Olivia Goldhill in Quartz:
A man is suing his parents for giving birth to him without his consent. That might sound ridiculous, but he has a point. The plaintiff behind the lawsuit, 27-year-old Raphael Samuel, believes in “anti-natalism,” namely the philosophical theory that parents do not have moral standing to bring an unwitting child into the world. And there are some seriously legitimate philosophers who advocate for this argument.
The best-known anti-natalist is David Benatar, head of the philosophy department at the University of Cape Town and author of the 2006 book Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence. (Though Benatar is heralded as a philosopher, he’s controversial at the University of Cape Town for comments he’s made about race, and was dismissive of African philosophy in a recent interview with Quartz.) A 2012 New Yorker article on the theory highlights a central premise of Benatar’s work: If a couple have multiple hereditary genetic diseases and live in horrendous conditions, we might well agree they have a moral obligation not to procreate and so avoid bringing into the world a child who will suffer terribly. Conversely, if a couple is wealthy and disease-free, we would not consider them morally obliged to create a child.