David Benatar, "Better Never to Have Been"

Utilitarianism, prioritarianism and other varieties of consequentialism.
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Re: David Benatar, "Better Never to Have Been"

Post by peterhurford » Mon Jul 07, 2014 4:36 am

Verrian wrote:So, those thinkers see Happiness as a sole presence of pleasure with no pain; and, of course, only an happy life is worthy to be. More exigent, intransigent.
No, just that pain is more prevalent than happiness, especially when weighted for salience.

Darklight wrote:If I remember correctly, his main idea was basically that somehow it is a harm to create beings that would suffer more than be happy, but not a benefit to create beings that would be happy more than suffer.
That's correct, but you trail off before the argument finishes, and thus avoid what persuasive force it may have. More like "it is a harm to create beings that would suffer more than be happy (because that's a net negative life, which is bad), but not a benefit to create beings that would be happy more than suffer (because beings who do not exist cannot be harmed by failing to come into existence), and therefore this asymmetry means we gain nothing by creating people and have a chance of losing a lot, and therefore we should not create people ever."

I believe it requires a very person-affecting form of utilitarianism where things are only good if they are good for someone (who exists), and that's where I don't buy the argument. (I also think Bentar overestimates the amount of suffering in a typical life.)

Darklight wrote:The reality is that we are ignorant of whether or not the universe is a net positive or a net negative. Given this uncertainty, I believe we should act to try to optimize and maximize happiness and minimize suffering, in the ways that we realistically can.
But I think it's an important question whether we should try to prioritize maximizing happiness or minimizing suffering, from a practical standpoint. Bentar is pretty into minimizing suffering first.

Darklight wrote:Speculating about whether or not it is better to never have been is not conducive to this goal.
I agree from a practical point of view (anti-natalism will never catch on enough to end the world), but I disagree from a philosophical point of view (as anti-natalism could be the utility maximizing thing to do if suffering is that prevalent, that difficult to outweigh, and that inevitable).

Darklight wrote:Thus, I am perhaps a bit of an oddity in that I am tentatively pro-natalist. I think that the more lives capable of experiencing potential happiness the better. Perhaps it means that I do bite the bullet of the Repugnant Conclusion, on the belief that lives just worth living are actually not bad lives to live, as some people seem to always assume. I just imagine that a universe teeming with many happy lives is simply better than one in which no one exists to experience the universe and its wonders.
Agree here. Though I do think there is something important that is missing in a potatoes-and-muzak life -- something that could be captured by the ability to form meaningful goals and pursue them.

Verrian wrote:Anyway, I fear that if we (i.e. most of us) had perceived in our lifes a surplus of pain, we would have suicided ourselves.
Not necessarily. There are lots of irrational reasons why people avoid suicide, even when very unhappy. Many highly depressed people can't even summon the will to commit suicide. Therefore it's an interesting case how anti-depressants can occasionally increase suicidal episodes, as people become more motivated to try to do something.

Verrian wrote:Third conditional form correct?
No. "We would have committed suicide", not "we would have suicided". It's an irregular verb. Sorry, we have a lot of those. :(
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Re: David Benatar, "Better Never to Have Been"

Post by Verrian » Mon Jul 07, 2014 11:36 am

Thank you.

Even if I don't share such a pessimistic idea of prevalent unhappiness of life (in general)... I ask you and myself whether our births were a good or an evil. I answer: of course yes, because we had[?] to face tot problems and tot delights with no original consent and need from us. That's enough, I guess.

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Re: David Benatar, "Better Never to Have Been"

Post by RyanCarey » Tue Sep 16, 2014 2:48 am

Benatar's view is that the creation of any life is of neutral or negative value. As such, it leads to the conclusion that we should not cause future people to exist. Thus, it will, with some small to moderate probability, cause some people to want the world not exist. Let's hope those people don't have sufficient technical or political capabilities to have any say in the matter. When you're advocating that all future generations ought not be created, you have to be deeply suspicious that your reasoning has gone wrong somewhere.

For now, I'll just note that antinatalism is of extremely severely negative value on symmetric utilitarian, multipolar consequentialist and morally uncertain views.
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