Monday, April 18, 2011

Benatar's Better Never to Have Been

We've had some discussion about this book, thought some of you might be interested to see this:

Call for Papers: Benatar’s Better Never to Have Been

Special Issue of the South African Journal of Philosophy, one of the most long-standing philosophy journals in Africa, accredited by the ISI

Guest Editor: Thaddeus Metz (Humanities Research Professor at the University of Johannesburg)

Invited Contributors: David Boonin (Professor of Philosophy at the University of Colorado, Boulder) and Saul Smilansky (Professor of Philosophy at the University of Haifa)

Professor David Benatar’s Better Never to Have Been (Oxford, 2006) is the most intricate and careful exposition and defence of anti-natalism. Benatar argues, on the basis of purportedly uncontroversial premises, for a variety of surprising and radical conclusions about the disvalue of our lives and our moral duties in light of it. Benatar argues that no matter how much happiness people might experience during their lives, it would always have been better for them never to have been created. And from the claim that human life is never worth starting Benatar further concludes that it is almost always immoral to procreate and that abortion in the early stages of pregnancy is morally required.

Contributions are sought for an issue of the South African Journal of Philosophy devoted to several facets of anti-natalism and of Benatar’s treatment of it in particular. These include, but are not restricted to, the following:

•      Precisely where is Benatar’s argument for anti-natalism most questionable? How does it compare with other arguments for anti-natalism? Do they share common premises or strategies? Which is the most defensible?

•      Is it plausible to hold anti-natalism without pro-mortalism, viz., the view that we should commit suicide?

•      Under what conditions might one be justified in creating a person whose life is not worth starting in terms of her well-being? Can it be right to create such a person for the sake of helping others? How might considerations of human dignity figure into a justification for creating her?

•      If a child is always worse off for having been created, what are the moral responsibilities of her parents with respect to her? Is compensation owed, and, if so, what kind and how much?

•      If the typical human life is indeed a net harm, how should the state get involved? Should it facilitate wrongful life suits, or discourage procreation?

•      From what standpoint is it appropriate to appraise the quality of our lives? Standpoints range from the most subjective, that of an individual, to that of ‘the universe’, the most objective viewpoint available. Is there a principled way to determine where on the scale is suitable?

Deadline for submissions: 15 October 2011. Manuscripts should be submitted electronically to Thaddeus Metz ( Those whose papers are selected for inclusion in the special issue will be invited to participate in a workshop with Professor Benatar, to be held at the University of Johannesburg on 23-24 November 2011.

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