If it’s morally wrong to condemn an innocent life to death, then it’s also morally wrong to procreate.Source

According to the author, it is unjust to procreate because, when we procreate we condemn an innocent to death.

Perhaps the premise that requires the most defense is the second one. I am equating life procreation with condemning a person to death.

To be clear, I am equating “being born” and “being condemned to death.” These two refer to a state of becoming, while the former two refer to the state of being. Source

Is there a way to argue against the injustice argument (that it is unjust to condemn innocent to death)?

  • 9
    The premise is non sense. To condemn an individual to death they need to be alive in the first place. An unborn individual is no individual at all. Not giving birth to someone amounts to deprive them of life at all, not just condemning them to death. What is more, what makes death penalty scary is precisely the shortening of one's life, the deprivation of the good times they could have enjoyed for a few more years. Which is precisely what happens when not giving birth to someone. So it could be argued that NOT giving birth to someone is also equivalent to death penalty.
    – armand
    Commented Mar 23, 2022 at 23:13
  • 2
    That sounds like an answer to me, @armand - why don't you create one?
    – AnoE
    Commented Mar 24, 2022 at 13:38
  • @AnoE i have no reference to provide and it's short enough to fit in a comment. To me it does not fit the standards to be posted as an answer.
    – armand
    Commented Mar 24, 2022 at 13:55
  • @armand Suppose someone planted a bomb in a hospital nursery with a timer set for 10 months. Wouldn't that person be condemning individuals to death that aren't yet alive? In the resulting murder trial, would a good defense be: "the victims didn't exist when I committed the crime?' Commented Mar 24, 2022 at 17:48
  • @ConnorGarcia irrelevant. The babies and nurse that get blown to pieces when the bomb explodes are indeed alive. The bomber could at any time prevent the deaths by stopping the bomb or warning the hospital in time, thus the crime is perpetrated when the bomb exploses. The bomber knowingly kills living people, although they doesn't know who, just as much as if they threw a live grenade in the nursery. But at the time of fecundation there is no existing individual to speak of, so it's non sense to say "someone is condemned to death". Such a statement would not even be wrong, just non sense.
    – armand
    Commented Mar 24, 2022 at 23:17

5 Answers 5


If it is unjust to condemn an innocent person to death, then it is unjust to procreate.

Here is a simple argument you can use:

The argument "if it is X to Y, then it is X to Z" relies on a similarity between Y and Z, and a meaningful definition of X that applies to both Y and Z.

  1. The article does not establish a similarity between "condemn an innocent person to death" and "procreate". Because the similarity is unsubstantiated, the argument is illogical. The conclusion that it is unjust to procreate doesn't follow from any of the arguments presented.

  2. The article uses a meaningless definition of "injustice", which makes both the antecedent and the consequent ungrounded, and therefore the argument is illogical (it would still be illogical if even just one of them were ungrounded).

Let's take a closer look at #1:

To condemn something to death, the something must exist. If it doesn't exist, you cannot interact with it at all. If you use a loose definition of "condemn" meaning making a judgement about, or a negative statement about something, then it's possible to condemn all sorts of imaginary things. But if something is imaginary then condemning it to death is meaningless. Therefore, for this argument, the thing needs to exist and be alive.

To procreate is to produce new creatures that are alive.

These things are not similar. The parts of the article trying to argue that they are similar fail badly. The article starts with a story about a prisoner with a death sentence who doesn't remember committing the crime, and then makes all of that irrelevant by stating the prisoner was framed. Then, it makes the outrageous suggestion that "this is life".

You only need one contrary example to refute the claim that life is like being a framed prisoner with amnesia and a death sentence. You could do a survey of actual prisoners, you could reflect on your own life, or look around.

Whatever harm or suffering happens to a person is only an injustice if it was caused by other people doing something wrong or unfair. Procreating in general is not wrong or unfair. Only particular circumstances could make it wrong or unfair, and then the issue is with the circumstances, not with the act itself. Therefore, it's not similar to condemning an innocent person to death, and it's not even similar to condemning a guilty person to death. It's just not similar at all.

Let's take a closer look at #2:

Injustice is something unfair or wrong done to someone, so by definition it is a harm. It is obviously an injustice to condemn an innocent person to any sentence. But the author writes this:

It is morally wrong to take unjust actions (whether it inflicts harm or not).

The author's formulation here is like saying, "you are wet (whether you are covered in liquid or not)". It makes the word "wet" meaningless in that context.

The use of a meaningless term in this way makes the argument ungrounded, because you can't evaluate the result of its application to anything.

According to the author's definition, an injustice could inflict harm or not inflict harm. That's not the same definition most people would use. With this definition, why would it be morally wrong to do injustice? If harm isn't a requirement, couldn't anything be an injustice?

The author writes:

Importantly, a state of affairs can be unjust even though it inflicts no harm to anyone. An example of this is arbitrary favoritism, whereby one group of people receives benefits while another doesn’t.

