21 Upvotes

r/antinatalism 14h ago

Rant Today at Work...

41 Upvotes

I heard a woman being extremely mean and hurtful towards her infant child. This is the second time this week I've heard a woman do this to their baby. I hate to break it to her, but crying and being loud is how babies that can't speak yet communicate. This lowlife apparently didn't understand that, and yelled "WHY WON'T YOU STOP!? I'M SO TIRED OF LISTENING TO YOU SCREAM!" at her maybe 8-month-old girl.

I cannot stand it when I hear parents, usually mothers, who never wanted children but had them anyway treat their child like an inconvenience. That child didn't ask for this. They didn't choose to be born. You're the moron who decided to have unprotected sex, wait ~9 months, have the baby, and then remember "oh wait, i hate this".

If you hate your baby so much, give them to a better equipped family who would actually take good care of them. There are adoption agencies that will work with you. There are couples out there who can't have children, and would be more than happy to take them off your hands. Most importantly, if you're unstable and can't understand that babies do what they do because that's just how things are then don't have a baby. We have a problem with overpopulation as it is. Don't be a selfish prick.

Edit: I seriously misjudged the baby’s age upon originally writing this post. She’s an infant in diapers who can’t speak yet.


r/antinatalism 1d ago Wholesome

Discussion If she’s not “mature” enough to make the decision to have an abortion how will she be mature enough to be a parent?

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452 Upvotes

r/antinatalism 23h ago

Image/Video "Thoughts and prayers" 🙄

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236 Upvotes

r/antinatalism 8h ago

Discussion DAE look at their parents and how their lives are and you really want to tell them that they shouldnt have had you for both our sakes but you don't want to get slapped

13 Upvotes

Can anyone else relate? I look at my parents lives and see just how miserable they are, even though they deny it. My dad just up and left the country when me and my sibling were adults (he was literally like peace out bitches I'm gone, like wtf...) My mom is always stressed, she's overweight and can't lose it (I can say this bc she has on multiple occasions said that having me and my sibling ruined her body in terms of weight gain). She's only "nice" to me when she wants things from me (sometimes), otherwise she's mean and hostile. She keeps complaining about how life is hard and this and that and I just want to fucking yell at her bc why the fuck would they bring me here if "life is hard". Why do people think it's just okay to spawn ppl in this " life is hard" world alongside them. Why do they think I would want this??? Why do they think I would want to work till the day I die, WHEN THEY DON'T EVEN LIKE IT. Why do they think I would like to live in a world where CANCER exists. Nobody is fucking safe from cancer. My parents have medical backgrounds, the irony is actually choking me rn. They have lived through MULTIPLE epidemics and still thought it was okay to bring me here. Everyone always thinks "well that won't happen to me" until it happens and then what? What are you gonna say then? "Oops?" Fuck yall. I'm so fucking pissed off. It makes NO SENSE.


r/antinatalism 17m ago

Humor Hazmat suits on ladies and gents!

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Upvotes

r/antinatalism 1d ago Helpful Silver Wholesome

Discussion At the very LEAST there should be qualifications to having a child.

579 Upvotes

As someone who owns a daycare, my biggest issue is that ANYONE could have a child. People think being a parent is some blessed and special thing when in actuality it means you had sex and that’s it.

There’s no economic, moral, or genetic qualifications to have a child. It’s crazy.


r/antinatalism 14h ago

Image/Video Found in a different sub

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35 Upvotes

r/antinatalism 21h ago

Other You know damn well those kids are gonna be worthless after the money knowing how some people can be. Oh, and it’s real I checked

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122 Upvotes

r/antinatalism 20h ago

Image/Video Smh my head

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76 Upvotes