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Better Never to Have Been: The Harm Of Coming Into Existence [Englisch] [Taschenbuch]

David Benatar
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Kurzbeschreibung

15. September 2008
Most people believe that they were either benefited or at least not harmed by being brought into existence. Thus, if they ever do reflect on whether they should bring others into existence---rather than having children without even thinking about whether they should---they presume that they do them no harm. Better Never to Have Been challenges these assumptions. David Benatar argues that coming into existence is always a serious harm. Although the good things in one's life make one's life go better than it otherwise would have gone, one could not have been deprived by their absence if one had not existed. Those who never exist cannot be deprived. However, by coming into existence one does suffer quite serious harms that could not have befallen one had one not come into existence. Drawing on the relevant psychological literature, the author shows that there are a number of well-documented features of human psychology that explain why people systematically overestimate the quality of their lives and why they are thus resistant to the suggestion that they were seriously harmed by being brought into existence. The author then argues for the 'anti-natal' view---that it is always wrong to have children---and he shows that combining the anti-natal view with common pro-choice views about foetal moral status yield a "pro-death" view about abortion (at the earlier stages of gestation). Anti-natalism also implies that it would be better if humanity became extinct. Although counter-intuitive for many, that implication is defended, not least by showing that it solves many conundrums of moral theory about population.

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Produktinformation

  • Taschenbuch: 250 Seiten
  • Verlag: Oxford University Press, Usa (15. September 2008)
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ISBN-10: 0199549265
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199549269
  • Größe und/oder Gewicht: 1,5 x 13,4 x 19,8 cm
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 5.0 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (2 Kundenrezensionen)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 105.738 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)
  • Komplettes Inhaltsverzeichnis ansehen

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This isn't a new book, but it is generating increasing discussion in university departments and elsewhere: hence this review... If you enjoy an ethical challenge, then read this book. Malcolm Torry, Triple Helix For those who admire really careful and imaginative argumentation, and are interested in either issues of life and death, or the foundations of morality, it's a must read Harry Brighouse, Out of the Crooked Timber Benatar's discussion is clear and intelligent. Yujin Nagasawa MIND

Synopsis

Most people believe that they were either benefited or at least not harmed by being brought into existence. Thus, if they ever do reflect on whether they should bring others into existence---rather than having children without even thinking about whether they should---they presume that they do them no harm. Better Never to Have Been challenges these assumptions. David Benatar argues that coming into existence is always a serious harm. Although the good things in one's life make one's life go better than it otherwise would have gone, one could not have been deprived by their absence if one had not existed. Those who never exist cannot be deprived. However, by coming into existence one does suffer quite serious harms that could not have befallen one had one not come into existence. Drawing on the relevant psychological literature, the author shows that there are a number of well-documented features of human psychology that explain why people systematically overestimate the quality of their lives and why they are thus resistant to the suggestion that they were seriously harmed by being brought into existence.The author then argues for the 'anti-natal' view---that it is always wrong to have children---and he shows that combining the anti-natal view with common pro-choice views about foetal moral status yield a 'pro-death' view about abortion (at the earlier stages of gestation).

Anti-natalism also implies that it would be better if humanity became extinct. Although counter-intuitive for many, that implication is defended, not least by showing that it solves many conundrums of moral theory about population.


