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Every Cradle Is a Grave: Rethinking the Ethics of Birth and Suicide

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  259 ratings  ·  34 reviews
Millions of years ago, humans just happened. Accidents of environment and genetics contributed to the emergence of sentient beings like us. Today, however, people no longer "just happen"; they are created by the voluntary acts of other people.
This book examines several questions about the ethics of human existence. Is it a good thing, for humans, that humans "happened"?
Paperback, 220 pages
Published November 21st 2014 by Nine-Banded Books (first published July 16th 2013)
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Anita Dalton
Sarah Perry wrote this book from a place of philosophical intellectualism and factual integrity. She exhaustively researched the hows and whys of suicide and procreation and makes a very compelling case for making suicide accessible for people who do not want to live and for considering whether or not it is ethical to continue to create new humans whose lives may be more a burden to them than a gift. As she deftly picks apart the arguments against suicide and antinatalism, she bestows upon manki ...more
The Brain in the Jar
Two ideas are hard-wired into our minds. We believe life is good and that forcing people into existence is a positive thing not because of rational thinking. Genes make us think this way, because this is how they progress. Without these ideas, an organism kills itself and doesn’t produce offspring. Genes die, and genes’ purpose is to continue.

People always killed themselves. Some cultures even claimed it’s virtuous in certain situations. We’ve made huge ‘progress’ (Or, more correctly, changes) o
Jun 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First off, it probably is important to understand the author's background. After multiple failed attempts at suicide, she seems to have become frustrated with a world where social nicety prohibits you from even speaking about suicide. This book is her attempt to change this.
While I don't want to charge her with being biased in favor of one position, you might want to keep this in mind while reading the book.

Nevertheless this little book, only a little more than 200 pages in length, is dense w
Carrie Poppy
Someone remind me to review this book.
Chris Beiser
Jul 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a peculiar one. Probably not for the faint of heart, but I highly recommend it. I didn’t find myself agreeing with every line, and I think Sarah is guilty of (unintentionally) minimizing the number of suicides that may be impulsive, but I walked away with a very different view of the ethics of birth and suicide.

After finishing it, I had a brief conversation with Sarah— you can see the start of the thread here:
Jason Roy
Nov 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thought-provoking, insightful, and very well written. Highly recommended for people interested in moral philosophy, bioethics, or who just like to have their sacred beliefs challenged.
David McLeod
Feb 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This, as Perry points out in the preface, is a book about ethics. She doesn't aim to persuade the reader to change their views on suicide or birth as much as pose inquiries and poke holes into long-held ethical beliefs that many are too (self) satisfied to question. She illuminates every dark alley in Suicide city. Did you know that successful suicide rates among women are equal to or greater than men in places where lethal poisons and other non-violent methods are readily available? Neither did ...more
Jul 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book about ethics. However, Sarah Perry is clear that people do not change their views on ethics from exposure to reasoned argument; so she is not out to persuade. She is also very clear that she is arguing points that most people would consider evil. Basically, that life is very bad and that people should not have babies or create aware beings (whose interests are very hard to predict before that being is created) and that suicide is not bad but an ethically rational response to the b ...more
Feb 28, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The legal and moral arguments set out in this book will be of use to lawyers, policy-makers, and anyone else looking for counterarguments to the "pro-existence bias" present in conversations around, for example, abortion or euthanasia. However, this is far from a scholarly work: Perry cheapens her arguments with snide remarks about the life projects that people choose to give their lives meaning, preferring those undertakings that fit with her biases. So, graduate school is a "gamble", but house ...more
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
one of the easier anti-natalist positions to be completely unconvinced by if your not also inclined to believe oversimplisitic and at times wilfully ignorant and contradictory narratives like 'zeitgeist' and hypernormalisation ...more
Feb 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books I've ever read. An unflinching, jarring book that took a lot of courage to write. If you want to challenge/doubt your most sacred, unquestionable beliefs, read this. ...more
May 14, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: female-authors
I knew nothing about Perry going into the book, and her arguments seemed at first to be wide-ranging and disconnected from each other. Connecting the book to her personal history, however, ties it together much more effectively. She settles into a kind of absurdism: we are here, we want meaning but can't have it without making it ourselves -- she deviates here from absurdism by choosing not to make meaning, or be part of a story -- living instead in an "epilogue." Maybe a third way between herse ...more
May 20, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
excellent introduction to suicide and antinatalism

Before I had finished this book, I thought it was written by a Professor in philosophy or ethics from some fancy University. Imagine my surprise when the author turns out to be "a housewife in San Antonio, Texas". Apparently she has a blog too, which, I'm sorry to say, I haven't read yet.

The author's credentials aside, this is an excellent introduction to the ethical side of suicide and creating new life. I was particularly impressed with Mrs.
Art Staraverov
Dec 04, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
250 pages of depression masquerading as philosophy and logic.

