Exit Duty Generator

Paper by Matti Häyry, published on February 17, 2023 in Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics

This article presents a revised version of negative utilitarianism. Previous versions have relied on a hedonistic theory of value and stated that suffering should be minimized. The traditional rebuttal is that the doctrine in this form morally requires us to end all sentient life. To avoid this, a need-based theory of value is introduced. The frustration of the needs not to suffer and not to have one’s autonomy dwarfed should, prima facie, be decreased. When decreasing the need frustration of some would increase the need frustration of others, the case is deferred and a fuller ethical analysis is conducted. The author’s perceptions on murder, extinction, the right to die, antinatalism, veganism, and abortion are used to reach a reflective equilibrium. The new theory is then applied to consumerism, material growth, and power relations. The main finding is that the burden of proof should be on those who promote the status quo.

Should vegans have children? Examining the links between animal ethics and antinatalism

Paper by Joona Räsänen, published on February 11, 2023 in Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics

Ethical vegans and vegetarians believe that it is seriously immoral to bring into existence animals whose lives would be miserable. In this paper, I will discuss whether such a belief also leads to the conclusion that it is seriously immoral to bring human beings into existence. I will argue that vegans should abstain from having children since they believe that unnecessary suffering should be avoided. After all, humans will suffer in life, and having children is not necessary for a good life. Thus vegans, and probably vegetarians as well, should not have children. I will consider several objections against this controversial claim, show why the objections fail and conclude that it would be best for ethical vegans to abstain from procreation.

If You Must Give Them a Gift, Then Give Them the Gift of Nonexistence

Paper by Matti Häyry, published on December 13, 2022 in Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics

I present a qualified new defense of antinatalism. It is intended to empower potential parents who worry about their possible children’s life quality in a world threatened by environmental degradation, climate change, and the like. The main elements of the defense are an understanding of antinatalism’s historical nature and contemporary varieties, a positional theory of value based on Epicurean hedonism and Schopenhauerian pessimism, and a sensitive guide for reproductive decision-making in the light of different views on life’s value and risk-taking. My conclusion, main message, to the concerned would-be parents is threefold. If they believe that life’s ordinary frustrations can make it not worth living, they should not have children. If they believe that a noticeably low life quality makes it not worth living and that such life quality can be reasonably expected, they should not have children, either. If they believe that a noticeably low life quality is not reasonably to be expected or that the risk is worth taking, they can, in the light of their own values and beliefs, have children. The conclusion is supported by a combination of the extant arguments for reproductive abstinence, namely the arguments from consent, moral asymmetry, life quality, and risk.

Better never to have been in the wild: a case for weak wildlife antinatalism

Paper by Ludwig Raal, published on April 1, 2022 in Stellenbosch University, MA thesis

Most people have an idyllic view of nature and believe that wild animals have good lives. But nature is a hostile place. In addition to the suffering inflicted upon prey by their predators, many wild animals are victims of infectious disease, extreme weather, starvation, and parasitism. Yet it is often claimed that an abundance of wildlife is desirable. The aim of this thesis is to challenge this premise. My argument will proceed in four parts. Firstly, I will show that the lives of most wild animals are characterised by a surplus of negative experiences, and that there are a myriad of ways in which wild animals suffer. Secondly, I will challenge the notion that wildlife has intrinsic value by considering, and arguing against, two related claims: that the lives of individual wild animals have intrinsic value, and that wild species as wholes are of intrinsic value. Thirdly, I will consider whether wildlife has instrumental value, and if so, whether it is sufficient to justify traditional conservation methods. I conclude that this is not the case. Finally, I will argue that it may be best for most wild animals not to be born at all, a view I refer to as weak wildlife antinatalism. While such a conjecture may strike many as deeply counterintuitive, I will make the case that it is both technically feasible and morally desirable.

