Last week I wrote about Thanos’s moral reasoning, pointing out that Thanos is a utilitarian and that his reasoning is fairly sound if you accept his premises:

  1. Population increase causes scarcity of resources.
  2. Scarcity of resources causes suffering.
  3. Suffering is evil.
  4. Good means the elimination of suffering.

Once you accept each of these premises, Thanos’s solution to the problem seems fairly reasonable. Theoretically, wiping out half of the people in existence would eliminate suffering, and since premise 4 is that good means eliminating suffering, eliminating half the people in existence (and therefore eliminating suffering) is good, right?

Well, maybe (again, if you accept all of Thanos’s starting premises), but there are at least two problems with this sort of reasoning.

(EDIT: In fact, when I Googled “Thanos” just now to find a featured image to attach to this post, the first search result was a piece by Paul Tassi in Forbes arguing that Thanos’s plan “doesn’t make much sense.” Tassi lists several reasons for this claim, two of which I write about below.)

First, one might ask: if Thanos has the ability to kill half the universe, then doesn’t he also have the ability to create resources? If the MCU versions of the Infinity Stones have the same powers as the ones in the comics, then certainly Thanos has the power to create whatever he wants to. Instead of “balancing the universe” by wiping out half of the consumers, he could balance it by increasing the amount of resources that get consumed.

So . . . is this a problem for the movie? Not necessarily. First, we don’t know what the true power of the Infinity Stones is in the MCU. Characters sometimes say that the Infinity Stones together grant “unlimited” or “infinite” power, but this could well be hyperbole. Maybe it is easier to destroy with the Stones than it is to create. This would be a change from the comics, but the nature of the Stones (not to mention their name) is already somewhat different in the MCU.

Second, Thanos doesn’t seem to take into account that simply deleting half the universe will lead to as many problems as it solves. If the half who are erased from existence are chosen at random (which seems like the most “fair” way of committing cosmic genocide), then countless people who could contribute to the material betterment of their societies will be gone––people who might have created new means of growing food, new technologies for clean energy, or new cures for various diseases. And what about the people who would add to their society’s store of wisdom and intellectual riches? There can be no doubt that peoples all across the universe will suffer tremendous losses because of Thanos’s “salvation.”

But we don’t necessarily have to seek a logical explanation for Thanos’s decision to reduce the number of consumers rather than increasing the amount of resources. In fact, I’d say that Thanos’s motivation in Infinity War is just logical enough to make him more than just a cartoon villain while just unreasonable enough to be realistic. In fact, you can find people on the internet who think exactly like Thanos does.

I am wary of finding myself guilty of “nutpicking,” but it seems awfully easy to find people we might call “principled misanthropes” on the internet––Twitter, especially. You know the type: these people are wised up; they are just educated enough to make them think that they know everything; they’re not educated enough to make them see that none of us knows very much of anything; they get most of their moral principles from listening to the loudest commenters on the internet; and they are possessed of a paradoxical misanthropy that hates humanity for what it does to . . . humanity. Somebody does something awful or stupid, and they respond with a knowing and self-satisfied “Human suck.” The world would be better off without humans. Humans rape, pillage, and torture. We destroy the environment. We enslave others. Etc. For these types of people, humanity doesn’t suffer from a disease; it is the disease.

So while some people might look at the logical problems with Thanos’s quest in Infinity War and say that these things are flaws in the film, I say that they’re actually strengths. After spending too much time reading what other people have to say on social media and in article comments, it is easy for me to imagine that someone given infinite power would decide that the solution is fewer humans, not more resources––especially when that someone is known as the “Mad Titan.”

But that’s just me.