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Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence
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Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  661 Ratings  ·  104 Reviews
Better Never to Have Been argues for a number of related, highly provocative, views: (1) Coming into existence is always a serious harm. (2) It is always wrong to have children. (3) It is wrong not to abort fetuses at the earlier stages of gestation. (4) It would be better if, as a result of there being no new people, humanity became extinct. These views may sound unbeliev ...more
Hardcover, 237 pages
Published October 19th 2006 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 2006)
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Steven Phillips
Dec 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
My girlfriend was on the fence about having an abortion so I picked up a copy of this here shit right here, had her read it and VOILA! Fetus Deletus! This shit is magic and I recommend all sexually active males retain a copy!
Erroll Treslan
Seldom will you find a philosopher who can write this well for laypersons with the courage to advance such a counterintuitive thesis. While people may find Benatar's conclusion repugnant (i.e. coming into existence is always a harm and extinction of the human race should be desired end), it is exceedingly difficult to find any flaw in his logic. This is a great piece of work and philosphically sound. While it may have been better that Benatar had never been, I am sure glad that he is being.
Augusts Bautra
Apr 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Mr. Benatar sticks it out alone. In the face of religion and base natural drives he argues that there is nothing intrinsically good about procreation. He goes even further than that and, striking repulsion in the faces most potential and actual parents, denouncing them as "playing Russian roulette with a fully loaded gun—aimed, of course, not at their own heads, but at those of their future offspring".

The book is not without it's problems, of course. If the topic does not scare off most of the r
Rory Švarc
Sep 07, 2013 rated it liked it
As noted on the blurb of this book, Benatar defends a view that 'almost no one accepts': coming into existence is always a serious harm. Indeed, though he doesn't state it in these terms, his conclusions hold not just for the actual world, but also entail that, for any logically possible world, coming into existence is at best morally neutral.

These ideas are based off a commitment to an asymmetry between pleasure and pain. This is the thought that, although it is wrong to bring into existence a
Nov 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Better Never to Have Been is a tremendous philosophical work dealing with antinatalism. In it, David Benatar argues for that which no one has the courage to argue for: That coming into existence is always a harm and that sometimes life may not only not be worth starting but also not worth continuing. The book is very well written and extremely clear. You can tell that Benatar really went out of his way to make sure this was an accessible book to everyone. His case is purely logical and you won't ...more
Brett Talley
Nov 22, 2011 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one
Eh. *shrugs shoulders* Shock jock philosophy that fails to be all that shocking. Like a trip to the latest exploitation flick where we find out that we've seen it all before. Did I read every word? No need. As is typical with this type of "philosophy," Mr. Benatar lays out his premise and then spends the rest of the book repeating it, over and over and over. Does he really believe what he writes? Who knows?

It is sad that modern philosophy has fallen so deeply into the nihilism abyss that we lit
Oct 15, 2012 marked it as to-read
Haven't read it, and I don't know if I will, but I'm happy to have found that there are actually other people along the same line of thinking as mine.
Aug 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a really thought-provoking book and I agree with its main take away: that procreation is immoral. However, I find some of the arguments a bit sloppy, mainly regarding his position that each and every life is not worth starting because it contains suffering.
Jan 11, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An absolute must-read for anyone considering having children, either voluntarily or under duress, and for all those who are childless by choice who need to know that they are not alone. Enjoy!
Sep 15, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
A fascinating book that stakes out a well-argued if quite unusual position - that given the suffering of human existence (which is bad) and the fact the a non-existent being does not regret missing out on pleasure, it is better not to come into existence. The author is careful to draw a distinction between coming into existence (through being born) and ceasing to exist (via suicide for example.) He is arguing against giving birth to new children, not in favor of suicide. In the course of making ...more
Dec 08, 2012 rated it liked it
There are a couple of times in this book when Benatar just asserts some point that he has not argued for earlier in the book. One example of this is his claim that after a certain amount of pain no amount of pleasure can make a life worthwhile. This seems quite wrong.

He argues that because of the non identity problem coming into existence is always a bad thing. This might be a problem for deontologists, but definitely not for consequentialists.

