Intelligent Life, the spin-off bi-monthly magazine from the Economist, has asked a range of writers “how many children should we have?” (“We” being people in general, rather than the publication itself.)
The most alarming and interesting response – and the only one that seems to be online – comes from David Benatar, a South African philosopher.
Have none, he says.
If you think procreation is a good thing, you’ve been brainwashed by “millions of years of evolutionary history”.
It’s really a “deeply harmful practice”, he argues.
Parents want to minimise suffering in their children, but “the only way to prevent harm altogether is to desist from bringing children into existence. Any child will, inevitably, suffer considerable harm.”
Harm may be inevitable, but happiness wins out, surely? A “glib response”, sniffs Benatar.
“Procreators have no idea whether this will be true for their children. Moreover, consider, in all their gruesome details, the horrors of rape, cancer or chronic pain, for example … Parents may benefit from procreation, but only at serious cost to those brought into existence. It’s hard to see how imposing these costs can be justified, especially since nobody is harmed by not being born.”
Benatar is not kidding, by the way; he’s written a book on the subject, Better Never to Have Been. It is dedicated to his parents, notes the New Yorker in this review from 2012, “even though they brought me into existence”.
See also: Children say the creepiest things
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