Economics and Philosophy

Discussion note

BETTER NEVER TO HAVE BEEN BELIEVED: BENATAR ON THE HARM OF EXISTENCE

Campbell Browna1

a1 University of Edinburgh

Abstract

In Better Never to Have Been, David Benatar argues that existence is always a harm (Benatar 2006: 18–59). His argument, in brief, is that this follows from a theory of personal good which we ought to accept because it best explains several ‘asymmetries’. I shall argue here (a) that Benatar's theory suffers from a defect which was already widely known to afflict similar theories, and (b) that the main asymmetry he discusses is better explained in a way which allows that existence is often not a harm.

(Online publication January 18 2011)

Campbell Brown is a Lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh.

Footnotes

For helpful discussions and comments on previous drafts I would like to thank Daniel Cohen, Toby Handfield and Yujin Nagasawa.