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.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0963180122000317
Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 2022