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12 von 14 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Sehr schluessiges wenn auch kontroverses Buch 2. Dezember 2010
Von rob
Format:Taschenbuch
Es ist jetzt schon eine Weile her, dass ich das Buch gelesen habe, daher moege bitte niemand erwarten dass ich dessen Aussage hier in wenigen Zeilen auch nur annaehernd so zwingend darlegen kann wie Benatar es tut.
In diesem Buch begruendet David Benatar warum es moralisch falsch ist, Kinder zu zeugen. Diese, fuer die meisten Menschen wohl alles andere als intuitiv einsichtige These, wird von ihm in meinen Augen fast schon unwiderlegbar schluessig hergeleitet. Sie stuetzt sich hauptsaechlich auf zwei Grundlagen. Erstens dass unser Leben schlechter ist, als wir uns eingestehen (und das, obwohl die meisten von uns es bereits relativ (!) gut haben). Zweitens, und das ist fuer mich der wichtigere Punkt, dass Freude und Leid grundsaetzlich unterschiedlich sind. Klar ist, dass Freude gut ist und Leid schlecht (fuer den Mensch, der sich jeweils freut oder der leidet). Die Asymmetrie liegt nun aber darin, dass die Abwesenheit von Leid ebenfalls gut ist, waehrend die Abwesenheit von Freude nur dann schlecht ist, wenn es auch jemanden gibt, dem diese Freude dann fehlt. Das bedeutet, wenn ein Mensch niemals existiert hat, dann ist es auch nicht schade um die Freude, die dieser potentielle Mensch erfahren haben koennte, wenn er gelebt haette. Warum man das bei genauer Betrachtung nur so und nicht anders sehen kann wird mit, fuer mich, ueberzeugenden Beispielen und Folgerungen erlaeutert. Alle anderen Denkweisen fuehren zu noch seltsameren und unlogischen oder inkonsequenten Schluessen.
Zu Ende gedacht folgt daraus natuerlich, dass, wenn alle es so sehen wuerden und auch danach handelten, die Menschheit aussterben wuerde. Dies ist laut Benatar aber ansich nichts Schlimmes, sondern moralisch relevant ist nur, wie es den (heute oder zukuenftig) tatsaechlich lebenden Menschen geht.
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1 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen It's really better 20. Mai 2012
Von Thanatos
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
Wenn ich die Dreiteilung der Kritiken zum Buch des Vor-Rezensenten übernehme, so kann ich mich dort zu denjenigen, die "genau das auch schon gedacht haben, es nur selbst nicht so gut ausdrücken konnten", zählen.
Als Schopenhauer- und Cioran-Begeisterter war mir die Erkenntnis 'better never to have been' bestens vertraut, und ich teile diese Ansicht ohne jede Einschränkung. So sah ich zunächst keinen Bedarf, mir diese Erkenntnis durch Benatar auch noch analytisch-philosophisch beweisen zu lassen. Soll heißen, ich wollte dieses Buch ursprünglich gar nicht erwerben. Die Lektüre einiger Kritiken und Ansichten dazu erweckte jedoch meine Neugierde, so dass ich letztendlich nicht widerstehen konnte.
Als Fazit kann ich mich kurz fassen: 'Better Never to Have Been' ist das Beste, was ich seit längerer Zeit gelesen habe, überdies eine ermutigende Bestätigung von dem, "was ich auch schon gedacht habe".
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Amazon.com: 3.7 von 5 Sternen  27 Rezensionen
186 von 197 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Moral philosophy at its best: intelligent, controversial and brutally honest 25. März 2008
Von Philonous - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
In this remarkable book, the South African philosopher David Benatar attempts to solve, in a most unusual way, some related moral problems concerning matters of life and death. Benatar claims, inter alia, that deliberate procreation is immoral; that abortion is morally mandatory if possible before approximately 30 weeks of gestation; and that the morally optimal size of the human population is ZERO. On the face of it, this may strike the reader as absurd, or even insane, but Benatar is most certainly not a madman, as any reader who gives this book a fair chance will soon acknowledge.

The above-mentioned conclusions all follow more or less straightforwardly from Benatar's main thesis, which is almost literally expressed in the title of the book: For any conscious being (whether human or non-human) it would have been better never to exist, since coming into being is always an overall harm, and thus worse than non-existence, for that being (though not necessarily for other already existing beings, e.g. parents and siblings). Benatar argues for this astounding thesis by drawing attention to an alleged asymmetry between pain and pleasure (both understood broadly): Non-existence implies the absence of both pains and pleasures, but whereas the absence of the pains is something good, it is not the case that the absence of the pleasures is bad or something to be deplored. A potential person is not deprived of anything, claims Benatar, by not being brought into existence.

Some immediate, but confused, objections can be dismissed easily. One example is the objection that life must be an overall good for a person, unless that person is willing to commit suicide. Benatar is at pains to point out the important distinction between judging that a possible life should not be started and judging that an actual life should not be continued. Thus, Benatar's argument does not commit him to the view that we are morally obligated to kill ourselves and/or each other. On the contrary, he quite explicitly denounces such a view (chapter 7), but this is, strangely, lost on several of the book's reviewers.

