An Interview with David Benatar

Antinatalists may be interested in this interview with David Benatar.

RVGN: Many vegan parents hope that, by raising compassionate children, they will contribute to future improvements in the world for animals and humans. Though not every child raised vegan will continue that lifestyle, it does seem plausible that a child raised to care about the suffering of others is more likely to make a positive contribution to the world. Because your argument for antinatalism is built upon a concern for the suffering of others, it seems likely that altruistic people would be more likely to adopt that sort of philosophy.
Are you concerned that by encouraging people not to procreate you could be decreasing the number of altruists in the human population, and therefore slowing ethical progress?

DB: If I am correct that bringing somebody into existence inflicts a terrible harm on that person, we should be worried about prospective parents who are willing to inflict that harm on their potential children in the hope that those children will help spare others suffering. Part of the worry is about those parents instrumentalising their children. How compassionate is it to do that? And what example are they setting? Another worry, however, is whether any child raised even by compassionate people would indeed make the world a better place. In The Misanthropic Argument for Anti-natalism[10], I point to just how much harm humans cause. Vegans, all other things being equal, do less damage than their omnivorous conspecifics. However, even vegans do some damage. Moreover, all other things are rarely equal.

Those who still want to raise compassionate children might consider adopting, thereby saving two birds from one stone. Those who adopt care for a child who would otherwise have had no parents, and they rear it as well as possible. They prevent suffering (of the otherwise parentless child) and they prevent suffering (that that child would cause if it were raised less well).

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