Paper by Marc Larock, published on November 13, 2008 in University of St. Andrews
In his dissertation Larock presents Deprivationalism, which he bases on the common intuition that it is good for a person to acquire a new satisfied preference.
From that it follows that acquiring further additional satisfied preference is always a good thing, because we “have an interest in experiencing as much pleasure and as little pain as possible” (Singer 131) and thus the best state for any preferer would be to “acquire the value of a non-terminating succession of extra satisfied preferences” as Larock calls it.
Basically that means an infinite chain of new and satisfied preferences would be “in every rational preferrer’s interests”.
However according to Larock there are two ways to be harmed: By having an existing preference frustrated or by being deprived of a new satisfied preference.
Since certain eventual death prevents all of us from acquiring said infinite chain of satisfied preferences which would be best for us, Larock concludes that death represents an infinite harm and thus that “existence is worse for all actual persons than non-existence”.
How good or bad is a person’s life? How good or bad is a world? In this dissertation, I will attempt to answer these questions. Common-sense would dictate that if a person’s life would be extremely bad, then bringing her into existence is a bad thing. Not only is it bad for the person who lives it, but also, it is bad because it makes the world a worse place. A world populated only by individuals who have lives full of unrelenting misery and suffering is certainly worse than a world only populated by individuals who are extremely well off. If we can measure the value of a person’s life and the value of a world, then we can determine how good or bad our lives are and how good or bad the actual world is. Investigating these issues and providing satisfactory answers to these questions is immensely important. In this dissertation I argue that all actual human lives are so bad that it would have been better had all of us never come into existence. I also argue that our world is worse than an empty world. The nucleus of my view consists of the following two claims: i. Each person has an interest in acquiring a new satisfied preference. ii. Whenever a person is deprived of a new satisfied preference this violates an interest and is thus a harm with a finite disvalue. If one holds both (i) and (ii), then one is a deprivationalist. Any deprivationalist will have to claim that existence is worse for all actual persons than non-existence. I also show that deprivationalism presents a clear strategy for escaping The Repugnant Conclusion and The Mere Addition Paradox. For a deprivationalist, the Non-Identity Problem is neutralized as well. Parfit’s challenge in Reasons and Persons was to devise a theory of beneficence that could escape these cases without leading to other unacceptable conclusions. Parfit failed to find a theory—“Theory X”—that would meet these requirements. If the conclusions in this dissertation are correct, then deprivationalism is a good candidate for Theory X.
All of us are brought into existence, without our consent, and over the course of our lives we are acquainted with a multitude of goods. Unfortunately, there is a limit to the amount of good each of us will have in our lives. Eventually each of us will die and we will be permanently cut off from the prospect of any further good. Existence, viewed in this way, seems to be a cruel joke. Deprivationalism is intended to capture this intuition. Fundamental to deprivationalism is the idea that a person who exists, no matter how good her life, is always deprived and that this is a serious harm. However, non-existent people are not moral patients and are not harmed. Therefore, non-existence is better than existence.— by Marc Larock in "Possible Preferences and the Harm of Existence"
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