David Benatarʼs Argument from Asymmetry: A Qualified Defence

Paper by Oliver Hallich, published on March 16, 2022 in The Journal of Value Inquiry

The asymmetry argument, expounded in chapter 2 of his book Better Never to Have Been, is the backbone of David Benatarʼs anti-natalism. If correct, it lends support to Benatarʼs central claim that it is always a harm to be brought into existence. Accepting this claim does not decide the question whether bringing someone into existence is only a minor or a grave harm. However, in conjunction with Benatarʼs quality of life argument – i.e., the argument that our positive judgements about the quality of our lives are systematically distorted because the quality of our lives is much worse than we usually think it isFootnote 1 –, the asymmetry argument yields the conclusion that each of us has been not only slightly but very seriously harmed by being brought into existence. In this paper, I offer a qualified defence of the asymmetry argument. It is a qualified defence because I defend the argument only after criticizing it, and I attempt to offer a defence of the argument that incorporates this criticism. My claim is that the argument is basically correct, but that it needs to be refined and qualified in the light of this criticism. After shortly recapitulating the asymmetry argument (1), I criticize it in two steps (2). First, I argue that, in contrast to what Benatar claims, we can harm potential persons by not bringing them into existence (2.1). Second, I criticize Benatarʼs attempt to defend the asymmetry argument as an argument from the best explanation for other moral intuitions that we normally hold (2.2). In part 3, I defend the argument in a way that is compatible with this criticism. The first step in my defence is to apply a distinction between harming de re and harming de dicto. When we harm potential persons by not bringing them into existence, we harm them in a de dicto, not in a de re, sense. This, I argue, shows that my claim that we can harm potential persons by not bringing them into existence is compatible with the claim that existing persons could never have been harmed by not having been brought into existence (3.1). Moreover, this latter claim is true: no existing person would have been harmed by not having been brought into existence (3.2). In sum, the asymmetry argument, together with plausible empirical assumptions, shows that each of us has reason to regret our existence, though it does not establish the truth of anti-natalism (4).

On Risk‑Based Arguments for Anti‑natalism

Paper by Erik Magnusson, published on March 2, 2022 in The Journal of Value Inquiry

In his paper Magnusson analyzes several risk-based arguments for antinatalism, before arriving at the following version of one, which he considers the most robust:

  1. It is impermissible to non-consensually impose a risk of catastrophic harm on others unless doing so is necessary to advance their essential interests
  2. Bringing a child into existence involves non-consensually imposing a risk of catastrophic harm on that child that is not necessary to advance their essential interests; therefore,
  3. It is impermissible to bring children into existence.

Morality’s Collapse: Antinatalism, Transhumanism and the Future of Humankind

Paper by Jeroen Robbert Zandbergen, published on December 9, 2021 in Journal of Ethics and Emerging Technologies

In the present work I explore the unignorably momentous responsibility of contemporary philosophy to conclude the project of humanism as inherited from Enlightenment-era thinking. I argue that there are presently two avenues open to us. On the one hand there is antinatalism, according to which humankind must be gestured towards self-imposed extinction and thereby overcome. On the other hand, there is transhumanism which inspires the hope that we may transcend any limitations to our being and flourish as a result of radical enhancement, thereby also overcoming humankind. On both accounts, the ‘human’ is something to be overcome, either negatively (antinatalism) or positively (transhumanism). As both have a common ancestor in radical Enlightenment-era humanism, this choice between radical resignation and affirmation becomes all the more pertinent now that we find ourselves in modernity’s wake and in the ruins of morality’s collapse.

Anti-natalism and the Creation of Artificial Minds

Paper by Bartlomiej Chomanski, published on July 2, 2021 in Journal of Applied Philosophy

Must opponents of creating conscious artificial agents embrace anti-natalism? Must anti-natalists be against the creation of conscious artificial agents? This article examines three attempts to argue against the creation of potentially conscious artificial intelligence (AI) in the context of these questions. The examination reveals that the argumentative strategy each author pursues commits them to the anti-natalist position with respect to procreation; that is to say, each author's argument, if applied consistently, should lead them to embrace the conclusion that procreation is, at best, morally problematic. However, the article also argues that anti-natalists can find the production of some possible artificially conscious AI permissible. Thus, the creation of potentially conscious AI could be accepted by both friends and foes of anti-natalism.

What Is Antinatalism? Definition, History, and Categories

Paper by Masahiro Morioka, published on May 1, 2021 in The Review of Life Studies

Morioka explores the definition and history of the term antinatalism in religion, popular media and literature. He then categorizes different types of antinatalism and lists common objections to their respective positions.