Antinatalists claim that it is immoral to procreate. For instance:

David Benatar argues there is an asymmetry between pleasure and pain, which means it would be better for humans not to have been alive:

1) The presence of pain is bad;

2) The presence of pleasure is good;

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.


It comes down to: the less unhappy people there are the better for society as a whole (and presumably for the people that don't exist).

But if the morally minded should subscribe to this ethic, it will mean that subsequent generations would be composed of less and less people reared by the morally minded. Given that the purpose of ethical values is to promote harmony and well being, it follows that in a society composed of a higher percentage people raised by the lesser morally inclined, there would be at greater amount of discord and unhappiness. Thus having children and raising them to a high moral standing is a greater good than refraining from procreating.

So the question is how do antinatalists answer the global effects that "the good people dying out" can have?

Here is the assumption that, a child will be morally inclined much as those who raised him, but I believe this is empirically backed.

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    Yes, of course: antinatalism will produce the extinction of humanity and thus the end of philosophy. Oct 4, 2018 at 10:56
  • You are talkin as if "morally minded" and "high moral standing" have some agreed upon meanings. They do not. And according to many who are often considered most "morally minded" to promote "harmony and well being" is not the purpose of ethics, that only applies to common good utilitarianism, it is rather that virtue is its own reward, or that moral duty is fundamental in itself. So the response can be that nothing you say need to be responded to. Are you simply asking whether antinatalism is compatible with utilitarianism?
    – Conifold
    Oct 4, 2018 at 20:08
  • @Conifold Proof by contradiction: "...IF the morally minded [in general, as when all have one rule] should subscribe..."; AND "GIVEN that the purpose..." [as from Antinatalism]; "...it follows... greater... unhappiness" [OPPOSITE of the Antinatalist's intent]; CONCLUSION: "Thus having children..." QUESTION: Can you answer from an antinatalist perspective? - Also, how could you evaluate "virtue" (or reward)? If virtue is it's own reward then its basis must be axiomatic. But without "agreed upon meanings" how can "Who is right" be found without reference to common, or general, good?
    – christo183
    Oct 5, 2018 at 6:06
  • The first part is unintelligible to me. "If virtue is it's own reward then its basis must be axiomatic". No, it can instead be intuitive, with varying intuitions from person to person (or varying "axioms", for that matter). And "who is right" does not often have a common answer exactly because there are no common meanings.
    – Conifold
    Oct 5, 2018 at 21:17
  • @Conifold We're a tiny bit off topic but this is fascinating. Is there any references on intuitive values? One would think the earliest age at which intuitive values could form would be between six and twelve years old. Yet developmentally prior to this we learn (form mental constructs) by observation and mimicking. Wouldn't that reduce "intuition" to: internalizing normative social behavior? But if one can form a unique, intuitive value set, what then about people who create aberrant values? Does this mean a serial killer may feel justified by acting in accordance with their twisted values?
    – christo183
    Oct 6, 2018 at 5:18

2 Answers 2


The OP makes the following assumption:

Here is the assumption that, a child will be morally inclined much as those who raised him, but I believe this is empirically backed.

Although there is cultural influence, moral foundations theory would claim that morals are innate and not completely determined by the cultural such as social construction, education or rational argument. See Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind for a discussion of this view which has empirical backing.

The urge to procreate is also innate. It is not completely dependent on culture nor on reasoning abilities. For a discussion of the evidence regarding this see Larry Young and Brian Alexander's The Chemistry Between Us.

So, given these empirically backed positions and assuming they are right, one should not have to worry that the morally minded will die out because they subscribe to Benatar's anti-natalism. All that might occur would be the people who support anti-natalism may more likely die out, should they practice the theory, or the theory may be culturally abandoned given our innate moral foundations and innate desire to procreate.


Alexander, B., Young, L. (2012). The chemistry between us: Love, sex, and the science of attraction. Penguin.

Haidt, J. (2012). The righteous mind: Why good people are divided by politics and religion. Vintage. https://www.moralfoundations.org/

  • A good point that the theory would likely die out before anything else.
    – christo183
    Oct 5, 2018 at 5:14

So the question is how do antinatalists answer the global effects that "the good people dying out" can have?

Ideas and philosophy don't have to be spread from child to parent. They can also spread between unrelated people through arguments, conversations, and writing. They can also arise spontaneously, as is the case with me. I was an antinatalist before I knew the definition of the word or that there were others like me. So the fact that most antinatalists choose not to have children may not cause the philosophy to die out. This view is somewhat empirically supported as we've had antinatalists in the human race in some form dating back to antiquity. See The History of Antinatalism by Lochmanova. Hence, antinatalism persists, even though particular antinatalist religious groups and societies have disappeared in just a few decades.

Anecdotally, at least one famous antinatalist (Danny Shine) had children before becoming an antinatalist, but his children do not share his antinatalist beliefs.

I should point out that, even if we (antinatalists) believed we will eventually die out due to our own non-procreation, it still wouldn't be moral for us to procreate.

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    There is a distinction to be made as to the objective of moral behavior. On one hand one can take moral conduct as a good in-itself in which case one would be inclined to say "I'll not have children because they will suffer". Or we can take moral conduct as an attempt to promote the greater good, then one would say "I'll not procreate because it will increase the amount of suffering in the world". This question tackles the latter stance. To push it to extreme: Let's say antinatalism becomes law then within a few generations the world would be populated by the lawless and they're offspring...
    – christo183
    Apr 14, 2022 at 13:32
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    @christo183 Or perhaps their offspring would be mostly antinatalist? See "The Offset", by Calder Szewczak or my own book. The future is hard to predict, especially as to the results of social engineering. Apr 14, 2022 at 16:49

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