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.

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.

The rational cure for prereproductive stress syndrome revisited

Paper by Matti Häyry, published on September 30, 2005 in Journal of Medical Ethics

If it is irrational to allow the worst outcome of our actions, and if it is immoral to cause suffering, then it is irrational and immoral to have children. I recently published in this journal a paper, entitled A rational cure for prereproductive stress syndrome, and was happy to see that three colleagues—Rebecca Bennett, Søren Holm, and Sahin Aksoy—had taken the time to critically examine it. This gave me an opportunity to briefly revisit the topic, and to clarify some of the arguments I put forward.

A Rational Cure for Prereproductive Stress Syndrome

Paper by Matti Häyry, published on August 2, 2004 in Journal of Medical Ethics

Since human reproduction is arguably both irrational and immoral, those who seek help before conceiving could be advised it is all right not to have children.