Heavy Lifting - thoughts and web finds by an economist
|I also contribute to Division of Labour||Load HL's Front Page|
Saturday, October 06, 2007
From the Journal of Medical Ethics comes this review of the book "Better to never have been" by one D. Benatar:
One of the merits of Benatar's analysis is its simplicity. Life is always a bitch to some extent; it always entails some degree of harm, including that of the experience of dying. Are the potential benefits of human existence ever worth the candle of such experience? According to Benatar, the answer is no. The reason is that for existers, harm is bad and benefit is good.2i However, non-existence entails no harm (which is good) and no absence of any benefits that existers may experience (which is not bad). Thus, non-existence guarantees no harm of any kind and harm of some kind is guaranteed by existence. Note that, in arguing as much, Benatar is aware of the importance of linking the good of the absence of harm entailed by non-existence to existing persons. He does so through arguing that since only existers suffer harm, it is better—"preferable"—for possible persons not to become actual persons and thereby have to then also have to suffer it. This view is an interesting twist on the Epicurean argument against fear of death: once death brings non-existence, no further harm or absence of benefit can be experienced, so why worry? In developing his argument, Benatar applies the same logic to the creation of all human life, no matter how absurd he recognises that this may seem to others.
I follow the arguments but the biggest problem I see is that Benatar's entire argument relies on interpersonal utility comparisons, which economists long ago abandoned as futile. As soon as IUC's are taken off the table, the argument that having never been born is "preferable" to having been born (or being born? - this seems a subtle difference) cannot be made, at least from an economist's point of view, and therefore the book's premise evaporates.
I appreciate the review because it seems to outline the arguments presented adequately and provided something of value to me: substitute for reading the actual book and therefore saving considerable time for other things which I prefer.
Although I am definitely not a Randian scholar, I always found Rand's philosophy to be much more optimistic about life. I wonder how she would have responded to this.
Comments: Post a Comment
Le Chai - galerie du vin
Posts that contain Craig Depken per day for the last 90 days.
Heavy Lifting's Main Page
Money I Found Today
Heavy Lifting - Firehose style (56k warning)
- Compare this to Ayn Rand's philosophy
Modified maystar design
powered by blogger