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Selected Books

Better Never to Have Been

 

Book:
Better Never to Have Been 
Publisher:Oxford University Press
Publication Date:2006

 

Book abstract:

This book argues for a number of related views: (1) Coming into existence is always a serious harm. (2) Procreation is always wrong. (3) It is wrong not to abort foetuses at the earlier stages of gestation. (4) It would be better if, as a result of there being no new people, humanity became extinct. Although these conclusions are antagonistic to common and deeply held intuitions, the author argues that these intuitions are unreliable and thus cannot be used to refute the book’s grim-sounding conclusions.

Reviews and responses:

Book reviewers ordinarily review with impunity. Book reviews are not themselves peer reviewed. Nor is there usually an opening for authors to respond. The “web”, a very mixed blessing, affords the opportunity for book authors to rectify this. Accordingly, responses to reviews of Better Never to Have Been (along with the reviews themselves, where copyright restrictions permit) are included below.

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There is a stunning arrogance in “reviewing” a book one openly admits to not having read. Yet, this is just what the editors of the New Criterion did. Nor are they alone. There have been numerous “reviews” on the web by those who declare that they have not read the book. Most of these “reviewers” simply parrot what other non-readers of the book have surmised I have argued. These displays of opinionated ignorance do not warrant individualized responses. The general thrust of the response to the New Criterion is equally applicable to the others.

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  • Yujin Nagasawa's review,  Mind, July 2008, 117:674-677

  • David Benatar's response

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There are now too many reviews and articles about Better Never to Have Been for David Benatar to respond to them all. Responses to some of the following will be added when and if time permits.

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  • Saul Smilansky, The Philosophy Quarterly,  Vol. 58, No. 232, July 2008, pp. 569-571 *

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  • Chris Kaposy, “Coming Into Existence: The good, the bad and the indifferent”, Human Studies, Vol. 32, 2009, pp. 101-108 *

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  • Elizabeth Harman, “Critical Study of David Benatar. Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence”Nous, Vol. 43, No. 4, 2009, pp. 776-785 *

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  • Ben Bradley, “Benatar and the Logic of Betterness”, Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy, March 2010, pp. 1-5 *

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  • David DeGrazia, “Is it wrong to impose the harms of human life? A reply to Benatar”,Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics, Vol. 331, 2010, pp. 317-331 *

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  • Tim Bayne, “In Defence of Genethical Parity”, in David Archard & David Benatar (Eds.),Procreation and Parenthood, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010, pp. 31-56 *

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  • Campbell Brown, “Better Never to Have Been Believed: Benatar on the Harm of Existence”, Economics and Philosophy, Vol. 27, 2011, pp. 45-52 *

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  • Joseph Packer, “Better Never to have Been?: The Unseen Implications”, Philosophia, Vol. 39, 2011, pp. 225-235 *

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          * Responses to these can be found here:

  • David Benatar, "Still Better Never to Have Been: a reply to (more of) my critics", Journal of Ethics, Vol. 17, Issue 1-2, 2013, pp. 121-51

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  • David Spurrett, “Hooray for babies”, South African Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 30, No. 2, 2011, pp. 197- 206

  • David Benatar’s response can be found in “Every Conceivable Harm: A Further Defence of Anti-Natalism”, South African Journal of Philosophy Vol. 31, No. 1, 2012, pp. 128-164. (See below.)

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  • Thaddeus Metz, “Are lives worth creating?”, Philosophical Papers, Vol. 40, No. 2, 2011, pp. 233-255

  • David Benatar’s response can be found in “Every Conceivable Harm: A Further Defence of Anti-Natalism”, South African Journal of Philosophy Vol. 31, No. 1, 2012, pp. 128-164. (See below.)

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A special issue of the South African Journal of Philosophy was devoted to contemporary Anti-Natalism and especially Better Never to Have Been. Below is a list of articles that appeared, as well as David Benatar’s response.

 

 

  • Thaddeus Metz, “Contemporary Anti-Natalism, Featuring Benatar’s Better Never to Have Been”, South African Journal of Philosophy Vol. 31, No. 1, 2012, pp. 1-9

 

  • David Boonin, “Better to Be”, South African Journal of Philosophy Vol. 31, No. 1, 2012, pp. 10-25

 

  • Rivka Weinberg, “Is Having Children Always Wrong?”, South African Journal of Philosophy Vol. 31, No. 1, 2012, pp. 26-37

 

  • Skott Brill, “Sick and Healthy: Benatar on the Logic of Value”, South African Journal of Philosophy Vol. 31, No. 1, 2012, pp. 38-54

 

  • Rafe McGregor & Ema Sullivan-Bissett, “Better No Longer to Be”, South African Journal of Philosophy Vol. 31, No. 1, 2012, pp. 55-68

 

  • Saul Smilansky, “Life is Good”, South African Journal of Philosophy Vol. 31, No. 1, 2012, pp. 69-78

 

  • Brooke Alan Trisel, “How Best to Prevent Future Persons From Suffering: A Reply to Benatar”, South African Journal of Philosophy Vol. 31, No. 1, 2012, pp. 79-93

 

  • Gerald Harrison, “Antinatalism, Asymmetry, and an Ethic of Prima Facie Duties”, South African Journal of Philosophy Vol. 31, No. 1, 2012, pp. 94-103

 

  • Asheel Singh, “Furthering the Case for Anti-natalism: Seana Shiffrin and the Limits of Permissible Harm, South African Journal of Philosophy Vol. 31, No. 1, 2012, pp. 104-116

 

  • Christopher Belshaw, “A New Argument for Anti-Natalism”, South African Journal of Philosophy Vol. 31, No. 1, 2012, pp. 117-127

 

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  • Constantin Wissmann, "To Be or Not To Be", Dummy, Herbst 2012, Nr. 36, pp. 28-45. (In German).

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  • Jason Marsh, "Quality of Life Assessments, Cognitive Reliability, and Procreative Responsibility", Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. 89, No. 2, September 2014, pp.436-466

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  • Sarah Perry, Every Cradle is a Grave: Rethinking the Ethics of Birth and Suicide, Charleston WV: Nine-Banded Books, 2014

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  • Very Bad Wizards, Episode 54, 24 September 2014. [Two guys who haven’t read the book discuss it with great confidence.]

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  • Colin Feltham, Keeping ourselves in the dark, Charleston WV: Nine-Banded Books, 2015

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  • Anti-natalist songs by Norwegian Hip Hop musician, Mistro:

Every Cradle

Your Lullaby

Bring the Flood

(Warning: Images in some videos are not for sensitive viewers.)

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  • Possibly the funniest "review" of Better Never to Have Been

 

                                                                                                              

 

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          Radio interviews:

Redi Direko (Radio 702 / Cape Talk) interviews David Benatar about Better Never to Have Been (on 26 February 2009.)

Steve Paulson (Wisconsin Public Radio) Interviews David Benatar on 31 May 2015.

The Species Barrier, Siren FM, 9 October 2015​ (Interview begins at 22:39 minutes.)​

 

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Translations:

Czech translation: Nebýt či být : O utrpení, které přináší příchod na tento svět. Translated by Daniel Micka, Prague, Dybbuk, 2013

Turkish translation forthcoming (Publisher: Dogu Bati)

Japanese translation forthcoming (Publisher: Suzusawa Shoten)

Italian translation forthcoming (Publisher: Carbonio Editore of Milan)