Staff

David Benatar

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Introduction
David Benatar
Bernhard Weiss
Elisa Galgut
Jack Ritchie
Greg Fried
George Hull
Tom Angier
Laurence Bloom
Dean Chapman  
Cindy Gilbert
Elizabeth Gubb
Lara Davison


 

 

 

Book: 
Better Never to Have Been 
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication Date: 2006

Book abstract:

This book argues for a number of related views: (1) Coming into existence is always a serious harm. (2) Procreation is always wrong. (3) It is wrong not to abort foetuses at the earlier stages of gestation. (4) It would be better if, as a result of there being no new people, humanity became extinct. Although these conclusions are antagonistic to common and deeply held intuitions, the author argues that these intuitions are unreliable and thus cannot be used to refute the book’s grim-sounding conclusions.

Reviews and responses:

Book reviewers ordinarily review with impunity. Book reviews are not themselves peer reviewed. Nor is there usually an opening for authors to respond. The “web”, a very mixed blessing, affords the opportunity for book authors to rectify this. Accordingly, responses to reviews of Better Never to Have Been (along with the reviews themselves, where copyright restrictions permit) are included below.

  • Christopher Belshaw, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

  • David Benatar’s response

* * *

  • Len Doyal, “Is human existence worth its consequent harm?” Journal of Medical Ethics,    October 2007, 33: 573 - 576

  • David Benatar’s Response: “Grim news from the original position: A reply to Professor Doyal”, Journal of Medical Ethics, October 2007, 33: 577

  • Seth Baum, "Better to Exist - a reply to Benatar", Journal of Medical Ethics, December 2008, 34: 875-876
  • David Benatar, "Grim news for an unoriginal position: a reply to Seth Baum", Journal of Medical Ethics, May 2009, 35: 328-329

* * *

There is a stunning arrogance in “reviewing” a book one openly admits to not having read. Yet, this is just what the editors of the New Criterion did. Nor are they alone. There have been numerous “reviews” on the web by those who declare that they have not read the book. Most of these “reviewers” simply parrot what other non-readers of the book have surmised I have argued. These displays of opinionated ignorance do not warrant individualized responses. The general thrust of the response to the New Criterion is equally applicable to the others.

  •  “Notes & Comments”, The New Criterion, January 2008, Vol. 26 Issue 5, pp. 1-2

  • David Benatar’s response and the editors’ reply, The New Criterion, April 2008, Vol. 26 Issue 8, p.80

  • David Benatar’s response (submitted but not published)

* * *

  • Philonous’s review, Amazon.com, 25 March 2008

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  • Yujin Nagasawa's review,  Mind, July 2008, 117:674-677

  • David Benatar's response:

* * *

There are now too many reviews and articles about Better Never to Have Been for David Benatar to respond to them all. Responses to some of the following will be added when and if time permits.

* * *

  • Saul Smilansky, The Philosophy QuarterlyVol. 58, No. 232, July 2008, pp. 569-571 *

* * *

  • Harry Brighouse, “Better Never to Have Been”, Crooked Timber, September 2008

* * *

  • Eike-Henner Kluge, “David Benatar: Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence”, Philosophy in Review, Vol. 28, No. 5 (October 2008), pp. 317-319

* * *

  • Chris Kaposy, “Coming Into Existence: The good, the bad and the indifferent”, Human Studies, Vol. 32, 2009, pp. 101-108 *

* * *

  • Sami Pihlström, “Ethical Unthinkabilities and Philosophical Seriousness”, Metaphilosophy, Vol. 40, No. 5, October 2009, pp. 656-670

  • David Benatar, “The Owl and the Ostrich: A Reply to Sami Pihlström on Ethical Unthinkabilities and Philosophical Seriousness”, Metaphilosophy, Vol. 42, No. 5, October 2011, pp. 605-616

* * *

  • Elizabeth Harman, “Critical Study of David Benatar. Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence”, Nous, Vol. 43, No. 4, 2009, pp. 776-785 *

* * *

  • Ben Bradley, “Benatar and the Logic of Betterness”, Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy, March 2010, pp. 1-5 *

* * *

  • Peter Singer, “Should this be the last generation?”, Opinionator, New York Times Online, 6 June 2010

  • Peter Singer, “‘Last Generation?’: A Response”, Opinionator, New York Times Online, 16 June 2010

* * *

  • Thomas Ligotti, The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, Hippocampus Press,  2010

* * *

  • David DeGrazia, “Is it wrong to impose the harms of human life? A reply to Benatar”, Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics, Vol. 331, 2010, pp. 317-331 *

* * *

  • Tim Bayne, “In Defence of Genethical Parity”, in David Archard & David Benatar (Eds.), Procreation and Parenthood, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010, pp. 31-56 *

