Source: Benatar, David. Better Never to Have Been (2008 1 edn).
[p. 2 Top:] Creating new people, by having babies, is so much a part of human life that it is rarely thought even to require a justification. Indeed, most people do not even think about whether they should or should not make a baby. They just make one. In other words, procreation is usually the consequence of sex rather than the result of a decision to bring people into existence. Those who do indeed decide to have a child might do so for any number of reasons, but among these reasons cannot be the interests of the potential child. 1. One can never have a child for that child’s sake. [mine] That much should be apparent to everybody, even those who reject the stronger view for which I argue in this book—that not only does one not benefit people by bringing them into existence, but one always harms them.
I know that no child exists before insemination. Instead, why can't a human reproduce for a potential child's sake? To wit, why can't 1 and 2 be true for potential children?
There is a second support for my claim about the asymmetry between (3) and (4). Whereas it is strange (if not incoherent) to give as a reason for having a child that the child one has will thereby be benefited,²⁷ it is not strange to cite a potential child’s interests as a basis for avoiding bringing a child into existence. If having children were done for the purpose of thereby benefiting those children, then there would be greater moral reason for at least many people to have more children. In contrast to this, our concern for the welfare of potential children who would suffer is a sound basis for deciding not to have the child. If absent pleasures were bad irrespective of whether they were bad for anybody, then having children for their own sakes would not be odd. And if it were not the case that absent pains are good even where they are not good for anybody, then we could not say that it would be good to avoid bringing suffering children into existence.
Thirdly, support for the asymmetry between (3) and (4) can be drawn from a related asymmetry, this time in our retrospective judgements. Bringing people into existence as well as failing to bring people into existence can be regretted. However, only bringing people into existence can be regretted for the sake of the person whose existence was contingent on our decision. This is not because those who are not brought into existence are indeterminate. Instead it is because they never exist. We can regret, for the sake of an indeterminate but existent person that a benefit was not bestowed on him or her, but [2.] we cannot regret, for the sake of somebody who never exists and thus cannot thereby be deprived, a good that this never existent person never experiences. One might grieve about not having had children, but not because the children that one could have had have been deprived of existence. Remorse about not having children is remorse for
²⁷ In other words, it is odd to suggest that one can have a child for that child’s sake.
ourselves—sorrow about having missed childbearing and child-rearing experiences. However, we do regret having brought into existence a child with an unhappy life, and we regret it for the child’s sake, even if also for our own sakes. The reason why we do not lament our failure to bring somebody into existence is because absent pleasures are not bad