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AEF: Daniel Pallies
November 18, 2022 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
DEPARTMENT OF PHILOSOPHY · APPLIED ETHICS FORUM
‘Pessimism and procreation’
Daniel Pallies (Lingnan University)
Friday 18 November 2022 • 3:00pm–5:00pm • LA3–120
Abstract: ‘The pessimistic hypothesis’ names the hypothesis that life is bad for us, in the sense that we are worse off for having come into existence. Suppose this hypothesis turns out to be true: existence turns out to be more of a burden than a gift. A natural next thought is that we should stop having children. Thus David Benatar argues that we are always harmed and never benefitted by coming into existence, and takes this to imply that it is impermissible to create new people (2006). Similarly, Derek Parfit assumes that it sometimes is permissible to create new people, and takes this to imply that some peoples’ lives are good for them (1984). I contend that both Benatar and Parfit are making a mistake; for it would be permissible to create new people even if the pessimistic hypothesis turned out to be true. Roughly, this is because we are often in a position to know that future people will approve of having been created, and our respect for their attitudes towards their own creation can permit us to create them. In other words, in so far as future people will be glad to have been created, we can to that extent ignore the effects of their creation on their well-being. A crucial part of my task will be to show that future people’s attitudes are worthy of respect. It is not irrational or otherwise inappropriate of them to approve of having come into existence, even if having come into existence is bad for them.