Source: Benatar, David. Better Never to Have Been (2008 1 edn). pp. 30 Bottom - 31 Top.

[...] it strikes me as true that

(3) the absence of pain is good, even if that good is not enjoyed by anyone,
(4) the absence of pleasure is not bad unless there is somebody for whom this absence is a deprivation.

Now it might be asked how the absence of pain could be good if that good is not enjoyed by anybody. Absent pain, it might be said, cannot be good for anybody, if nobody exists for whom it can be good. This, however, is to dismiss (3) too quickly.

  The judgement made in (3) is made with reference to the (potential) interests of a person who either does or does not exist. To this it

might be objected that because (3) is part of the scenario under which this person never exists, (3) cannot say anything about an existing person. This objection would be mistaken because (3) can say something about a counterfactual case in which a person who does actually exist never did exist. Of the pain of an existing person, () says that the absence of this pain would have been good even if this could only have been achieved by the absence of the person who now suffers it. In other words, judged in terms of the interests of a person who now exists, the absence of the pain would have been good even though this person would then not have existed. Consider next what (3) says of the absent pain of one who never exists—of pain, the absence of which is ensured by not making a potential person actual. Claim (3) says that this absence is good when judged in terms of the interests of the person who would otherwise have existed. We may not know who that person would have been, but we can still say that whoever that person would have been, the avoidance of his or her pains is good when judged in terms of his or her potential interests. If there is any (obviously loose) sense in which the absent pain is good for the person who could have existed but does not exist, this is it. Clearly (3) does not entail the absurd literal claim that there is some actual person for whom the absent pain is good.²³

²³ One could (logically) make symmetrical claims about the absence of pleasure—that, when judged in terms of the (potential) interests of a person who does or does not exist, this absence of pleasure is bad. However, (4) suggests that this symmetrical claim, although logically possible, is actually false. I shall defend (4) later [emboldening mine]. For now my aim has been only to show that (3) is not incoherent.

On what page does Benatar defend (4)?

  • Since you seem to have electronic version of the book this should be answerable with a text search. – Conifold May 19 '18 at 6:46
  • @Conifold I'm using the print version. It isn't though? I read this book twice, and after this page, he doesn't explicitly where. – NNOX Apps May 19 '18 at 6:50

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