, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 225–235 | Cite as

Better Never to Have Been?: The Unseen Implications



This paper will directly tackle the question of Benatar’s asymmetry at the heart of his book Better Never to have Been and provide a critique based on some of the logical consequences that result from the proposition that every potential life can only be understood in terms of the pain that person would experience if she or he was born. The decision only to evaluate future pain avoided and not pleasure denied for potential people means that we should view each birth as an unmitigated tragedy. The result is that someone who seeks to maximize utility could easily justify immense suffering for current people in order to prevent the births of potential people. This paper offers an alternative framework for evaluating the creation of people that addresses Benatar’s asymmetry without overvaluing the potential suffering of potential people.


Benatar Birth Antinatalism Utilitarianism 



I have many individuals to thank for offering helping suggestions and corrections to my paper. First, I owe a debt of gratitude to my anonymous reviewers whose comments guided me to create a much clearer argument. James Stacey Taylor, Seth Gannon, Tim O’Donnell, and Bill Glod all offered useful criticisms that I incorporated into my paper. Finally, I would like to thank Brita Dooghan whose extensive editing and insightful comments made this work possible.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of CommunicationUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

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