Here’s not Looking at You, Kid: A new Defence of Anti-natalism

Paper by Anthony Ferrucci & Blake Hereth, published on March 19, 2021 in South African Journal of Philosophy

Hereth and Ferrucci evaluate a person’s right to physical security (RPS) in different cases and use it to arrive at what they call “the responsibility argument” against procreating:

  • (P1) We should (other things being equal) avoid being responsible for non-trivial harms to persons to which they neither consent nor are liable.
  • (P2) If we create persons, they will suffer non-trivial harms to which they neither consent nor are liable.
  • (C) Therefore, we should (other things being equal) avoid creating persons.

Following that they use RPS to strengthen David Benatar’s misanthropic argument for antinatalism and then discuss several common objections to those arguments and outline why they fail.

Wailing from the heights of velleity: A strong case for antinatalism in these trying times

Paper by Jeroen Robbert Zandbergen, published on March 12, 2021 in South African Journal of Philosophy

The twenty-first century is teeming with larger-than-life threats to our larger-than-life existence, such as famine, war, natural disasters and climate change, viruses, incurable disease, etc. At stake is the future of the human species as a whole. But it is not just external threats that herald the prospective end of humanity. We also face the general exhaustion of many of our earlier and more comfortable modes of philosophy. This is arguably a much graver threat. It is this gloomy atmosphere that the philosophy of antinatalism taps into. Antinatalism is the philosophical view according to which human reproduction should be brought to a halt for any of a variety of reasons. It will be argued here, however, that we can only come to the antinatalist conclusion when we affirm that humankind (somehow) represents a very persistent anomaly in the universe at large. Otherwise, we could simply resort to (much) less radical steps than the ones advocated by antinatalism. Based on this, an important distinction will be made between reactionary (or activist) antinatalism and its more philosophical, so-called originary, counterpart. Ultimately, against recent attempts that push for a moderate embrace of antinatalism, the present work makes a strong case for it. It is argued that this is warranted by the very writings most usually associated with this radical philosophical position.

Between Iron Skies and Copper Earth: Antinatalism and the Death of God

Paper by Jeroen Robbert Zandbergen, published on December 17, 2020 in Zygon

The proclamation of the death of God came at a pivotal time in the history of humankind. It far transcended the concerns of the religious faithful and dented the entire fabric of human existence. Left to its own devices, humans intended their consciousness to replace God's. This proved to be a terrible mistake that collapsed the entire modern project. One of the worldviews that emerged in the wake of this eruption was antinatalism, which refers to the conviction that human reproduction should be brought to an absolute halt. This is the most modern outgrowth of the death of God and represents the most radical face of secular humanism. In spite of the admittedly dark fumes that leak out from the term ‘antinatalism’, this philosophical position emerges quite naturally when we consider the depletion of our traditional sources of philosophical enquiry.

Conditional Reasons and the Procreation Asymmetry

Paper by Johann Frick, published on August 9, 2020 in Philosophical Perspectives

This paper sketches a theory of the reason-giving force of well-being that allows us to reconcile our intuitions about two of the most recalcitrant problem cases in population ethics: Jan Narveson's Procreation Asymmetry and Derek Parfit's Non-Identity Problem. I show that what has prevented philosophers from developing a theory that gives a satisfactory account of both these problems is their tacit commitment to a teleological conception of well-being, as something to be ‘promoted’. Replacing this picture with one according to which our reasons to confer well-being on people are conditional on their existence allows me to do better. It also enables us to understand some of the deep structural parallels between seemingly disparate normative phenomena such as procreating and promising. The resulting theory charts a middle way between the familiar dichotomy of narrow person-affecting theories and totalist or wide-person affecting theories in population ethics.

Famine, Affluence, and Procreation: Peter Singer and Anti-Natalism Lite

Paper by David Benatar, published on March 5, 2020 in Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

Peter Singer has argued that the affluent have very extensive duties to the world’s poor. His argument has some important implications for procreation, most of which have not yet been acknowledged. These implications are explicated in this paper. First, the rich should desist from procreation and instead divert to the poor those resources that would have been used to rear the children that would otherwise have been produced. Second, the poor (and possibly also the rich) should desist from procreation because doing so can prevent the very bad things that would otherwise have befallen the children they would have brought into existence. Third, the rich (and others) sometimes have a duty to prevent the poor from procreating. Fourth, the rich sometimes have a right to prevent the poor from reproducing. Although these implications may not amount to a categorical prohibition on all procreation, they do significantly restrict the permissibility of procreation. They are, in that sense, anti-natalist.

