Quality of Human Life and Non-existence: Some criticisms of David Benatar’s formal and material positions

Paper by Julio Cabrera, published on June 3, 2011 in Revista Redbioética/UNESCO

In his book, Better Never to Have Been (Oxford, 2006), David Benatar attempts to show that coming into existence is always a serious harm. In order to prove his point, he develops two lines of argument, one formal, another material. In this paper I intend to show that: (1) There is a logical problem in the formal argumentation that affects the soundness of the supposed “asymmetry” between the absence of pleasure and the absence of pain, which constitutes the core of this line of argumentation. (2) Although the material argument is basically correct, I maintain that it suffers from the limitations of the theoretical approach adopted, of empiricist and Utilitarian type. (3) I discuss briefly the alleged “independence” of the two lines of argument trying to show that the formal line depends on the material one