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

The Negative Ontology of Happiness: a Schopenhauerian Argument

Paper by Manolito Gallegos, published on March 21, 2011 in Heidelberger Graduiertenjournal für Geisteswissenschaften

In this essay I will examine Schopenhauer’s contention that there is, in fact, no hap-piness, and that instead it is merely a lack of suffering that we label as such. To do this,I will first explore the claim itself, as well as some additional hypotheses and argumentsthat Schopenhauer presents for this position. I will then make a number of objectionsand provide refutations for each of them, with the resulting conclusion being favourablefor Schopenhauer’s position; however, I will also comment on some areas of philosophythat could possibly yield problems for the position, as well as discussing briefly whatsorts of further conclusions might be drawn from the nonexistence of happiness, andwhich areas are clearly not affected by it without further argumentation.

Problems And Solutions For A Hypothetical Right Not To Exist

Paper by Manolito Gallegos, published on January 1, 2011 in Heidelberger Graduiertenjournal für Geisteswissenschaften

In this paper I will describe and attempt to resolve one of the main problems ofDavid Benatar’s textBetter Never To Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence:whether it is possible for a right not to exist to be posited without there ever being aperson in existence to hold such a right. I will conclude that this is indeed possiblegiven an experience oriented view of personhood that I shall outline, and what otherconclusions might be drawn from such a view.

Better Not to Have Children

Paper by Gerald Harrison & Julia Tanner, published on December 21, 2010 in Think

Most people take it for granted that it's morally permissible to have children. They may raise questions about the number of children it's responsible to have or whether it's permissible to reproduce when there's a strong risk of serious disability. But in general, having children is considered a good thing to do, something that's morally permissible in most cases (perhaps even obligatory).

Possible Preferences and the Harm of Existence

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”.

Is human existence worth its consequent harm?

Paper by Len Doyal, published on March 21, 2007 in Journal of Medical Ethics

Benatar argues that it is better never to have been born because of the harms always associated with human existence. Non-existence entails no harm, along with no experience of the absence of any benefits that existence might offer. Therefore, he maintains that procreation is morally irresponsible, along with the use of reproductive technology to have children. Women should seek termination if they become pregnant and it would be better for potential future generations if humans become extinct as soon as humanely possible. These views are challenged by the argument that while decisions not to procreate may be rational on the grounds of the harm that might occur, it may equally rational to gamble under certain circumstances that future children would be better-off experiencing the harms and benefits of life rather than never having the opportunity of experiencing anything. To the degree that Benatar’s arguments preclude the potential rationality of any such gamble, their moral relevance to concrete issues concerning human reproduction is weakened. However, he is right to emphasise the importance of foreseen harm when decisions are made to attempt to have children.

Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence

Book by David Benatar, published on October 12, 2006

This book argues for a number of related, highly provocative views: (i) coming into existence is always a serious harm; (ii) procreation is always wrong; (iii) it is wrong not to abort foetuses at the earlier stages of gestation; and (iv) it would be better if, as a result of there being no new people, humanity became extinct. Although these conclusions are antagonistic to common and deeply held intuitions, the book argues that these intuitions are unreliable and thus cannot be used to refute it's grim-sounding conclusions.

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.