Pro-mortalism is the rather unpopular view that it would be ethical to kill all humanity instantly and painlessly to prevent further suffering if that was feasible. Sam Harris and David Benatar reject this view in a recent episode of the Waking up Podcast, and R. N. Smart's also attacks it in his "benevolent world-exploder" thought experiment. Does anybody know of a philosopher who actually openly subscribes to this view?

It's easy for me to see why somebody would keep such an opinion private, since there's a lot of stigma around it and I think many universities and institutions would prefer to avoid associating with people with these views, so some philosophers may avoid this in order to preserve their reputation. Also, it's hard not to be diagnosed as depressive by your interlocutors, leading people to start investigating and speculating about your personal life. But I was wondering if anybody has been brave enough to face all these obstacles and "come out" as a pro-mortalist.

  • According to his Wikipedia page, Benatar previously gave some level of approval towards the benevolent world-exploder idea. I think his objection to it now, aren't moral but only practical - harm from the risk of failing – CriglCragl Mar 6 '18 at 10:17

Since there is some doubt - see comments above - whether anybody actually holds this position, a useful first step might be to probe it philosophically for ourselves. It's better than nothing.

  1. If all humanity were instantly and painlessly killed, this would not prevent all further suffering. At most it would prevent all further human suffering.

  2. Even this is not certain, since in the present conditions of terrestrial life, evolution might re-create humanity, replete with all its sufferings.

  3. There seems to be an implicit premise that there is a balance of suffering over happiness, pleasure, well-being. If suffering is a disvalue, then these other states when valorised might (how can you calculate ?) outweigh the disvalue of suffering - might be morally more significant than suffering. In which case the termination of a no longer sufffering humanity would create a less valuable world than one in which a suffering humanity enjoyed a balance of happiness, pleasure or well-being over suffering. Even is this premise is not implicit, my argument still applies.

  • I've thought of that as well, but I guess the view that it would be ethical to explode the world, destroying it completely along with all sentient beings, leaving no room for future life to evolve there because the planet is gone, is still pro-mortalism. – Ariel Dec 25 '17 at 12:26
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    Regarding 1 and 2, I think it is pretty clear that pro-mortalists are concerned not just with human life but with all sentient life. – user76284 Oct 29 '18 at 1:27

You might want to look at the arguments made with regard to the philosophy of David Benatar, a professor of philosophy at the University of Cape Town in Cape Town, South Africa. I realize you mentioned he does not see himself as a pro-mortalist but this paper may be of interest to you nonetheless.

Benatar’s anti-natalism equates to pro-mortalism paper

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    D. Benetar, for his own part, claims to be anti-natalist but not pro-mortalist – Dave Dec 20 '17 at 23:37
  • @Dave - point well taken. But one can argue that his views imply both anti-natalism and pro-mortalism. – tale852150 Dec 20 '17 at 23:57
  • I've already mentioned Benatar in my question and he says explicitly that he is NOT a pro-mortalist (in the episode of the Waking Up Podcast I linked to). – Ariel Dec 25 '17 at 12:23
  • Also, the link in your answer is broken. Do you have another source? Thanks – Ariel Dec 25 '17 at 12:23
  • @Ariel The initial article/link was removed from the internet. I have replaced it with a link to the actual document. – tale852150 Dec 25 '17 at 18:49

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