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Peter Singer: Should This Be the Last Generation?

with 15 comments

The philosopher Peter Singer discusses the ethics of procreation and voluntary extinction in the New York Times:

To bring into existence someone who will suffer is, Benatar argues, to harm that person, but to bring into existence someone who will have a good life is not to benefit him or her. Few of us would think it right to inflict severe suffering on an innocent child, even if that were the only way in which we could bring many other children into the world. Yet everyone will suffer to some extent, and if our species continues to reproduce, we can be sure that some future children will suffer severely. Hence continued reproduction will harm some children severely, and benefit none.

Two things are surprising about this:

  1. The antinatalism question is appearing in a major media outlet at all.
  2. The treatment and the comments are surprisingly balanced and intelligent, especially given the nature of the medium and the audience.

Singer does throw in the usual dash of Pollyanna-ish, feel-good idiocy:

In my judgment, for most people, life is worth living. Even if that is not yet the case, I am enough of an optimist to believe that, should humans survive for another century or two, we will learn from our past mistakes and bring about a world in which there is far less suffering than there is now.

Overall, however, it’s a huge step forward for the antinatalist cause.

A thoughtful comment from “sarah” in Brooklyn:

I think about this a lot – so many pregnant women are out there, and I wonder where they find the hope to have children. My son is a young adult, and I feel that the likelihood of his living out a natural lifespan is small. Environmental disaster, terrorism, the end of the world feels awfully close. Frankly, I love the idea of a planet devoid of people, healing itself from our damage, taken over by animals and plants. I don’t think most people lead such fabulous lives, and I don’t think it’s worth sacrificing our beautiful home to let more people slog along.

Thanks Rob!

Written by Sister Y

June 7, 2010 at 9:06 pm