The importance of being actual: Some reasons for and against procreation

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 81 (4):561 – 568 (2003)
Abstract
In 'Axiological Actualism' Josh Parsons attempts to defend both the intuition that the anticipated welfare of a person cannot constitute a reason to bring him or her into being and the intuition that such considerations can constitute a reason not to . The former, 'basic' intuition he defends by an appeal to the belief that 'ethical theory should refrain from assigning levels of welfare or anything of the sort to merely possible people'. The latter, 'converse' intuition he defends by an appeal to prudential considerations. I argue that Parsons's attempts to defend these intuitions are unpersuasive. On the one hand, and notwithstanding his attempts to demonstrate the contrary, the basic intuition is undermined by the claim that an actual person could have been worse off if she had never existed. On the other, his grounding of the converse intuition in prudential considerations runs counter to the ought implies can dictum and is also highly counterintuitive.
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