Is Having Children Immoral?

When a couple philosophers weigh in on the moral implications of having children, they reach some alarming conclusions. Might the Universe be better off without the human race?

What's the Latest Development?

Are people's reasons for having children morally justifiable? In a new book, philosopher Christine Overall dissects couples' motives and reaches some surprising conclusions. First, that childbearing is natural does not mean it is good. Plenty of our natural tendencies need restraining, she says. Next, the claim that giving life will benefit the yet-to-be-born is unacceptable since nonexistent people do not have moral standingthere are an infinite amount of nonexistent people who seem quite content in their current situation. Finally, Overall references studies which suggest that having children typically makes their parents less happy. 

What's the Big Idea?

Philosopher David Benatar comes to some even more surprising conclusions based on how we think of pleasure and pain. Every life is a mixture of both, to be sure, but Benatar concludes that the world is worse off when needless suffering is brought into it. So what about those people who are happy to have been born despite the pain they undoubtedly suffer from time to time? They are fooling themselves, says Benatar, because their genes come from a long lineage of people who thought procreating was a good idea. Though one might rightly wonder why Benatar continues to shoulder his own burdensome life.

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