The author's assertion is incorrect. Not all harm is an injustice, but all injustice involves harm. Fairness is decided by the consensus of people with legitimate claims, and there is a multitude of ways of doing things that are generally considered fair and thus easily gain consensus. Unfairness harms people by depriving them of a resource or benefit they had a legitimate claim to receive. Favoritism is an obviously unfair system of distributing limited resources or benefits, and something unfair done to someone else is in the definition of injustice.

Even if we pretend for a moment that there exists a kind of injustice that does no harm, we immediately have a new problem: In what way other than causing harm is it an injustice to condemn an innocent person to death? In what way other than causing harm is it an injustice to procreate? The author makes no attempt at defining this.


The author tries to mislead you with what appears to be an obviously true antecedent "it is unjust to condemn an innocent person to death", but is actually ungrounded because the word "unjust" in this context has been redefined by the author to be meaningless.

Without a meaningful definition of what "injustice" means in this context, you can't evaluate whether a statement "it is unjust to X" is true or not.

The consequent is similarly ungrounded.

Even when using the regular definition of injustice, there is no similarity between the two things being compared because one of them causes harm to an innocent person while the other one creates an innocent person.


Antinatalism requests to refrain from doing something. The specific property of this omission:

It does not injure any living being. And also in future there is no living being which becomes harmed. From a juridical point of view there is no harmed counterpart of that kind of omission.

Law and ethics require for assessment a counterpart of the action or the omission. Here the counterpart is missing. Hence I am sceptical that the question can be decided within the realm of current law or ethics.

But I’m curious if there are proposals from other participants for extending current law or ethics.

  • "also in future there is no living being which becomes harmed" - I'm not sure I follow. The future living being you're harming is obviously the one who's life you're creating. And certainly the dying can be considered harm. If we were to take an extreme example, I expect most people would consider choosing to give birth to a child, knowing they will be tortured for their entire life and experience only suffering, to be immoral. But the problem with the presented argument for antinatalism is that most of us consider a life lived to outweigh the harm of dying, as mentioned in my answer.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Mar 25, 2022 at 9:37
  • I do not understand your point: The quoted passage of my answer refers to not(!) creating children. Which person do you mean by "The future living being you're harming is obviously the one who's life you're creating."?
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Mar 25, 2022 at 9:46
  • I think it makes most sense to approach my point from a different angle. Do you agree that choosing to give birth to a child, knowing (somehow) they will be tortured for their entire life and experience only suffering, is immoral? If yes, then you appear to have a problem, because your answer seems to apply equally well to that hypothetical as it does to the antinatalism argument you're trying to rebut, which would mean you can't logically hold that your argument is sound while also holding that the choice in my hypothetical would be immoral.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Mar 25, 2022 at 10:05

Anti-natalism is not moral or immoral per se.

In order to know if anti-natalism is immoral, the concept of morals must be clarified.

Morals are sets of rules that enforce a goal. There is no agreement on the definition of such goal in the discipline, but it would seem that morals are logically consistent with ethics and formal law in a specific sense: all would be intended to improve group dynamics, coexistence, growth, and even survival. Morals are just traditional and informal rules; ethics are a formalization of morals, although non-coercitive, and justice/law are the part of morals and ethics that can be subject to coercion.

(you will probably say "but unethical laws are common!": yes; sometimes an isolated person/group imposes rules that are not what the group wants; remember that morals/ethics/law are intended to improve group dynamics, not the life of a minority; so, immoral laws do exist because some governments just don't represent common interests and they just have the power of instating laws).

So, normally, killing a person is immoral because it risks the common good... in some cases. In others, it is necessary to kill someone that represents a risk for the group.

In multiple cases, the lack of understanding of the moral goal is misunderstood. For example, say that killing people is absolutely immoral for no reason (the common reason is that medieval groups needed to avoid death as much as possible). That would imply that, for example, in 03/2022, people in Ukraine should surrender to Russians and just die without using weapons, because Russians are people and it is immoral to kill people, which is completely illogical, since it breaks any goal of morals/ethics/law. Then, killing is moral/ethical/legal in multiple cases.

So, is abortion moral? If morals are intended to improve the probabilities of existence or persistence of the group, it could be. For example, earth will be overpopulated at some point, and people will be forced to promote abortion in order to survive. It could be understood as murder (quite subjective), but it also can be considered positive and desirable for the sake of group survival.

But in general, the problem, not only with anti-natalism, but also with other subtle subjects, like human cloning, nominal gender swapping in sports, etc. is that there is no agreement on the deepest moral goals. So, the answer to the question depends on such goals.

Personal perspective: the deepest goal that all our actions and ideas pursuit is the survival of the group (first, humanity, then, my people, then my family, etc.). The group has the priority against the individual, so, it is moral for the sake of the group survival to admit particular death. Death is not desirable per se, but ALL decisions in life have a negative side (otherwise they are not decisions, but acts). This approach seems quite consistent and logical to me.