He talks about how the polyanna principle makes us b
Peter Mcloughlin
The author argues with Utilitarian arguments that it is better to have not been born and coming into existence constitutes a harm. I studied physics as an undergrad and sometimes your model gives absurd answers because our reality is truly bizarre and sometimes it gives absurd answers merely because your model is wrong for that range of phenomena. I think a misapplication of the model of utilitarianism is the heart of the problem. Utilitarian calculus is great at figuring in places like public p ...more
Karl Steel
needs more phenomenology. we don't live our lives all at once. for this reason, the balance-sheet method to calculating whether existence is a good or an ill doesn't work.

that said, there's almost no good reason to bring another human being into existence. on that point, he and I agree.
Jun 12, 2015 rated it really liked it

I found this book after reading Thomas Ligotti's "The Conspiracy Against the Human Race." This is a far more philosophical, dry text. Ligotti is focused on the "nightmare of being" and the human condition with a focus on the "curse" of consciousness and it's relation to horror fiction in particular. Benatar is more focused on the traditional anti-natalist viewpoint.

I thought this was a rigorously and deftly-argued book, and while Benatar realizes he isn't likely to change many minds, he feels he
Apr 17, 2007 rated it really liked it
Great quote:

"Some know that their baby will be among the unfortunate. Nobody knows, however, that their baby will be one of the allegedly lucky few. Great suffering could await any person that is brought into existence. Even the most privileged people could give birth to a child that will suffer unbearably, be raped, assaulted, or be murdered brutally."
Jul 22, 2010 rated it it was ok
There are some interesting arguments in this book about the rationality of continuing to create more people, but everything hinges on the idea that to exist is to be harmed. It seems that because it is unavoidable that we will occasionally be hungry or a little cold or that sometimes people are murdered, we would all be better off never experiencing anything at all. That seems a bit extreme and subjective to me, and I was never fully convinced of the premise but it was enlightening to follow the ...more
Oct 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
No less essential than The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, this book lays out a broad, powerful argument against any further procreation on the basis of harm done. Admittedly counterintuitive (like other facts of life), the central, pro-death, extinction-embracing thesis is actually the most philanthropic route. The sooner human suffering ends altogether, the better. That said, my personal bias on the subject didn't blind me to flaws in this book, such as the almost immediate descent into psy ...more
Dec 30, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Required reading for folks who believe that procreation is justified. You don't need to be convinced by Benatar's arguments, but you should have tested yourself against them before taking up the awesome potential for harm that comes with procreation.
David M
Dec 07, 2017 marked it as to-read
This is a creepy fucking book.
Stephen Douglas Rowland
Feb 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Good lord this is a difficult read, far more scholarly than The Human Predicament: A Candid Guide to Life's Biggest Questions and almost purely focused on antinatalist arguments. I barely finished high school, and I've never had much interest in philosophy, so the way everything was presented here was new and challenging for me. I cannot help but marvel, slack-jawed, at the way Benatar's mind works, anticipating his detractors' counter-arguments and crushing them almost before they can be made. ...more
Andy McKenzie
Jun 13, 2012 rated it it was ok
A bit egocentric in its presentation--all about "his views"--although maybe that is typical for philosophy. I want to stress that the 1.5/5 rating is not for the topic itself, which I think is fascinating and worth considering, in appropriate settings, but rather for the actual logic. The outright refusal to make harm/benefit trade-offs, even in theory, is just a non-starter for almost anybody who thinks about this issue. Also it got a bit technical and terminology-heavy at times, which at least ...more
Basma Abdallah Uraiqat
May 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book offers an extremely interesting perspective and one of the most controversial books that I have ever read. The writer is extremely brave in his ideas and this attempt at publishing them. It can be very offensive to most people yet though provoking if one is able to tolerate such an extreme stand on issues of existence and procreation.

