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Selected Books

Better Never to Have Been


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 *

  • Kenneth Einar Himma, “Birth as a Grave Misfortune: The traditional doctrine of Hell and Christian Salvific Exclusivism”, in Joel Buenting (Ed.), The Problem of Hell, Ashgate, 2010.

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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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  • Michael Cook, “Is it better never to have been born?”, Australasian Science, June 2012, Vol. 33, no 5, p. 48.

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  • Christine Overall, “Not ‘Better Never to Have Been’” in Christine Overall, Why Have Children? Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 2012.


  • David Benatar, “Not ‘Not Better Never to Have Been’: A reply to Christine Overall”, Philosophia, Vol 47, No. 2, 2019, pp. 353-367.       


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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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  • Aaron Smuts, “To Be or Never to Have Been: Anti-Natalism and a Life Worth Living”, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, Vol. 17, Issue 4, 2014, pp. 711-729.


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

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  • Brian McLean, “What’s so Good about Non-Existence?”, Journal of Value Inquiry, Vol. 49, 2015, pp. 81-94.


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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









  • Irene Hernández Velasco,  "Es un error traer nuevos seres humanos al mundo": el provocador pensamiento antinatalista del filósofo David Benatar”, BBC Mundo, 14 December 2017.


  • Derek Beres, “Is Living Really Better than Never Being Born at All?”, Big Think, 16 December 2017.


  • Brian Whitney interviews David Benatar in Brian Whitney (Ed), Subversive: Interviews with Radicals, Headpress, 2017, pp. 102-104.


  • Irene Hernández Velasco, "An Anti-Natalism Philosopher”, BBC Persian, 13 January 2018.






  • Isabella Ana-Maria Trifan, Lives Worth Starting and The Non-identity problem, Masters dissertation, Department of Philosophy, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary, 2015.


  • Giulio Giorello interviews David Benatar about Meglio non essere mai nati: I dolore di venire al mondo (Italian translation of BNTHB), Ricominciam da zero, La Lettura, 2 December 2018. (In Italian)





  • Andrea Cassini’s review of Meglio non essere mai nati, L’Indiscreto, 21 December 2018. (In Italian)


  • Stefano Scrima’s review of Meglio non essere mai nati, Satisfaction, 22 December 2018. (In Italian)



  • Antonio di Gennaro’s review of Meglio non essere mai nati, Filosofia e letteratura, 22 December 2018. (In Italian)


  • Francesca Rigotti’s review of Meglio non essere mai nati, Doppiozero, 27 December 2018. (In Italian)


  • Luca Manichetti’s review of Meglio non essere mai nati, Lankenauta, 29 December 2018. (In Italian)


  • Francesco Paolella’s review of Meglio non essere mai nati, 8 January 2019. (In Italian)


  • Francesco D’Isa interviews David Benatar about Meglio non essere mai nati, L’Indiscreto, 14 January 2019. (In Italian)



           (The automatically generated translation into English is crude in places.)


  • Ernesto Vecchi, Un patto per la vita, Resto Del Carlino, 3 February 2019. (In Italian). 




  • Elisabetta Ambrosi, “Contro i genitori: meglio ‘mai nati’”, Il Fatto Quotidiano, 18 February 2019 (In Italian)


  • Chris Byron, “Why God is most assuredly evil: Challenging the evil God challenge”, Think, Vol. 18, No. 51, Spring 2019, pp. 25-35.




  • Fabio Donalisio, “Una particolare forma di esistenza infelice”, Blow Up, 1 March 2019. (In Italian)






  • Vlastimil Vohanka – Dismantling the Asymmetry Argument, Journal of Value Inquiry, Vol. 53, 2019, pp. 75-90.


  • Very Bad Wizards, Episode 159, 5 March 2019. [Two guys who still haven’t read the book discuss anti-natalism again, one of them with greater confidence than the other.]







  • “Il doloro di venire al mondo”, Il Quotidiano del Sud, 15 March 2019. (In Italian)


  • Riccardo Torrescura, “Vita Tranquilla”, La Verità, 15 March 2019. (In Italian)



           (Some serious misrepresentations in this piece)

           Republished in Dagospia, 25 March 2019.









  • Kei Udono, “The Harm of Being Brought into Existence: A Critical Examination of David Benatar’s Anti-Natalist Argument”, Journal of Philosophy and Ethics in Health Care and Medicine, No. 12. December 2018.


  • Very Bad Wizards, Episode 165, “Life with no head (with Sam Harris)”, 4 June 2019. [Brief discussion here about Sam Harris’ conversation with David Benatar. Sam acknowledges the ad hominem fallacy but commits it anyway.]


  • It’s NOT a wonderful life”, Like Trees Walking, 10 June 2019. [Two fellows have an uninformed but self-assured (and self-assuring) discussion about Better Never to Have Been.]



  • Erik Magnusson, “How to Reject Benatar’s Asymmetry Argument”, Bioethics, Vol. 33, No. 6, July 2019, pp. 674-683. 

