Home > Staff > David Benatar > Selected Books > The Human Predicament
Selected books

The Human Predicament

 The Human Predicament  
 Publisher: Oxford University Press
 Publication Date: 2017




Book abstract:

The Human Predicament engages life’s big questions. Are our lives meaningless? Is death bad? Would immortality be better? Alternatively, should we hasten our deaths by acts of suicide? Many people are tempted to offer comforting, optimistic answers to these existential questions. The Human Predicament offers a less sanguine assessment and defends a substantial, but not unmitigated, pessimism. It is argued that while our lives can have some meaning, we are ultimately the insignificant beings that we fear we are. There is no point to human life as a whole, and individual human lives have no cosmic purpose. Nor is meaning the only way in which our lives are deficient. A candid appraisal reveals that the quality of life, although less bad for some people than for others, leaves much to be desired in even the best cases. Death, however, is not generally the solution. It exacerbates rather than mitigates our cosmic meaninglessness. It can release us from suffering but even when it does, it imposes another cost—annihilation. The human predicament is thus forged by both life and death. This unfortunate state of affairs has nuanced implications for how we should think about immortality and suicide, which are also discussed in The Human Predicament.


Reviews and Responses:

Kirsten Egerstrom’s review in The Philosophers' Magazine, Issue 78, 3rd Quarter 2017, pp. 111-112

Joanna Bourke’s review, “Staring at the Void”, Wall Street Journal, 31 August 2017, p. A15

David Matheson’s review, Philosophical Quarterly, Vol 68, No. 272, 2018, p. 639-641

Rachel James and Todd Shackelford’s review, Evolutionary Psychological Science, Vol. 4, 2018, pp.347-349

Rhys Southan’s review, “The Vise Side of Life”, The Oxonian Review, 24 April 2018

Ema Sullivan-Bisset’s review, American Journal of Bioethics, Vol 18, No. 7, 2018, pp. W4-W5

Alan Brooke Trisel – “How human life matters in the universe: A reply to David Benatar”, Journal of Philosophy of Life, Vol. 9, No. 1, June 2019, pp. 1-15

Iddo Landau, “Two arguments for the badness and meaninglessness of life”, Journal of Value Inquiry, Vol. 54, No. 3, 2020, pp. 429-442

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

Alberto Giovanni Biuso’s review, Scienza&Filosofia, November 2020. (In Italian)

Filippo D’Ambrogi’s review, Libera Uscita, November 2020. (In Italian)

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

Iddo Landau, “Benatar on the Badness of all Human Lives”, Philosophia, Vol. 49, No. 1, 2021, pp. 333-345.


Peter Ohlin, philosophy editor at OUP USA, interviews David Benatar

The Page 99 Test

Stuart Campbell, “The Human Predicament’, Consider This, KZYX Radio, 27 October 2017

Joshua Rothman, “The Case for Not Being Born”, New Yorker, 27 November 2017

Jesse Mulligan, “Anti-natalist David Benatar”, Radio New Zealand, 5 December 2017

OUP’s Molly Grote interviews David Benatar, 6 December 2017

Mark Oppenheimer and Jason Werbeloff interview David Benatar about The Meaning of Life, Brain in a Vat, 13 September 2020

Professor Salvatore Fiorellino interviews David Benatar, “La difficile condizione umana”, Real Inside Magazine, 5 October 2020. (In Italian)

Franceso d’Isa interviews David Benatar, “Morire è meglio che vivere?”, L’Indiscreto, 28 October 2020. (In Italian)


Spanish translation forthcoming (Publisher: Alianza)

Turkish translation forthcoming (Publisher: Doğu Batı Yayınları)

Chinese translation Beijing Imaginist Time Culture Co., Ltd. 2020

Italian Translation: La Difficile Condizione Umana. Translated by Luca Lo Sapio. Giannini Editore, 2020