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:
- It is impermissible to non-consensually impose a risk of catastrophic harm on others unless doing so is necessary to advance their essential interests
- 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,
- It is impermissible to bring children into existence.
According to this argument, procreation is impermissible because it involves imposing a risk of catastrophic harm on the resultant child that is not necessary to advance their essential interests. This type of argument notably departs from the tenets of Benatar’s other arguments for anti-natalism—it does not assume that existence is always comparative worse than non-existence nor does it assume that existence is always non-comparatively bad—though given the controversy surrounding those arguments and the subsequent need to develop an independent risk-based argument, this counts as a significant advantage.— by Erik Magnusson in "On Risk‑Based Arguments for Anti‑natalism"
Paper LinkPDF Link
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.
Anti-natalism is the view that persons ought morally to refrain from procreation. We offer a new argument for a principled version of anti-natalism according to which it is always impermissible to procreate in the actual world since doing so will violate the right to physical security of future, created persons once those persons exist and have the right. First, we argue that procreators can be responsible for non-trivial harms that befall future persons even if they do not cause them and if the harms are temporally delayed, provided the harms are reasonably foreseeable by procreators. For example, consider a case in which we can create a person in a room that is dangerously aflame. It would be wrong to do so since, once the person exists, they have a right that we avoid being morally responsible for unjust harms to them, and the fire in which we created them is one such unjust harm. Second, we argue that procreators are responsible for unjust harms that befall their children, since many non-trivial physical harms (e.g. broken bones, lower respiratory illnesses) are reasonably foreseeable by procreators. Thus, parents wrong their children by creating them. Third, we argue that procreators are also responsible for the unjust harms their children commit against others, since it is reasonably foreseeable that every person will inflict unjust, non-trivial physical harms on someone else. But this is worse since parents thereby share in their child’s future culpable intent. Finally, we consider a number of objections to anti-natalism and argue that none of them succeed against anti-natalism generally or against our argument grounded in the right to physical security.
Of course, procreators typically do not directly cause such harms to their children.
They do, however, permit them as an unavoidable cost of satisfying their interests, which (as the
responsibility argument shows) is presumptively condemned by RPS. The mere fact that parents
permit rather than cause these harms is arguably enough to make the average act of procreation
less wrong but seems clearly insufficient to make it permissible. Thus, the presumption established
under RPS is sufficiently weighty to generate not only a presumptive obligation to refrain from
procreation in almost all cases, but an all-things-considered obligation to do so.— by Anthony Ferrucci & Blake Hereth in "Here’s not Looking at You, Kid: A new Defence of Anti-natalism"
Paper LinkPDF Link
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.
I believe most acts of human procreation are immoral, and I believe this despite also believing in the truth of moral particularism. In this paper I explain why. I argue that procreative acts possess numerous features that, in other contexts, seem typically to operate with negative moral valences. Other things being equal this gives us reason to believe they will operate negatively in the context of procreative acts as well. However, most people’s intuitions represent procreative acts to be morally permissible in most circumstances. Given moral particularism, this would normally be good evidence that procreative acts are indeed morally permissible and that the features that operate negatively elsewhere, simply do not do so in the context of procreative acts in particular. But I argue that we have no good reason to think our intuitions about the ethics of human procreation are accurate. Our most reliable source of insight into the ethics human procreative acts are not our intuitions those acts themselves, but our intuitions about the typical moral valences of the features such acts possess. If that is correct, then acts of human procreation are most likely wrong.
We imprint on whomever we first encounter for a sustained period, regardless of their character, and likewise where our parents are concerned. Whatever child they had created—that is, whatever its character and personality—they would have imprinted on it. And most are well aware of this; as already noted, many have children precisely because they wish to love and be loved in this way. The automatic and unconditional nature of it all is part of its appeal. But this is ethically very significant, I think, because in other contexts loving relationships that have arisen in this way seem far from ideal. Indeed, such relationships seem more akin to addictions or sicknesses. (p.9)— by Gerald Harrison in "Antinatalism and Moral Particularism"
Paper LinkPDF Link
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.
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.
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.
Paper LinkPDF Link
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.
I believe it is morally wrong to cause avoidable suffering to other people. This belief gives rise to two different objections to human reproduction. On the one hand, since all human beings suffer at some point in their lives, every parent who could have declined to procreate is to blame. On the other hand, since potential parents cannot guarantee that the lives of their children will be better than non-existence, they can also be rightfully accused of gambling on other people’s lives, whatever the outcome.— by Matti Häyry in "A Rational Cure for Prereproductive Stress Syndrome"
Paper LinkPDF Link