Elias Muusavi, “How not to reject Benatar’s asymmetry argument: An antinatalist reply to Magnusson”. Dissertation, University of Glasgow, 2020.


  • Vanni Santoni, “Liberiamoci”, Quotidiano, 10 August 2019.












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  • Gilda Policastro, “Il mistero della vita al cuore della scrittura”, La Republica (Edizione Roma), 28 December 2019, p. 15. (In Italian)



  • Nicholas Smyth, “What is the question to which Anti-Natalism is the answer?” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, Vol 23, No. 1, 2020, pp. 71-87.

  • “Andiamo e, almeno per ora, non moltiplichiamoci”, Marie Claire, 1 April 2020. (In Italian)

  • Rofhiwa Maneta, “Do you want to save the world? Stop reproducing”, City Press, 3 May 2020.

  • Paolo Marcolin, “Venire al mondo è un grave male: È come stare a bordo del Titanic”, Ill Piccolo, 20 June 2020, p. 47. (In Italian)

  • Faith Brown and Lucas A. Keefer, “Anti-Natalism from an Evolutionary Psychology Perspective, Evolutionary Psychological Science, Vol. 6, No. 3, 2020, pp. 283-291.

  • Phil Torres, “Can anti-natalists oppose human extinction? The harm-benefit asymmetry, person-uploading, and human enhancement.”, South African Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 39, No. 3, 2020, pp. 229-245.

  • Matej Sušnik, “Why would very bad lives be worth continuing?”, South African Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 39, No. 3, 2020, pp. 285-295.

  • Peter Hutchings, “Is There a Case Against Being a Human Being? Reappraising David Benatar’s Better Never to Have Been: Can Late Capitalism Halt Climate Change? If Not, Who Wants to Be a Human, or Posthuman?”, Sophia, Online first.

  • José Alejandro Cantor Romero, “La moral de la procreación en David Benatar”, Bachelors Dissertation, Pontifical Xaverian University, Bogotá, Colombia, 27 October 2020. (In Spanish)

  • Sam Woolfe, “A Pessimist’s Guide to the Pandemic”, 9 November 2020.

  • Horia George Plugaru, “Better Never to Have Created: A New Logical Problem of Evil”, Internet Infidels, December 2020. 

  • Artist Danqi Cai, “Pecha Kucha, Print, Philosophical Pessimism, and Procreative Ethics”, 22 December 2020.

  • Joseph Earp, “Is it Morally Wrong to Have Children? The Bleakest Philosophy in the World Sure Thinks So”, Junkee, 15 January 2021.


Radio and other audio 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.)​

Interview with David Benatar at Reasonable Vegan

Alex Malpass’ interview with David Benatar at Thoughtology, 9 November 2017

Sam Harris interviews David Benatar on the Waking Up podcast, 5 December 2017

Debate with Jordan B Peterson on The Renegade Report, 9 January 2018. 

Sollen wir aufhören, Kinder in die Welt zu setzen?, Bayerischer Rundfunk (In German)

Danny Whittaker interviews David Benatar at “My Own Worst Enemy”, 22 July 2018.

Breakfast Show, Voice of Islam UK, 12 February 2019. (@ about 26 minutes)

Ricardo Lopes interviews David Benatar, The Dissenter, 8 March 2019. 

The Death Hangout Interview, 2 June 2019.

The Exploring Anti-Natalism Podcast interviews David Benatar, 9 March 2020.

Justin Brierly interviews David Benatar and Bruce Blackshaw, Unbelievable?, Premier Christian Radio, 13 March 2020.

Alex O’Connor interviews David Benatar, CosmicSkeptic, 26 April 2020. Brief, but important follow-up here.

Chion Wolf interviews David Benatar, “You didn’t ask to be here: Adventures in Antinatalism”, Audacious, Connecticut Public Radio, 9 July 2020.

David Benatar: Antinatalism in a nutshell, Antinatalism International, November 2020 (Animation by Glynos.)   

With Arabic subtitles, 22 December 2020.


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The Presidential Debates, Existential Comics

The Utilitarian Calculator, Existential Comics

Should we all just kill ourselves or what? , Existential Comics

(Disclaimer for the humourless: David Benatar does not think that we should all kill ourselves.)



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

Japanese translation: 生まれてこないほうが良かった 存在してしまうことの害悪. Translated by Kazuo Kojima and Takayoshi Tamura, 2017

Turkish translation: Keşke Hiç Olmasaydık: Var Olmanın Kötülüğü. Translated by Cansu Özge Özmen. Dogu Bati, 2018

Italian translation: Meglio non essere mai nati: Il dolore di venire al mondo. Translated by Alberto Cristofori. Carbonio Editore, 2018

Korean Translation: 태어나지 않는 것이 낫다 – 존재하게 되는 것의 해악, Translated by Han Lee, Seokwangsa Publishing, 2019

Polish translation forthcoming. (Publisher: Towarzystwo Naukowe im. Stanisława Andreskiego)