However, as the ideas themselves are intriguing at the least, the adopted philosophical method I believe did not do the writer much favor. He has employed
Dec 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy, ethics
This book is just plain fun. Benatar is an amusing writer, not because he writes hilarious prose (it's extremely clear and concise), but because he baldly states his wild conclusions in his clear, straight-forward way. The book starts by making an argument with which no one agrees (that coming into existence is always a harm, that we ought never to bring any new people into existence), and then working through all the implications of his view that seem to count against it. (Spoiler alert! he bit ...more
David Ellis
Nov 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
I found this book clear, thorough and persuasive. Many people won't read the most important part, chapters two and three, not because they're not clear and well-argued but because many people don't like reading this kind of philosophy.

The author states the conclusion and supporting arguments plus all the potential objections and counter-arguments, which he refutes one by one. This can seem tedious if you prefer a more rhetorical, polemic treatment. But a more rhetorical, polemic treatment would
Jun 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone contemplating his/her existence.
Go here for the review of the main argument:
Feb 23, 2009 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: NO ONE, EVER
Shelves: rubbish, nonsense
this is a remarkably childish and stupid book. better to have never been written. (seriously though)
Jul 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bio-ethics
I am going to love this one. This subject really gets me. Something so true yet so controversial. It speaks right to the center of our being and our nature as humans.
Mar 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Future parents
Shelves: philosophy
"The optimist surely bears the burden of justifying this procreational Russian roulette."

3.5 stars. I was irrevocably in favor of this book's conclusions a year ago. I even used parts of it for my undergrad seminar. Now that I've read it through and through, I must say I'm a little disappointed.

First of all, the book isn't really enjoyable. By this of course, I don't mean to say that I expected a 'happy' read, but something profound, touching, shattering, anything..? Shouldn't it be? It discus
Jan 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Meglio non essere mai nati, dice il sudafricano Benatar.
Lo fa con un solido (almeno nell'intento) libro di filosofia analitica, non con piagnistei di stampo continentale sul destino rio che opprime le umane genti.

Attenzione, però.
Il titolo può trarre in inganno: il libro non vuole difendere il suicidio, che considera solo incidentalmente, bensì promuovere l'antinatalismo.
Benatar distingue difatti tra vite degne d'essere vissute e degne d'essere iniziate; e fa notare come la distinzione sia già p
Jan 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
It was hard to rate this book - I can't say I enjoyed it as it was quite a difficult read, although he clearly intended it to be accessible to the layman, rather than only to those trained in philosophy and logic. I admit I skimmed some sections, especially the chapter on extinction. I finished the book still undecided about whether or not I accept his argument. There can be no doubt, even so, that procreation should be drastically curtailed, and that it is wise to think twice before deliberatel ...more
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Cool Syfy Mind Cloning Loophole 1 4 Oct 26, 2016 07:59PM  
  • Confessions of an Antinatalist
  • Nihil Unbound: Naturalism and Anti-Phenomenological Realism
  • The Conspiracy Against the Human Race
  • The Silence of Animals: On Progress and Other Modern Myths
  • The Last Messiah
  • The Trouble with Being Born
  • Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy
  • Why Have Children?: The Ethical Debate
  • The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy
  • On Suicide: A Discourse on Voluntary Death
  • In the Dust of This Planet (Horror of Philosophy, #1)
  • The Anatomy of Disgust
  • The Possibility of Altruism
  • Reasons and Persons
  • A Companion to Ethics (Blackwell Companions to Philosophy)
  • Beast and Man: The Roots of Human Nature
  • The Philosophy of Schopenhauer
  • The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy and Other Essays
“It is curious that while good people go to great lengths to spare their children from suffering, few of them seem to notice that the one (and only) guaranteed way to prevent all the suffering of their children is not to bring those children into existence in the first place.” 85 likes
“Creating new people, by having babies, is so much a part of human life that it is rarely thought even to require a justification. Indeed, most people do not even think about whether they should or should not make a baby. They just make one. In other words, procreation is usually the consequence of sex rather than the result of a decision to bring people into existence. Those who do indeed decide to have a child might do so for any number of reasons, but among these reasons cannot be the interests of the potential child. One can never have a child for that child’s sake.” 61 likes
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