* * *

  • Campbell Brown, “Better Never to Have Been Believed: Benatar on the Harm of Existence”, Economics and Philosophy, Vol. 27, 2011, pp. 45-52 *

* * *

  • Joseph Packer, “Better Never to have Been?: The Unseen Implications”, Philosophia, Vol. 39, 2011, pp. 225-235 *

* * *

          * Responses to these can be found here:

  • David Benatar, "Still Better Never to Have Been: a reply to (more of) my critics", Journal of Ethics, Vol. 17, Issue 1-2, 2013, pp. 121-51

* * *

  • David Spurrett, “Hooray for babies”, South African Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 30, No. 2, 2011, pp. 197- 206

  • David Benatar’s response can be found in “Every Conceivable Harm: A Further Defence of Anti-Natalism”, South African Journal of Philosophy Vol. 31, No. 1, 2012, pp. 128-164. (See below.)

* * *

  • Thaddeus Metz, “Are lives worth creating?”, Philosophical Papers, Vol. 40, No. 2, 2011, pp. 233-255

  • David Benatar’s response can be found in “Every Conceivable Harm: A Further Defence of Anti-Natalism”, South African Journal of Philosophy Vol. 31, No. 1, 2012, pp. 128-164. (See below.)

* * *

  • Julio Cabrera, “Quality of Human life and Non-existence. (Some criticisms of David Benatar’s formal and material positions)”, Revista Redbioética/UNeSCO, año 2, 1(3), 25-35, enero-junio 2011

* * *

  • Elizabeth Kolbert, "The Case Against Kids", The New Yorker, 9 April 2012

* * *

  • Ross Douthat, Philosophers versus Breeders, New York Times, 5 April 2012

* * *

A special issue of the South African Journal of Philosophy was devoted to contemporary Anti-Natalism and especially Better Never to Have Been. Below is a list of articles that appeared, as well as David Benatar’s response.

  • Thaddeus Metz, “Contemporary Anti-Natalism, Featuring Benatar’s Better Never to Have Been”, South African Journal of Philosophy Vol. 31, No. 1, 2012, pp. 1-9.

 

  • David Boonin, “Better to Be”, South African Journal of Philosophy Vol. 31, No. 1, 2012, pp. 10-25.

 

  • Rivka Weinberg, “Is Having Children Always Wrong?”, South African Journal of Philosophy Vol. 31, No. 1, 2012, pp. 26-37.

 

  • Skott Brill, “Sick and Healthy: Benatar on the Logic of Value”, South African Journal of Philosophy Vol. 31, No. 1, 2012, pp. 38-54.

 

  • Rafe McGregor & Ema Sullivan-Bissett, “Better No Longer to Be”, South African Journal of Philosophy Vol. 31, No. 1, 2012, pp. 55-68.

 

  • Saul Smilansky, “Life is Good”, South African Journal of Philosophy Vol. 31, No. 1, 2012, pp. 69-78.

 

  • Brooke Alan Trisel, “How Best to Prevent Future Persons From Suffering: A Reply to Benatar”, South African Journal of Philosophy Vol. 31, No. 1, 2012, pp. 79-93.

 

  • Gerald Harrison, “Antinatalism, Asymmetry, and an Ethic of Prima Facie Duties”, South African Journal of Philosophy Vol. 31, No. 1, 2012, pp. 94-103.

 

  • Asheel Singh, “Furthering the Case for Anti-natalism: Seana Shiffrin and the Limits of Permissible Harm, South African Journal of Philosophy Vol. 31, No. 1, 2012, pp. 104-116.

 

  • Christopher Belshaw, “A New Argument for Anti-Natalism”, South African Journal of Philosophy Vol. 31, No. 1, 2012, pp. 117-127.

 

  • David Benatar, “Every Conceivable Harm: A Further Defence of Anti-Natalism”, South African Journal of Philosophy Vol. 31, No. 1, 2012, pp. 128-164.

***

  • Constantin Wissmann, "To Be or Not To Be", Dummy, Herbst 2012, Nr. 36, pp. 28-45. (In German). 

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  • Dagfinn Sjaastad Karlsen, "Is God our Benefactor: An Argument from Suffering", Journal of Philosophy of Life, Vol. 3, No. 3, September 2013, pp. 145-67.

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             Radio interview:

Redi Direko (Radio 702 / Cape Talk) interviews David Benatar about Better Never to Have Been (on 26 February 2009.)

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Translation:

Czech translation: Nebýt či být : O utrpení, které přináší příchod na tento svět. Translated by Daniel Micka, Prague, Dybbuk, 2013). 

 

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