Monday, September 19, 2011

Workshop on Benatar's Better Never to Have Been

Call for Papers: Benatar’s Better Never to Have Been

Special Issue of the South African Journal of Philosophy, one of the
most long-standing philosophy journals in Africa, accredited by the

Guest Editor: Thaddeus Metz (Humanities Research Professor at the
University of Johannesburg)

Invited Contributors: David Boonin (Professor of Philosophy at the
University of Colorado, Boulder) and Saul Smilansky (Professor of
Philosophy at the University of Haifa)

Professor David Benatar’s Better Never to Have Been (Oxford, 2006) is
the most intricate and careful exposition and defence of anti-
natalism. Benatar argues, on the basis of purportedly uncontroversial
premises, for a variety of surprising and radical conclusions about
the disvalue of our lives and our moral duties in light of it. Benatar
argues that no matter how much happiness people might experience
during their lives, it would always have been better for them never to
have been created. And from the claim that human life is never worth
starting Benatar further concludes that it is almost always immoral to
procreate and that abortion in the early stages of pregnancy is
morally required.

Contributions are sought for an issue of the South African Journal of
Philosophy devoted to several facets of anti-natalism and of Benatar’s
treatment of it in particular. These include, but are not restricted
to, the following:
•       Precisely where is Benatar’s argument for anti-natalism most
questionable? How does it compare with other arguments for anti-
natalism? Do they share common premises or strategies? Which is the
most defensible?
•       Is it plausible to hold anti-natalism without pro-mortalism, viz.,
the view that we should commit suicide?
•       Under what conditions might one be justified in creating a person
whose life is not worth starting in terms of her well-being? Can it be
right to create such a person for the sake of helping others? How
might considerations of human dignity figure into a justification for
creating her?
•       If a child is always worse off for having been created, what are the
moral responsibilities of her parents with respect to her? Is
compensation owed, and, if so, what kind and how much?
•       If the typical human life is indeed a net harm, how should the state
get involved? Should it facilitate wrongful life suits, or discourage
•       From what standpoint is it appropriate to appraise the quality of
our lives? Standpoints range from the most subjective, that of an
individual, to that of ‘the universe’, the most objective viewpoint
available. Is there a principled way to determine where on the scale
is suitable?

Deadline for submissions: 15 October 2011. Manuscripts should be
submitted electronically to Thaddeus Metz ( Those
whose papers are selected for inclusion in the special issue will be
invited to participate in a workshop with Professor Benatar, to be
held at the University of Johannesburg on 23-24 November 2011.

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