The negative utilitarianism states that reduction of suffering is more important than increasing of the happiness. Namely:

"reducing negative well-being is the only thing that ultimately matters morally".

Maybe I am looking at the problem too globally and maybe I should look at it from the perspective of a given individual. However, I believe that in the long run the procreation can lead to both reduction of suffering and increase of happiness.

This a little exaggerated example but here it goes. With each birth there is a slight chance that a person who will invent cure for cancer has been born. And of course such event would reduce a lot of suffering globally. And this example can be extended to other inventions that would have similiar effect. Perhaps in the end due to technological development mankind could erase all its suffering and keep some happiness.

I belive the reasoning behind negative utilitarism is that if mankind stop procreation then it will die out and that in turn will eventually lead to a point where there is no suffering at all. ( And no happiness )

  • Negative utilitarian answer revised. Might be of more interest.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Jan 11 '18 at 16:44

There is no logical requirement for negative utilitarianism to support anti-natalism. So if there is something wrong with negative utilitariansm, support for antinatalism isn't it.

Negative utilitarianism requires that the elimination of pain or at least the causing of the least possible amount of suffering be given priority over the maximisation of happiness or pleasure. It does not require that the injunction to eliminate pain or cause the least possible amount of suffering replace totally the injunction to maximise happiness.

It is true that if humankind were eliminated, pain (or at least human pain) would be eliminated along with it. Pain would not be eliminated, however, since animal pain would remain.

Three more comments are in place :

  1. No reason is given for according priority to (a) the elimination of pain over (b) causing of the least possible amount of suffering while still accommodating unpreventable suffering. ('Least possible' implies 'some'.) Where's the argument for this priority ? Very clearly, causing the least possible amount of suffering does not mandate the elimination of humankind since even the smallest amount of suffering requires the existence of humankind if any suffering is to be experienced.

  2. There remains a requirement, of lower priority, to maximise happiness or pleasure. This cannot be fulfilled, as far as concerns humankind, if humanity is eliminated. The co-existence of the least possible amount of suffering with the maximisation of happiness might produce a better state of affairs on balance than the total absence of both pain and pleasure. If there is an argument against this, I can't see what it is.

  3. There is a false dilemma in opposing the elimination of suffering to the maximisation of happiness or pleasure. Every utilitarian I know includes the elimination of pain in the requirement to maximise happiness or pleasure. It is obvious why this should be so : neutral states aside the less pain there is, the more pleasure.


The problem with your example of finding the cure for cancer is that it assumes a binary potential where either a human contributes to the cure or does nothing. This ignores a human's potential (and perhaps even guarantee) to cause harm during their life.

To solve this you would need to calculate each person's net potential for harm based on the situation they were born into. An impossible feat and this discrimination would cause further suffering.

Negative utilitarianism argues from the view that without humans you can have no cancer or suffering (of humans) and the potential happiness of humans who would live is not a factor.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.