But is the alleged asymmetry a real asymmetry or only an apparent one? Benatar's argument for the reality of the asymmetry is a lot stronger than many will admit, but it is not quite as strong as he himself seems to think. At bottom, Benatar's argument is a coherence argument: Unless we accept the asymmetry, we cannot make sense of some of our other deeply held convictions, most notable, perhaps, the conviction that "while there is a duty to avoid bringing suffering people into existence, there is no duty to bring happy people into being" (p. 32). However, an argument of this kind is obviously double-edged and able to cut both ways. An opponent might be willing to bite the bullet and, while rejecting asymmetry, accept that we DO have a duty to bring happy people into being. Benatar is aware of this possibility but dismisses it because he thinks it is based on the assumption that people only have derivative value as "mere means to the production of happiness" (p. 37). This, however, is much too quick. The (imaginary) opponent does not need to absurdly abstract the happiness from the person and see the latter as being nothing but a necessary condition, without any inherent value, for the existence of the former. Rather, the question is whether a happy person, considered as a whole, has intrinsic positive value seen from the moral point of view. If this is the case, as I think it is, then it might reasonably be claimed that the possible existence of a happy person provides us with a moral reason to (try to) bring that possible person into existence. But this moral reason is, of course, by no means decisive. It might be overruled by other moral reasons pointing in the opposite direction, e.g. the reasons provided by any kind of pain experienced by the possible person, in case he/she is given life.

This latter observation is important, because it means that Benatar's substantive conclusions might be correct even if we reject his claims about the alleged asymmetry. It might be the case that most, or even all, lives as a matter of fact contain more bad than can be compensated for by the actual amount of good in those lives, and exactly this view, a kind of fall back position, is what Benatar defends in the most interesting chapter of the book (chapter 3). Drawing on empirical research in social psychology, Benatar builds a strong argument to the effect that people are unreliable judges when assessing the quality of their own lives. He proceeds to show, in my opinion rather convincingly, that the quality of most people's lives is actually very bad, and that this is the case whether one adopts a hedonistic, a preference-theoretical, or an objective account of the nature of "the Good". Whether we like it or not, we do have many moral reasons, certainly more than most people realize, to STOP bringing new people into existence. Anyone who thinks that these reasons can be trumped by moral reasons for procreation has a big philosophical task on his/her hands.

Generally, the book is an easy read, thanks to the clarity of Benatar's exposition of the problems, the theories, and the arguments presented. One important upside of this is that readers without an education in philosophy should be able to learn a lot from Benatar's stimulating discussion. Unfortunately, not many will. Benatar is under no illusions that his readers will accept his stance or at least consider his arguments without much prejudice. This is a pity, because neither dubious appeals to common sense nor unfair arguments ad hominem will make Benatar's arguments bad and his conclusions false, contrary to what some of this book's reviewers seem to be thinking. Just as reciting the Lord's Prayer cannot refute Atheism, a rational refutation of Benatar, if possible, must be based on some serious philosophical work.

Lest wishful thinking should completely guide our actions and determine our conception of morality, philosophy should always challenge our most fundamental assumptions, and it should do so rationally, honestly, without self-deception or fear of the truth. In this work Benatar satisfies these desiderata, and that is why "Better Never to Have Been" merits attention. It deserves to be read and thought about carefully and with an open mind, and it deserves to be discussed in a serious, fair and intelligent manner. It is a very important book.
62 von 67 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Philosophy at its best. 4. Dezember 2010
Von J. Fh - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
Applied Ethics. Very argumentative. Benatar has caused turmoil in some philosophical circles. He's been read by people in Cambridge, Oxford, Princeton and other great knowledge centers. His ideas are indeed a threat to many of our naive assumptions. He criticizes common moral conclusions using premises that are generally accepted. He assumes for example that the reader agrees that:

1) it is wrong to bring someone into the world if that is going to cause that person too much pain.
e.g. If you are sure that person is going to have AIDS or live in extreme poverty, so that she will suffer an immensely excruciating pain.

He, then, argues that:

2) All lives, even the best ones are very bad. So you know, for sure, that by bringing someone to life, that person is going to suffer so much pain. Far more than pleasure.

3) Therefore, it is wrong to procreate.

Further conclusions:

In this line of thought, abortion, for instance, in the early stages of pregnancy is not only right, but morally mandatory. In addition, he establishes a very important difference between "lives worth continuing" and "lives worth starting", arguing that we are not morally obliged to kill ourselves. Absolutely not. But since by bringing someone into life I will expose this person to serious harm, it is best not to bring anyone into life.

Arguments to defend 2:

1) Pleasures and the hedonistic project are condemned to defeat, since any pleasures you have will not be able to undo the pain you will necessarily suffer.

