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Purchase Instant Access. On an individual level, the same principles of procreative permissibility apply in terms of parent to child ethics, which is what my focus has been. When procreation affects third-parties, such as other people in an overpopulated or underpopulated world, what one might owe to others can have an impact on one's procreative obligations.

Unlike what I've often heard others say, however, I don't think it is at all easy or clearly warranted to claim that all procreation is wrong because the world is overpopulated.


There are ways of reducing world population without having individuals who want children go childless, and my view is that we should put our efforts toward those ways, such as making effective contraception easily available to women. That has proven a very effective means of reducing overpopulation. I have a number of objections to something you mentioned at the end, and was wondering if you could elaborate further. When you say "life is pointless," I'm not sure what you mean. Do you mean that, in-itself, the cycle of life that maintains the existence of the human species is, qua continuation of the species, pointless?

Because you seem to draw the conclusion that the pointlessness of this life cycle as a whole implies that the parts of this whole should be deemed equally pointless by virtue of the fact that they are part of a pointless whole.

Moreover, you imply that based on the fact that the birth of the individual is part of a pointless whole, their life continued existence should also be considered pointless. On these grounds, it's just as easy to say that going to buy food at the grocery story is also a pointless activity. After all, buying food is an economic exchange, and this economic exchange is a part of the global market of capitalism, and capitalism is a pointless, b poses risks to the participants, and c leads to disastrous consequences.


Yet this shouldn't lead us to conclude that eating is a pointless activity, simply because my participating in a pointless activity allows me to acquire food That doesn't make capitalism or reproduction any less problematic. Likewise, we should not conclude that living is a pointless activity, just because a pointless activity sexual reproduction, continuation of the species brings it about. You seem to be conflating two senses of life a life as the process of continuing the species, manifested in procreation and b life as the living of the already created individual.

It might be the case that life in sense a does not have a point or purpose, but this doesn't imply that life in sense b lacks a point, end, or purpose. Moreover, I don't think that anyone who believes in teleology would think that the purpose of b can be inferred from a. Instead, any teleological claim about the "point" or "purpose" of life would have to be inferred retroactively from b back into a.

Finally, if you that life generally not simply the creation of life is not the kind of thing that can have a point or purpose, how are you making normative claims about the risks of living? What's the point of preventing a person from encountering risks while living? I'm not sure I fully understand your question. One of the things I have been thinking about is the relationship between purpose or point within a life and something like purpose or point of a life as a whole.

I am not sure yet how that relationship works.

Is It Moral To Have Children?

As I said earlier in this thread, I haven't made any connections so far between my thinking about pointlessness and procreative ethics. I would like to clarify that I don't say that we should or must prevent a person from encountering risks while living. That is likely impossible and also likely undesirable.

What I do say is that we must take seriously the nature and probability of harm of the risks we impose when we procreate. The focus in this area of contemporary analytic philosophy is on the question of whether it's permissible to have children. I'm no historian of philosophy but that seems pretty different than the primary question in this area in the history of Western thought: namely the question of whether birth control is morally permissible.

I'm also led to believe that some Abrahamic sects believe that procreation isn't merely permissible but weakly obligatory. So I'm curious what you think then of the ethics of birth control. In particular I'm wondering what you think of permanent birth control, like tubal ligations and vasectomies. Are there things we should be wary about when it comes to these procedures? If you have any literature suggestions I'd love those as well - this is an issue I'm fairly interested in but haven't seen much about.

In my view, not having children is the more morally conservative choice because it usually involves less moral risk. I could see birth control being a moral issue if the world was suffering from a population crash and then maybe some argument could be made that we should help other currently living people by having children. But we would have to make sure we aren't having children primarily or exclusively for that purpose because, if we were, we would, in my view, not be treating the future person with sufficient respect for them as an end in themselves.

I have no moral problem with permanent birth control procedures, per se. I'd only caution against them because one might change one's mind later in life and we have reliable long-term birth control alternatives, such as intrauterine devices.

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I have a child. I subject a person to guaranteed suffering that comes with life without its consent. I don't have a child. I am preventing a potential person from possible happiness. A potential person does not have as much moral consideration in ethics as an actual person. Therefore reproducing is immoral. To your first argument, I would say that although it's true that procreation subjects the future person to suffering without consent , it may not always be wrong to do this because you, the person already alive, may have a strong interest in procreating and it may not be bad for a person to be born, even if that person will suffer.

After all, that person may also experience great joy, meaning, fulfillment, and enjoyment. But you'd have to argue for that as a primary or sole moral principle and I haven't seen an argument to that effect. To your second argument, I agree that not having children is the more morally safe choice. I think we are obligated to make sure that the risks we subject our future children to are permissible risks to impose.

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In contrast, we have no obligation to a possible person to create that person because only real people have real interests so only a person that will exist at some point is of moral relevance. My antinatalist convictions come from a deep concern for human rights. I agree with Benatar's asymmetry, but I don't think it's the best AN argument. This is how I look at it:. In most modern, civilized societies, negative rights are taken very seriously. Those who violate basic negative rights - through murder, rape, etc. The vast majority of people agree that it's unethical to violate the negative rights of others.

When a person has a child, they are exposing the child to millions of different harms, and they know that the child will experience many of those harms over a lifetime. If you know that an action procreation will result in harm to another person, and you go through with the action anyway without that person's consent, you're committing a negative rights violation.