  • 3
    Since SE asks to post a comment when downvoting: Morals are sets of rules that enforce a goal. That doesn't sound right to me. Morality seems to be about all kinds of deliberation about good/evil, right/wrong etc. i.e. attributes or properties of acts; not sets of rules, and not in practice something to enforce a goal. Also the rest of the answer sounds very opinionated to me - nothing wrong with that, but could be clarified more that this is an opinion. It is formulated as fact instead.
    – AnoE
    Commented Mar 24, 2022 at 13:54
  • Informative answer, but doesn't it only tell part of the story? I'd think "Rules to enforce a goal" as a definition of what is moral presupposes teleology as opposed to deontology? By that definition, Kant's ethics wouldn't qualify. Also ,while Egoism has its flaws, it's at least a self-consistent principle. The Virtue Ethics of Aristotle or Buddhism seems an interesting hybrid.
    – R. Romero
    Commented Mar 24, 2022 at 15:11
  • That would imply that, for example, in 03/2022, people in Ukraine should surrender to Russians and just die without using weapons, because Russians are people and it is immoral to kill people — I have seen exactly that argument being made (and in the same text: it's better to be alive and non-free under Russian rule than not be alive at all).
    – gerrit
    Commented Mar 24, 2022 at 16:32
  • @AnoE, the most common mistake when addressing morals is the belief that morals define the rules for ABSOLUTE "good"/"right" (your words). The "good" or "right" you mention are always relative (good for something, right for something), never absolute (nothing can be good from absolutely ALL perspectives): e.g. poison is bad for survival, good for suicide; God is good for nuns, bad for demons, etc. Morals can't search ABSOLUTE good/right because it just doesn't exist. Morals define rules for implicit goals we all share, which can be, for example, living a good life, or living in peace.
    – RodolfoAP
    Commented Mar 24, 2022 at 16:36
  • "That would imply that, for example, in 03/2022, people in Ukraine should surrender to Russians ... which is completely illogical, since it breaks any goal of morals/ethics/law" - that's not all that illogical if your goal is to simply avoid causing harm to others yourself, and it fits perfectly well into deontological ethics. You seem to be arguing more from a consequentialist point of view (do a bad thing because not doing it would lead to a worse result), which is valid, but it's not the only valid ethical system. Although it seems like you may not be too well-versed on ethical frameworks
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Mar 24, 2022 at 17:09

I believe that most people consider "condemn an innocent life to death" to mean that the victim will incur a premature or unnatural death, caused directly by those condemning them. Thus, it doesn't include the death that occurs at the end of any normal life, so there is no moral compulsion against the creation of life, even though we know that it will eventually result in death.

Benatar's argument appears to be that any suffering is bad and must be prevented. But suffering must be weighed against pleasure and other positive aspects of life. When we're deciding to procreate we generally can't predict what the overall outcome will be, but experience tells us that most achieve a significant net positive benefit in their lives. So, despite knowing that there will be some suffering along the way and likely at the end, we prefer existence to nonexistence. Many people even get pleasure from the process of overcoming impediments in life, so some suffering also produces pleasure.

However, modern technology provides the ability to detect some situations where we can predict excessive suffering. Prenatal tests can detect some conditions in the fetus that indicate that the child will suffer from severe diseases when born. In this case it might be moral to terminate the pregnancy to prevent this suffering. But there are also cases where infants overcome these conditions and go on to live a full life (medical technology also makes this possible), so one can also argue that it's immoral to preclude this possibility. And we should also weigh in the emotional effect on the parents of losing the child.

Given all this uncertainty, it's difficult to make an absolute statement about antinatalism, even in the above exceptional cases.

  • The death doesn't have to be "caused directly by those condemning them." Judges condemn convicts to death without actually carrying out the sentence. Similarly, parents are certainly condemning their offspring to death, whether or not they carry out the sentence themselves. Commented Mar 24, 2022 at 18:37
  • If an innocent person were to become immortal, would you consider it immoral to remove their immortality so they die "at the end of a normal life"? If yes, why is causing that death at the end of a normal life that wouldn't otherwise occur immoral, but why is it not immoral to cause a death at the end of a normal life that wouldn't otherwise occur by creating life?
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Mar 25, 2022 at 10:39
  • @ConnorGarcia The death that parents condemn their children to is normal death, not premature death -- that's the distinction I made in the first paragraph.
    – Barmar
    Commented Mar 25, 2022 at 14:34
  • @NotThatGuy Since immortality doesn't actually exist, I don't see the relevance.
    – Barmar
    Commented Mar 25, 2022 at 14:35
  • @ConnorGarcia The judge is the ultimate cause, but not the proximate cause.
    – Barmar
    Commented Mar 25, 2022 at 14:37

If it’s morally wrong to condemn an innocent life to death, then it’s also morally wrong to procreate

The problem here is that "it's morally wrong to condemn an innocent life to death", as most people would accept it, is actually closer to "it's morally wrong to condemn an innocent person/being who is alive to death".

The difference with creating life that will be condemned to death is that we consider the value of life (which includes the process of dying that life would involve) to (generally) be greater than the value of not-life/nothingness. Therefore creating life results in a net-positive. This would also serve as justification for why we consider it morally wrong to condemn a living being to death, because you're replacing life with not-life, which is a net-negative.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .