Peter Singer on Forced Sterilization

Speaking of storks, let me offer a (offensive) possible.

In the NYT, Singer writes, “So why don’t we make ourselves the last generation on earth? If we would all agree to have ourselves sterilized then no sacrifices would be required — we could party our way into extinction!”

Singer cites Schopenhauer as arguing that life ain’t so great, “The 19th-century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer held that even the best life possible for humans is one in which we strive for ends that, once achieved, bring only fleeting satisfaction. New desires then lead us on to further futile struggle and the cycle repeats itself.”

How might this view translate into the 21st century? Singer cites a fascinating South African philosopher, David Benatar, author of a fine book with an arresting title: “Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence.”

Benatar takes a very interesting view on the morality of increasing the population.

“To bring into existence someone who will suffer is, Benatar argues, to harm that person, but to bring into existence someone who will have a good life is not to benefit him or her.”

I’m not so sure about the logic here, but Singer seems sure, and I trust that (a little, just please let me keep my shoes).

“Few of us would think it right to inflict severe suffering on an innocent child, even if that were the only way in which we could bring many other children into the world. Yet everyone will suffer to some extent, and if our species continues to reproduce, we can be sure that some future children will suffer severely. Hence continued reproduction will harm some children severely, and benefit none.

Some interesting questions to think about:

Is life worth living?
Are the interests of a future child a reason for bringing that child into existence?
And is the continuance of our species justifiable in the face of our knowledge that it will certainly bring suffering to innocent future human beings?

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