Peter Singer, the well-known ethicist and animal rights philosopher (feel free to put the scare quotes wherever you want), has an essay on David Benatar's book, Better Never to Have Been* giving serious thought to whether or not human life is pretty much worthless.
Benatar also argues that human lives are, in general, much less good than we think they are. We spend most of our lives with unfulfilled desires, and the occasional satisfactions that are all most of us can achieve are insufficient to outweigh these prolonged negative states.There were times when personal confessions of the utter emptiness of one's life were confined to late-nite conversations in bars or Russian plays. Nowadays, it's just about mainstream moral philosophy. (Singer is a professor of philosophy at Princeton. Benatar is identified as "a South African philosopher.")
If we think that this is a tolerable state of affairs it is because we are, in Benatar’s view, victims of the illusion of pollyannaism. This illusion may have evolved because it helped our ancestors survive, but it is an illusion nonetheless. If we could see our lives objectively, we would see that they are not something we should inflict on anyone.
I suppose the only worthwhile response to this that doesn't consume more time than it's worth is simply to say: "Speak for yourself, pal." But it might be of some value to add: "Dr. Benatar, if you believe you shouldn't inflict your life on anyone, I can't help but agree. Feel free to excuse yourself from the table anytime."
Such is the (literal and figurative) dead end of Kantian utilitarianism.
[Hat tip: Newsreal.]
*[Here is the Amazon Product Description of Benatar's book:
Most people believe that they were either benefited or at least not harmed by being brought into existence. Thus, if they ever do reflect on whether they should bring others into existence---rather than having children without even thinking about whether they should---they presume that they do them no harm. Better Never to Have Been challenges these assumptions.'Nuff said.
David Benatar argues that coming into existence is always a serious harm. Although the good things in one's life make one's life go better than it otherwise would have gone, one could not have been deprived by their absence if one had not existed. Those who never exist cannot be deprived.
However, by coming into existence one does suffer quite serious harms that could not have befallen one had one not come into existence. Drawing on the relevant psychological literature, the author shows that there are a number of well-documented features of human psychology that explain why people systematically overestimate the quality of their lives and why they are thus resistant to the suggestion that they were seriously harmed by being brought into existence.
The author then argues for the 'anti-natal' view---that it is always wrong to have children---and he shows that combining the anti-natal view with common pro-choice views about foetal moral status yield a "pro-death" view about abortion (at the earlier stages of gestation). Anti-natalism also implies that it would be better if humanity became extinct. Although counter-intuitive for many, that implication is defended, not least by showing that it solves many conundrums of moral theory about population.]