The Journal of Value Inquiry

, Volume 49, Issue 1–2, pp 81–94 | Cite as

What’s So Good About Non-Existence?

An Alternative Explanation of Four Asymmetrical Value Judgments
  • Brian McLeanEmail author

There are cases where many think it would have been better for some child never to have been born. We can imagine a life characterized exclusively by suffering, never containing even the briefest moment of pleasure. The life goes exceedingly poorly – so poorly, we think, that it would have been better for the child never to have been. However, most of us think that many lives are not of this sort. Many lives are at least all right: the good moments outweigh the bad, and so it’s not better for those people never to have been born.

David Benatar offers a compelling and challenging argument against this common view.1 He endorses anti-natalism, which is the view that there’s always a pro tanto moral reason, grounded in the interests of a potential child, against creating the child because it’s always better for the child never to have been born.2Benatar’s strongest case for anti-natalism is that it follows from the best explanation of four common value judgments that are essential to our...


Moral Reason Unify Explanation Parental Reason Potential Child Happy Child 
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Thanks to Sigrún Svavarsdóttir, Don Hubin, and anonymous referees for helpful comments while working on this paper. Thanks also to participants in Don Hubin’s graduate seminar on reproductive ethics at The Ohio State University in winter 2010 and to David Benatar for a productive and interesting meeting with the seminar.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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