I have previously written an entry about David Benatar’s Asymmetry, an antinatalist argument which seeks to prove that procreation is wrong based on an asymmetry between existence and non-existence. The argument is popular, so it attracts attention from detractors as well.
There is a certain level of confusion and difficulty created by Benatar’s formulation, which is why I reformulated it in a more accessible way. Nevertheless, people still get stuck on the original wording, which is:
It is uncontroversial to say that
1)The presence of pain is bad
2)The presence of pleasure is good
However, such symmetrical evaluation does not seem to apply to the absence of pain and pleasure, for 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 that absence is a deprivation.
The objection is that in 3, something is declared good independently of being enjoyed by anyone, while in 4, something is declared not bad on the basis that no one is being harmed by it. How can ethics be determined both independently of any person, and also depend upon a person?
First, let me clear out one related confusion. Benatar states clearly that continue