Is it wrong to impose the Harms of human life? A reply to Benatar

Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 31 (4):317-331 (2010)
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Might it be morally wrong to procreate? David Benatar answers affirmatively in Better Never to Have Been , arguing that coming into existence is always a great harm. I counter this view in several ways. First, I argue against Benatar’s asserted asymmetry between harm and benefit—which would support the claim that any amount of harm in a human life would make it not worth starting—while questioning the significance of his distinction between a life worth starting and one worth continuing. I further contend that his understanding of hedonism and desire-fulfillment theories distorts their implications for the quality of human life; as for objective-list theories, I rebut his critique of their human-centered basis of evaluation. Notwithstanding this multi-tiered challenge to Benatar’s reasoning, I conclude with praise for his work and the intellectual virtues it embodies



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David DeGrazia
George Washington University

Citations of this work

Still Better Never to Have Been: A Reply to My Critics.David Benatar - 2013 - The Journal of Ethics 17 (1-2):121-151.
Personal Identity and Ethics.David Shoemaker - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
On Risk-Based Arguments for Anti-natalism.Erik Magnusson - 2022 - Journal of Value Inquiry 56 (1):101-117.
The Hypothetical Consent Objection to Anti-Natalism.Asheel Singh - 2018 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 21 (5):1135-1150.

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References found in this work

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Welfare, happiness, and ethics.L. W. Sumner - 1996 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Well-being: its meaning, measurement, and moral importance.James Griffin - 1986 - Oxford [Oxfordshire]: Clarendon Press.

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