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The Asymmetry Argument

The Asymmetry Argument

Chapter:
(p.18) 2 The Asymmetry Argument
Source:
Debating Procreation
Author(s):
David Benatar
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199333547.003.0003

This chapter begins by presenting the non-identity problem, otherwise known as “the paradox of future individuals”, which involves issues of whether and under what circumstances life is worth living, specifically why it is wrong to create a suffering person when the alternative would have been not to create that person at all. In suggesting responses to that problem, the chapter then argues that there is an axiological asymmetry between benefits and harms, the upshot of which is that coming into existence is always in fact a net harm. Various scenarios are introduced under which the benefits of procreation are considered, but the axiological asymmetry is defended against such objections and the advantages of asymmetry are presented. The latter include the resolution of various problems in population ethics. The connection between this asymmetry and frustrationism vs. anti-frustrationism is explained.

Keywords:   non-identity problem, axiology, asymmetry, population ethics, frustrationism, anti-frustrationism

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