Aug 19Liked by Richard Y Chappell

I know you are just using the 50% 100% as an example, and not actually endorsing it, but I wanted to point out a serious problem with it. It implies that it is better to create someone who experiences (for example) 1 unit of pain and 2 units of pleasure, than it is to create someone who experiences 100 units of pain and 190 units of pleasure over their lifetimes. However, assuming that individuals value the two equally, most people would rather be the later than the former.

Still, I think the arguments for a hybrid standard are quite interesting and convincing, even if the axiology of your specific example could use some refinement!

Expand full comment

Interesting stuff. Just skimmed it and I’ll be back to read it a second time so I can think about this more. My sense--and this is an observation, not an actual argument--is that anti-natalism is often a reflection of its proponent’s underlying psychological disposition towards life. I would grant that this is true of most philosophies, but I think it is true of anti-natalism more than most. That said, I’ve only read a few essays on the topic and heard Benatar speak a few times so I’m no expert on the literature. Thanks for writing.

Expand full comment

I think this is exactly right! And I think this allows for a very strong objection to the asymmetry--if there's an asymmetry, you should constantly be very happy that bad things happened and that you did something deeply wrong. It seems bizarre that the asymmetry is committed to the claim that

a) procreation is deeply wrong

b) you should, after you procreate, not regret the deeply wrong, terrible action that you did.

Notably, this problem applies to any partialist view--including yours, Richard. Suppose that you create a person with 50 utils and this deprives an existing person of 45 utils. When you do that action, it's wrong, but once they exist, their well-being is just as important, so you should feel regret about that, on your account, it would seem.

Expand full comment

Benatar is notoriously difficult to interpret, and I think Draper's argument rests on a misinterpretation. Benatar would deny the "Fundamental Asymmetry." This, in particular:

"For any possible subject S of pain and pleasure, S's pain has unconditional intrinsic disvalue"

Benatar says the goodness of the absence of pain for the never-existent is not an intrinsic good, but is rather a "relative" (or purely comparative) good. He isn't very clear about this in "Better Never to Have Been," (though I think it's possible to find him saying this even there) but he is clear about this in his response to Skott Brill in "Every Conceivable Harm: a Further Defense of Anti-Natalism" (2012).

On page 144 of that, he writes:

"Professor Brill seems to think that I deny that the non-badness in quadrant (4) [the absence of pleasure for the never-existent] is intrinsic non-badness. However, that is a mistaken account of my view. The absence of pleasure in the non-existent is indeed intrinsically neither good nor bad. It is intrinsically value-neutral. However, the intrinsic value (including value-neutrality) of something does not preclude a different relative value. Thus the pain in (1) [pain for the existent] is intrinsically bad, but also relatively bad, in comparison with (3) [the absence of pain for the never existent] for example. Similarly, I take (3) [the absence of pain for the never existent] to be intrinsically neutral, but relatively good – that is, better than (2) [sic. Benatar means (1)]. And I take the non-badness of (4) [the absence of pleasure for the never-existent] to be both intrinsic and relative. The absent pleasure is intrinsically neither good nor bad, but it is also not worse than the presence of pleasure in (2) [the presence of pleasure for the existent]. That said, it is true that when I describe (4) as “not bad” I am not referring to its intrinsic value, and am instead referring to its being “not worse” than (2), as that is what is key to the comparison of existence and non-existence."

Expand full comment