Read eBook Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into ExistenceAuthor David Benatar –

This is a really thought provoking book and I agree with its main take away that procreation is immoral However, I find some of the arguments a bit sloppy, mainly regarding his position that each and every life is not worth starting because it contains suffering.Edit As I keep re reading bits and pieces of this and flipping through the pages for my MA thesis, I am always so grateful for Benatar s writing style It s straight forward and to the point. A roommate in college commented he found me quite boring when philosophizing, which may be universally true with that disclaimer, and with the deepest of breaths, I ve attempted to compile succinctly my thoughts on what I believe to be the most important work I ve read in a long, long time While his book is not revolutionary, anti natalist thought has been with us for some while, Professor Benatar has summoned the courage to a present the case for anti natalism with unabashed, focused energy and b effectively counter the many predictable, and some not predictable, criticisms levied against this line of thought, risking the customary excoriations.I feel the underlying assumption in our society that procreation is a good deserves serious reconsideration, particularly for those about to embark on that voyage For now I believe, after fathering two children myself, that child birth may well be the single greatest of immoral acts not only do we create sentient life without prior consent, in so doing we doom that being to a spectrum of pains and sufferings, ultimately resulting in death Is this not a crime greater than murder I ll leave it for others to assess whether a crime involving multiple murders is a deed of greater immoral weight.For me to arrive at this hard to imagine conclusion required a few important inputs a a basic understanding of human genetics, particularly DNA replication, b abundant free time combined with curiosity, c this work, d decades of personal observation, e a rudimentary understanding of our too many to name cognitive biases, and f some familiarity with Darwinian principles Given these prerequisites, I feel this judgement is beyond the capacity for most young persons awash in hormones and impressionable societal influences it s simply too much to ask and for that reason, procreation will continue on and on and on no one should worry for the demise of the human race from the effects of anti natalist thought.Professor Benatar s work is difficult to grasp because at the heart of the discussion surrounding the morality of birth lies an apples to oranges conflict To assess whether it is moral to procreate, we must compare the many qualitative and quantitative factors associated with life to non existence Put another way, how do we compare something with a null set Computer programmers are well familiar with the output from such a comparison a terse error message This incompatibility is fertile turf for anti natalism s critics Professor Benatar does a meticulous job assessing this fundamental asymmetry, although with language that is often hard to process This exhaustive analysis is necessary, because of the enormous collision between a dispassionate logic and b the interplay among genetics, hormones, and social customs, which collision leads to a massive, for many insurmountable, cognitive dissonance.I wondered for the consequences of Professor Benatar s work It s one thing to render harm under the banner of ignorance do we hold early American settlers personally accountable for the deaths resulting from smallpox epidemics inflicted on indigenous peoples It s another to have an a priori understanding of an immoral decision, it seems Perhaps, then, this work is best left unread, so that those wishing to rear children can do so with clear conscience Such behavior does not lessen the ultimate wrong, though it may excuse an individual s culpability Then again, is it not often said that ignorance of the law is no defense Does the same apply to moral considerations Thanks to Professor Benatar s courageous work, what I feel to be the truth is now revealed in public view for the philosophically inquisitive few, in undeniable, unassailable fashion there is now no hiding from the conclusions once exposed to this analysis.My only criticisms, slight ones, Professor Benatar strayed a bit in his chapters on extinction and abortion I suspect there may have been some pressure from the publisher to heft things up a bit See my review of Thomas Metzinger s The Ego Tunnel for a similar comment The reader should also be prepared for large doses of logical nots and frequent use of the words good, better, bad, and worse I experienced this read, at times, as a bit like playing chess without a board, solely through words, in my head.If this message succeeds in preventing just one birth, this author will have performed a greater service to humanity, than most of us can ever hope to achieve, though I admit it s difficult to accept the kindest, gentlest, most caring and loving act that we can perform is to not bring a child into this world Until someone crafts a superior, logical argument, I am now persuaded by Professor Benatar s work I feel he should have ended with quod erat demonstrandum. Better Never To Have Been Argues For A Number Of Related, Highly Provocative, Views Coming Into Existence Is Always A Serious Harm It Is Always Wrong To Have Children It Is Wrong Not To Abort Fetuses At The Earlier Stages Of Gestation It Would Be Better If, As A Result Of There Being No New People, Humanity Became Extinct These Views May Sound Unbelievable But Anyone Who Reads Benatar Will Be Obliged To Take Them Seriously Better Never to Have Been is a tremendous philosophical work dealing with antinatalism In it, David Benatar argues for that which no one has the courage to argue for That coming into existence is always a harm and that sometimes life may not only not be worth starting but also not worth continuing The book is very well written and extremely clear You can tell that Benatar really went out of his way to make sure this was an accessible book to everyone His case is purely logical and you won t be able to find faults in his arguments In fact, he deals with almost every objection imaginable Benatar s conclusions will seem counter intuitive and depressing to most, and indeed they are, but that says nothing about the strength of his arguments It s also counter intuitve that the earth revolves around the sun and yet we know that it does We also cannot reject ideas simply because we don t like them or because they makes us feel sad Surely, this is one of the most important books out there, one that unfortunately will be either ignored or rejected by most But that has no bearing on the validity of antinatalism. Eh shrugs shoulders Shock jock philosophy that fails to be all that shocking Like a trip to the latest exploitation flick where we find out that we ve seen