2) Pain is part of the structure of the world and by bringing someone into life you are, ipso facto, exposing that person to serious harm. We entirely overlook the daily discomforts of daily life, even though they are so pervasive. Even the best lives are very bad, because our pleasures or moments of desire fulfillment are so few compared to the common negative states we constantly experience everyday. And this, in a healthy common life, not to say someone who has a terminal disease or something worse.

3) Happiness is but a temporary absence of suffering, satisfaction is the ephemeral fulfillment of desire.
e.g. After one has eaten or taken liquid, bowel and bladder discomfort ensues quite naturally and we have to seek relief. There are moments or even periods of satisfaction, but they occur against a background of dissatisfied striving.

All that said, if you had never existed, you would not feel pain, nor die everyday, constantly, bit by bit. Therefore, someone who hasn't been brought to life, who technically isn't even a person yet, is in clear advantage to someone who came into being. Ergo, it is wrong to bring someone to life.

I believe this book will become a philosophical classic, probably not as much as Nagel's Mortal Questions, but perhaps something close to it. He's certainly an author I liked to read. His book is very clear. It is important to mention that he does not assume prior philosophical knowledge from the reader and that the book is very concise.

I highly recommend it.

I sincerely hope my review was of some aid. Please don't forget to vote in case this review was helpful to you.
7 von 7 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Every person thinking of having children should read this important book 28. Januar 2014
Von Brian W. - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
For sentient beings and for us humans especially, is life bad? According to South African philsopher, David Benatar, the answer is a resounding "Yes." Life is bad...so bad that it would be better if all sentient beings ceased with reproduction and went extinct after the current generation dies out.

This view on procreation is called anti-natalism and is often met with a visceral reaction in most people that learn of it. But, is it really so off target as to be insane, as most people assert or is it a completely rational and logical way in which clear headed people can and should view our lives and the world that we inhabit? Benatar argues that there are scientific reasons that we overestimate the quality of our lives.

In this book, he argues brilliantly, in my opinion, that procreation is not only irrational but it is immoral as well. He holds a candle for the "Pro-death"movement in that he believes women are morally obligated to abort their fetuses at the earliest stages of gestation. The visceral reaction that most people have to his view point is easily explainable, according to Benatar; humans have evolved over billions of years to be optimists. This is the way in which we survive as a species and it blinds us to the reality of our lives. In short, humans are delusional about their condition because nature makes us this way. This is very unfortunate, according to Benatar, because it leads us to the creation of new lives and new suffering.

Why is life so bad? Well, according to Benatar, even the most priveleged and gifted lives are full of suffering and hardship. Humans are "centers of suffering" according to Benatar and we don't even realize it due to our optimism bias instilled by nature. Benatar claims that most people spend a large part of their lives lonely, sad, hungry, thirsty, tired, depressed, anxious, nervous, embarassed, in physical or emotional discomfort or otherwise suffering in some way. He believes that all pleasures are negative in character; that is, it is a relief from some pain that we are in. Benatar argues that pain is much more intense than pleasure. He holds that no one alive would take the option of an hour of pure pleasure if it was followed by an hour of the worst pain imaginable.

Pain is also much easier for people to "catch" than pleasure. For example, everyone has heard of chronic pain but no one has heard of chronic pleasure. It only takes a moment for someone to be seriously injured in an accident that lasts a lifetime but it is impossible for someone to catch a type of pleasure which is as intense or lasts as long.

Benatar implores us to observe the bad in the world we live in. Some facts he presents: There are currently 7 billion people on the planet and that number is expected to skyrocket in the coming decades. Over the past 1,000 years, 15 million people are estimated to have died in natural disasters. Approximately 20,000 people in the world die from starvation every day. The 1918 Influenza epidemic killed 50 million people. HIV kills 3 million people annually. 3.5 million people die each year in accidents. Wars have killed hundreds of millions of people. When the numbers were put together for the year 2001, 56.5 million people died. That is more than 107 people per minute. As the world population increases, the amount of death and suffering only magnifies.

One thing that we humans are guaranteed is death. We all will die, either through the natural aging process or through a disease or accident that take us out prematurely. Our physical prime is only a tiny part of our life and the rest is our gradual, if not steep, decline. We are not guaranteed any pleasures at all.

A potential parent should view themselves as the top of a pyramid, according to Benatar. As that parent creates more humans, they create more suffering and pain that is easily avoidable. If each parent has 3 children, that amounts to more than 88,000 humans over ten generations. To Benatar, that is a lot of pointless suffering that could easily be avoided if we would all just use birth control or have early term abortions.

