On Risk‑Based Arguments for Anti‑natalism

Paper by Erik Magnusson, published on March 2, 2022 in The Journal of Value Inquiry

In his paper Magnusson analyzes several risk-based arguments for antinatalism, before arriving at the following version of one, which he considers the most robust:

  1. It is impermissible to non-consensually impose a risk of catastrophic harm on others unless doing so is necessary to advance their essential interests
  2. Bringing a child into existence involves non-consensually imposing a risk of catastrophic harm on that child that is not necessary to advance their essential interests; therefore,
  3. It is impermissible to bring children into existence.

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.

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.

Why Have Children?: The Ethical Debate

Book by Christine Overall, published on January 1, 2012 in Cambridge, MA: MIT Press

A wide-ranging exploration of whether or not choosing to procreate can be morally justified—and if so, how. In contemporary Western society, people are more often called upon to justify the choice not to have children than they are to supply reasons for having them. In this book, Christine Overall maintains that the burden of proof should be reversed: that the choice to have children calls for more careful justification and reasoning than the choice not to. Arguing that the choice to have children is not just a prudential or pragmatic decision but one with ethical repercussions, Overall offers a wide-ranging exploration of how we might think systematically and deeply about this fundamental aspect of human life. Writing from a feminist perspective, she also acknowledges the inevitably gendered nature of the decision; the choice has different meanings, implications, and risks for women than it has for men. After considering a series of ethical approaches to procreation, and finding them inadequate or incomplete, Overall offers instead a novel argument. Exploring the nature of the biological parent-child relationship—which is not only genetic but also psychological, physical, intellectual, and moral—she argues that the formation of that relationship is the best possible reason for choosing to have a child.

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.