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Contemporary Anti-Natalism, edited by Thaddeus Metz
This is a collection of academic papers for and against anti-natalism. On the “against” side, a number of philosophers (including “Thaddeus Metz”) object to various arguments made by David Benatar in his book “Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence.” On the “for side”, three philosophers present new or different ethical arguments against procreation than the axiological asymmetry argument Benatar propounds. In the last paper, Benatar replies to everyone, arguing why everyone else’s arguments fail — both “for” and “against”!
The “against” responses range from rather glib and flippant objections (including “Hooray for Babies”, “Life is Good”) to more seriously argued objections (including “Are Lives Worth Creating?”, “Better to Be”, “Sick and Healthy: Benatar on the Logic of Value”). The three philosophers presenting new or different “for” arguments for anti-natalism include an argument for prima facie duties, an argument against non-consensual harm infliction, and an argument that centers on both an Epicurean conception of death (as “not bad for the one who dies”) with a temporally discontinuous concept of self identity.
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Reading Benatar’s reactions to all of these arguments was both entertaining and impressive. His responses are clear and concise, and both make clear the arguments of the authors he is replying to (something those authors did not always do themselves) while also making clear the faulty premises or logical inconsistencies that their arguments displayed.
I don’t think anything in this volume settles any of these arguments, but it’s worth reading if you’re interested in a front-row seat to the intersection of bio-ethics and analytical existentialism.