The Hypothetical Consent Objection to Anti-Natalism

Paper by Asheel Singh, published on November 9, 2019 in Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

A very common but untested assumption is that potential children would consent to be exposed to the harms of existence in order to experience its benefits. And so, would-be parents might appeal to the following view: Procreation is all-things-considered permissible, as it is morally acceptable for one to knowingly harm an unconsenting patient if one has good reasons for assuming her hypothetical consent—and procreators can indeed reasonably rely on some notion of hypothetical consent. I argue that this view is in error. My argument appeals to a consent-based version of anti-natalism advanced by Seana Valentine Shiffrin. Anti-natalism is the view that it is always wrong to bring people into existence. While, like Shiffrin, I stop short of advocating a thoroughgoing anti-natalism, I nevertheless argue that procreators cannot appeal to hypothetical consent to justify exposing children to the harms of existence. I end by suggesting a more promising route by which this justification might be achieved.

Antinatalism and Moral Particularism

Paper by Gerald Harrison, published on January 22, 2019 in Essays in Philosophy

Harrison argues that procreative acts possess numerous features that, in other contexts, would be considered to make an action immoral. He finds no reason that this should be different for the act of procreation and so concludes that procreating is immoral as well.

The typical wrongmakers covered by Harrison include consent, harm and the cause of harm to the environment or other beings. He also shows how the loving relationships between parent and child, while usually praised as unconditional love, are problematic, considering how they are started completely one-sided and rely on processes such as imprinting, which would be immoral in any other context of falling in love.

The Harm of Existence

Paper by Kyle Mykietiuk, published on January 1, 2019 in compos mentis: Undergraduate Journal of Cognition and Neuroethics

The purpose of this paper is to defend the position of “antinatalism” which tries to show that coming into existence is always a serious harm for the person who is brought into existence, and that even what we might call the best lives are not worth starting. This is shown by an asymmetry proposed by David Benatar in which he compares pains and pleasures to their absence. I will refer to pains and pleasures as, “the good things in life,” and “the bad things in life.” By looking at this asymmetry we can come to the conclusion that there are no lives worth starting, and even the very best lives are plagued with an immeasurable amount of the “bad things in life.” I will explore just how much badness existence contains and the positive illusions and biological safeguards we use to defend ourselves which prevent us from consciously recognizing this. I will object to the fact that we have any sort of obligation to produce happy people but we do have an obligation not to produce unhappy people, or put people into a potentially harmful and dangerous situation without their knowledge or consent. All these things lead me to the conclusion that bringing someone into existence is a terrible form of malevolence and an action that should not be taken by a moral person.

Keeping our eggs in earth’s basket: the anti-natalist case against space colonisation

Paper by Rehan Pieter Visser, published on July 1, 2018 in University of the Witwatersrand

The morality of space colonisation is yet to receive thorough examination from philosophers. I seek to address this deficit by making a case against colonising space. This case rests on a defence of antinatalism through four arguments (an argument from Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative; David Benatar’s axiological asymmetry argument; Benatar’s argument from quality of life; and Benatar’s misanthropic argument) and an accompanying stance in favour of (non-objectionable) extinction. I respond to challenges and objections against both positions and show that they fail. Because space colonisation, if successful, will likely extend humanity’s lifespan, this makes it a morally indefensible activity, insofar as it entails suffering on the part of sentient beings. I consequently argue that space colonisation ought to be prohibited. I recommend that this prohibition take the form of various additions and changes to existing international space law

Born under a bad sign: On the dark rhetoric of antinatalism

Paper by Brian Zager, published on May 1, 2018 in Empedocles: European Journal for the Philosophy of Communication

Offering a pointed response to the perennial question of being, those sympathetic to the philosophical posture of antinatalism proclaim the suffering of the world does not ultimately justify bringing life into it, consequently advancing a moral stance towards procreation. As this particular topic of conversation is unlikely to curry favor with a majority of interlocutors, the antinatalist-as-rhetor faces a seemingly Sisyphean task in issuing a harsh alternative to the more pervasive narrative espousing birth as an occasion for celebration. Cautious to dismiss antinatalism as simply a profane social discourse, I first consider its communicative import as type of tragic rhetoric which identifies birth as a phenomenological disaster that warrants more critical appraisal. Additionally, I examine the utility of embracing a performative writing style to explore this topic insofar as it adds rhetorical dimension to the attempt at communicating the horrors of existence.