Part of the brilliance of Benatar's book is that he anticipates the readers objections and responds to them with clear and sound logic. The first argument against Benatar's views on life is that there are good parts of life that Benatar chooses to ignore; Benatar agrees with this but argues that the bad outweighs the good by a large margin.

His key argument against reproduction is his assymetry argument; that is that pain is bad and pleasure is good. The best lives contain a lot of pain and pleasure as well, but, had we not existed, we would not have been deprived of pleasures. Only living beings can be deprived of pleasures, no one that does not exist can ever be deprived. When one does not exist, one does not feel pain, which is good and one does not feel pleasure, which is not bad, since one does not exist. Simply put, non existence means no suffering and no deprivation. Therefore, never existing is better than existing, considering all the suffering that humans must endure.

Benatar urges us to look at Mars as an example. There is no suffering on Mars because there is no sentient life there. The Earth, however, is full sentient life and suffering. There is no pleasure on Mars but this matters not since there are no Maritians alive to be deprived. Do we Earthlings ever look to Mars and bemone the lack of pleasure that Martians do not have since they do not exist? Of course we don't. However, if Martians were alive and suffered as we humans do, we would certainly deplore their condition.

One argument that always comes up against anti-natalism is the reaction that anyone that promotes it, such as Benatar, should commit suicide. Benatar does address suicide and believes that it is an option, but it should be used only as a last resort after one discusses it with many people. In general, he is against suicide because it not only causes the suicidee harm, it also causes harm to people around that person, including their family and those that care about them. Anti-natalism is not the belief that we should all commit suicide, but rather that we should analyze reproduction and our lives and come to the conclusion that we should not create more pointless suffering by creating new humans.

Every person, even those opposed to anti-natalism, can agree that having a child is essentially rolling the dice with another person's life, without their consent. None of us can see into the future; the future that involves our future children may indeed be grim. Reproduction is a form of Russian roulette, according to Benatar. For example, in the United States, 1 out of 4 women in America is raped during her lifetime. That means, if we have 2 daughters, there is a 50% chance that one of them will be raped. Knowing this, is it moral for humans to go ahead and create those daughters? Benatar believes that is it morally wrong to do so.

I loved this book. It can be dense at times as there is a ton of information in each paragraph; some parts of it can be hard to understand. That being said, this book is important and I don't see how Dr. Benatar's thesis can be refuted.
11 von 13 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Brilliant, compassionate, intelligent book 11. April 2013
Von stopohno - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Taschenbuch
It is a rare to find someone with extraordinary perceptive abilities to be fully aware of what existence means and how much suffering it entails and furthermore to put their own needs aside and be selfless and compassionate enough to not inflict that sort of suffering onto an innocent child. Reminds me of a quote from the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer: "Life is an unprofitable episode disturbing the blessed calm of non-existence".
27 von 36 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Don't Have Children - It's Immoral 29. Dezember 2010
Von Can't Think of a Good Pen Name - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Taschenbuch
A devastating critique of people's intuitive feeling that bearing children is a morally unproblematic enterprise. Never shrill or hasty in reaching his conclusions, Professor Benatar calmly and systematically lays out his arguments and anticipates and reacts to all feasible counter arguments in a manner that suggests he ruminated on these issues for a considerable amount of time and with a clarity of thought that is lacking in most people's ideas about these highly important issues. He never resorts to appeals to emotion or ad-hominim attacks (as many of his opponents seem to do) and he uses no red herrings or other intellectual sleights of hand in order to lend credence to his views. The thrust of his argument is that as:

i) non-existent people are not deprived of the goods in life (happiness, joy, elation et cetera)
ii) non-existent people never suffer or feel any distress and
iii) even the most charmed of lives contain inevitable degrees of pain and suffering

there is an imbalance between the value of being born as opposed to the value of never having come into existence. As long as you accept the three premises above (and Benatar provides more than ample reasons for doing so) one is inexorably led to the conclusion that life confers no advantage over non-existence whilst non-existence DOES confer an advantage over existence. My hat off to you, Mr Benatar sir, this should be compulsory reading for every school student in the world! But of course his compassionate words of wisdom will fall on deaf ears for the most part...."Why don't you off yourself if life is so bad you pessimistic weirdo" the less eloquently spoken rabble might inquire of Benatar. However, making this kind of attack would be to really miss the point of his argument. Would you like me to elaborate? If so, I cordially invite you to read this seminal work and see where his arguments take you. 5 stars!
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