Author: Kenton Engel

The Anti-Natalist Paradox

What if you could choose one person in your life and end their suffering? All the pain and frustration and woe intrinsic to their mortal condition would disappear and—best of all—with no financial investment, effort, or trouble on your part. All that is required from you is to abstain from an activity with no compelling justification. Would any reasonable person neglect such an opportunity? Surely, it seems obvious that any other option would be patently unethical? Although many layers of empirical evidence and argument are ladled on top, these questions form the logical core of moral philosopher David Benatar’s incisive 2006 book, Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence. Within its pages, Benatar offers a programmatic and detailed defense of anti-natalism—the idea that procreating is morally wrong because human lives are, on balance, so awful that such lives are not worth starting. For Benatar, a set of immutable asymmetries characterize all sentient life: between pleasure and pain, or well-being and harm, in which the latter are more frequent, permanent, and consequential …