The authoress wasted their time because they said in 250 pages what can be said in a single sentence: every child will suffer and die, therefore creating children is bad. Does that mean creating scientists is bad because then scientists will suffer and die? Scientists make vaccines which increase the population, and thus the number of children, so according to the authoress, even the scientists are bad themselves! Clearly, the authores
The first chapter is great for someone who has never been confronted with the immense stigma of suicidality and doesn't understand it.

But reading the next chapter I had to put it down, because her use of terms like "meaning, value, purpose, belonging, status, self-worth, etc.." shows - in my opinion - that she has not really constructed a solid philosophical framework to build upon. She doesn't define these terms, or not sufficiently, uses them interchangeably, uses them too loosely. Since this
Ben Arzate
Mar 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a controversial book, for sure. However, it's one well worth reading. Perry's conclusions on the ethical implications of suicide and birth go completely against the grain. Even if you don't agree with them, this book will force you to rethink your views on life, meaning, and how the human mind works.

Full Review
Ali Al Maadeed
May 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Every line screamed out my inner thoughts saying “yes!”. It awesomely describes the intricacies of the socio-memetic fabric in shielding the self from conscious existence in a marvellous way. A terribly underrated book. I haven’t read Benatar yet, but this is a pretty solid anti-natalist book and Sarah has dealt with the topic with objectivity and logic. Other than the philosophical arguments, I appreciated the sociological and psychological aspects as well!
May 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is shockingly good.

I've always felt bad because I hated social constructions such as the wrongness of suicide and this book just pointed that I may not be in a bad morality after all. Maybe the world doesn't understand this yet.

I learned. I nodded continuously.
Morally challenging, interesting and very well written.
Stephen Douglas Rowland
2½. Interesting arguments, but I feel the whole is unfocused.
David Nash
May 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Interesting ideas, but the writing is a little dry, and they're not tied together particularly well. ...more
Jul 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Crisply and intelligently written. Refreshing to get a clear-eyed view of these weighty topics that are unfortunately grossly neglected or mistreated in dominant culture.
Jie Ying
The parts on (apparently) free disposal of life, moral foundations of suicide and benefits/harms asymmetry are insightful but the following concerns could be addressed for the thesis' robustness:

1) The position against procreation and in favour of suicide is contingent on the fact that suffering is an inevitable facet of life but what does that mean? Is suffering inevitable on the subjective or objective level? If the reply is that this distinction is not necessary, then why establish it to chal
Alexander Graden Kalamaroff
I think of Perry's writing a continuation of Camus's claim that "There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide." Perry's perspective can be categorized as anti-natalist, that is she argues that human beings should seriously consider ceasing to reproduce as it's morally bad.

Part of the antinatalist that I've never fully understood is this: Even if life is fundamentally bad, even if suffering and pain are inherent and overriding aspects of life, even with the guarantee
David Kwak
Nov 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very reasonable book that's ahead of its time.

Perry argues that the topic of suicide in our society is taboo and filled with misinformation due to the "sacred" values that we hold about life and meaning. It's intriguing to think through the full ramifications of a world where suicide is readily available and accepted ("free disposal").

Perry also discusses antinatalism, whether it's moral to bring another life into existence. I particularly like Benatar's asymmetry argument: "Preventing bad ex
Jul 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pain and suffering are real. This book does not praise suicide and antinatalism, but takes a step back and goes into a thorough discussion of the subject. Is it truly a good thing to have been born in the first place? The questions and subjects in this book are not often talked about, and when they are, it's often with a lot of censorship. This book can open your mind to think critically about two very important subjects regarding everyone alive, and yet to be born.

Some chapters are slow and bor
Alex Cummings
Mar 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perry's book is a bracing new take on the question of natalism vs. antinatalism, i.e. whether it's good to be alive and whether it's good to create new life. She advances her argument with clarity and erudition, and the audacity of the basic thesis is refreshing, but the author also seems to be incredibly stubborn in refusing to consider any other rationales for the value of life itself. It also seems like there is some strange right-wing politics lurking around in the background, for what it's ...more
A. K.
Feb 06, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I went into this book very excited, but ultimately, the organization and writing were downright awful. This book reads more like a Twitter thread or an incompetent undergrad's paper than a book. When I read at the end that Perry is a housewife and this is her first book, it all made more sense. I'm hopeful I can find some better books on the topic, not this disorganized drivel. ...more
Kevin Svartvit
Aug 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes flawed in it’s conclusions or assumptions which seems to be mostly caused by a very invested author. Thought provoking and fascinating nonetheless.
Jul 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-buy-physical
Skip the bits where she starts talking about behavioural econ and utility functions
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