Originally posted by Bosse de Nage
To paraphrase David Benatar: the infliction of harm is generally morally wrong and therefore to be avoided; the birth of a new person always entails nontrivial harm to that person; therefore there exists a moral imperative not to procreate.
What do you think?
This argument doesn't seem to flow very well. Let's say you even started with a stronger premise: say, that the infliction of harm is wrong and to be avoided at all costs. Then let's say you have a second premise that bringing a new person into existence will entail that at least some measure of harm results. How are we supposed to conclude from these there is a moral imperative not to procreate? Presumably, that might follow if the bringing about of something that also entails some measure of harm constitutes infliction of harm. But that does not seem to square with intuition. Infliction of harm would tend to indicate the bringing about of harm with intent, as if the bringing about of harm is an end to itself; whereas the bringing about of something that happens to entail some harm does not because it is fully consistent with such harm being just collateral damage. So there is an intuition, at least to me, that "infliction of harm" suggests something about such harm being the object of or material to the motivations involved whereas just bringing about something that happens to also entail harm (even if this entailment is known) does not. One could say that if you take action to bring about X, knowing full well that this promises to also happen to bring about Y, then going ahead with the bringing about of X constitutes infliction of Y. But that doesn't seem correct to me. Why should two adults who are committed to loving their newborn and attending appropriately to its interests, despite knowing that even this loving environment will bring some measure of undesired harm to it, think that what they have done constitutes "infliction of harm"?
The argument also would not work even if we removed the connotations attached to "infliction" of harm. Suppose that the first premise is that the bringing about of harm is generally wrong and to be avoided. Then the second premise is, as before, bringing a new person into existence will entail that at least some measure of harm results. These also do not seem to warrant the conclusion that there it is a moral imperative not to procreate. That the bringing about of harm is generally wrong and to be avoided indicates there are standing reasons against doing things that would conduce to harm. But supposing the harm involved amounts to collateral damage, then it is an open question if what you are actually intending to achieve carries even greater reasons with more practical clout.