While Benatar also sought to discourage reproduction, his ideas grew out of different premises. The objective of anti-natalism, as Benatar sees it, is to reduce human suffering. Since life inevitably involves some amount of suffering, bringing another person into the world introduces the guarantee of some harm. He argued that “the quality of even the best lives is very bad – and considerably worse than most people recognize it to be. Although it is obviously too late to prevent our own existence, it is not too late to prevent the existence of future possible people.”
Benatar told me recently that he has heard from many readers of his book who “have often felt that they were alone in the world. It was a great comfort to them to read a philosophical defense of a view they found intuitively correct.”
Dana Wells, the Dallas-based YouTuber, felt validated by Benatar’s work. About five years ago, she reunited with her biological brother (she was adopted), and he grilled her about why she didn’t have children. Feeling annoyed after their meeting, she searched online for books – “I’m a reader. I’m a nerd,” she says – in hopes of finding out about others who didn’t want kids.
For the first time, she encountered the terms “childfree” and “anti-natalism”. She began “to see that this life game is an imposition”. For her, it was simple: “Living things can be harmed. Non-living things cannot be harmed.”