it all before Did I read every word No need As is typical with this type of philosophy, Mr Benatar lays out his premise and then spends the rest of the book repeating it, over and over and over Does he really believe what he writes Who knows It is sad that modern philosophy has fallen so deeply into the nihilism abyss that we literally have a philosopher arguing we should all be dead Perhaps this is the natural conclusion of Godless utilitarianism I will take my own nihilistic view, assume that Mr Benatar is engaged in a brilliant assault on the previously unassailable commanding heights of the predominating utilitarian view, and raise a glass to him for permanently disabusing me of the notion that his brand of quantifiable ethics has any merit whatsoever. As noted on the blurb of this book, Benatar defends a view that almost no one accepts coming into existence is always a serious harm Indeed, though he doesn t state it in these terms, his conclusions hold not just for the actual world, but also entail that, for any logically possible world, coming into existence is at best morally neutral These ideas are based off a commitment to an asymmetry between pleasure and pain This is the thought that, although it is wrong to bring into existence a child whose existence will be filled with much suffering, there is no similar obligation to bring into existence a child whose life will be worth living Benatar is probably right in assuming this intuition is at least somewhat widespread Of course, there are people who wouldn t accept this, namely positive utilitarians, and people sympathetic to this line of thinking a broad camp I d situate myself in Despite the prevalence of people with these leanings, the only real argument against the positive utilitarian and their allies is that positive utilitarianism mistakenly assumes the value of happiness primary and the value of persons derivative from this it is not the case that people are valuable because they add extra happiness Instead, extra happiness is valuable because it is good for people This disappointed me Benatar s thesis is controversial and interesting, but this perfunctory response to perhaps one of the main challenges to his pleasure pain asymmetry severely dented his hope of persuading me, and, I imagine, lots of people with a total utilitarian mindset A positive utilitarian would point out that happiness is, necessarily, happiness for someone Happiness is good no matter in what type of being is instantiated Rather, a person s life is not necessarily valuable, in and of itself, if there is no happiness, or good of any kind to come from it Benatar does not address this potential objection to his asymmetry Given that this is the basis for much of his later reasoning, one is left a little perplexed as to why he did not explore the issue further Equally bizarre was the weight Benatar put on the distinction between lives worth starting and lives worth continuing , assuming that somehow a life could be worth continuing but not worth starting I found it very hard to make sense of such a distinction If a life being lived is good enough to be worth continuing, surely it is, ipso facto, good enough to be worth starting Again, I find Benatar s examples very unsatisfactory Despite the fact I think Benatar could ve given fuller responses to these worries, there s much to commend the book Benatar s writing is very clear, and in a characteristic analytic philosophy style, the presentation of the arguments equally so Moreover, I found his discussion of Pollyanaism , the psychological phenomenon where people assume their lives to be much better than they are an interesting introduction to the topic Indeed, the force of Benatar s anti natalist convictions seemed at their strongest when discussing the moral implications of the psychological data, and I wish he d spent time arguing from these premises Not only this, but it would make his arguments less dependent on the particular conceptual carvings he cites, like the pleasure pain asymmetry, and the lives worth starting worth continuing distinction Arguments which could convincingly show such radical mistakes about our own mental lives would provide a moral theory neutral justification and anti natalism, and have broader reaching methodological implications into other fields, like philosophy of mind, and empirical positive psychology generally Benatar provided ample reference to interesting studies, and the novelty of the view in addition to the clarity with which it s expressed certainly made the book worth reading.Still, I remain unconvinced that coming into existence can be shown to be a harm on the conceptual grounds Benatar advocates I hope that Benatar and others dedicate intellectual energy to the potential arguments that can be made on empirical grounds, citing not just psychological evidence around Pollyanaims, but make references vast suffering people do actually go through, just to what extent this gets blanked out when reflecting on our life, and grounds for pessimism about improving the conditions of the world Perhaps extinction is the best option, but Benatar has not yet convinced me this is so. Haven t read it, and I don t know if I will, but I m happy to have found that there are actually other people along the same line of thinking as mine. An absolute must read for anyone considering having children, either voluntarily or under duress, and for all those who are childless by choice who need to know that they are not alone Enjoy Seldom will you find a philosopher who can write this well for laypersons with the courage to advance such a counterintuitive thesis While people may find Benatar s conclusion repugnant i.e coming into existence is always a harm and extinction of the human race should be desired end , it is exceedingly difficult to find any flaw in his logic This is a great piece of work and philosphically sound While it may have been better that Benatar had never been, I am sure glad that he is being. Mr Benatar sticks it out alone In the face of religion and base natural drives he argues that there is nothing intrinsically good about procreation He goes even further than that and, striking repulsion in the faces most potential and actual parents, denouncing them as playing Russian roulette with a fully loaded gun aimed, of course, not at their own heads, but at those of their future offspring.The book is not without it s problems, of course If the topic does not scare off most of the readers, who, as Benatar himself admits, probably are not cursing them having been brought into this world yet , the admittedly convoluted writing will Clearly, Better Never to Have Been is not a book for family planners, it is a philosophical text with a consistent, thought out premise that is delivered in an intellectually honest and steady manner, reflecting the importance of the topic and care taken by the author to lend his position due credence and not to be dismissed on the grounds of fickle emotion.