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Paradox25's avatar

Is existence better than non-existence in your opinion?

Asked by Paradox25 (9031 points ) June 5th, 2012

David Benatar, author of a book titled Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence, says that existing is a bad thing, mainly because the misery of experiencing unhappiness or pain overshadows any potential benefits that come along with that inevitable pain and suffering. He even goes as far as to claim that it is morally irresponsible to procreate, and bring future generations into existence since that inevitably they too will experience great pain and fear. Here is a more simplified version of Benater’s argument, and a brief critique of it. This is a more detailed argument on Benatar’s behalf.

There are critics of Benatar’s book however, and they have their own contentions to Benatar’s arguments. The biggest critique of non-existence being a good thing seems to be that what is considered ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are relative, and not absolute terms. Another contention is that we have at least some control over what happens in our lives. Here is a critique for a few of Benatar’s arguments.

Do you think that non-existence is better than existing in the first place?

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21 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

I am grateful to be alive. I think it is the coolest gift, ever! I think it is highly presumptuous to claim you know whether life is good or bad for anyone else. If Benatar wants to not exist, he should vote with his feet. Provide a great example.

Personally, I think good and bad are social constructs with no objective reality. If people don’t want to live, they will die out, leaving behind only those with a desire to live. Thus life selects for those who want to live. That’s the way it is, good or bad. I’m not judging. But you’ll notice that I’m still alive.

That’s fortuitous, because I have been on the other side of this argument, nearly ready to check out. Managed not to. Goody for me.

tups's avatar

How would we know? We’ve never tried not existing. Actually “we” is not not a word in non-existence. But we’re here right now and that’s the way it is. If there’s a purpose behind it is a whole other discussion.

submariner's avatar

I think the two are incommensurable. I also reject Benatar’s consequentialist premises. I accept that existence involves more pain than pleasure for many people, but anyone who considers that an argument for nonexistence is a wuss.

gailcalled's avatar

Hamlet asked the same question and found no definitive answer but delivered a boffo monolog on the subject.

thorninmud's avatar

The food is way better in existence.

flutherother's avatar

Yes, but I wouldn’t want to live forever.

ucme's avatar

Of course it is, Choose Life as those cheesy Wham tee-shirts used to say.

Keep_on_running's avatar

No. If I had ultimate “godly” power, I’d vote for non-existence because I care about the people who are in constant pain and suffering, not about the people that are generally comfy and happy.

I think, as humans, the majority of our thoughts/feelings/experiences are neutral or negative. The ones that are genuinely positive don’t justify the negatives. It’s like punching a stranger, then giving them a present and vice versa.

If you are unlucky (it really is only a flip of the coin) enough to live below the poverty line it would be twice the punches and half the presents. If I was an optimistic person, no doubt I’d have the opposite view to what I’ve just stated. Urgh… life, people, society… so complicated.

Blackberry's avatar

We didn’t ask for this, but when life is good, I’m glad it happened. When it’s bad, it’s better to have not known lol.

marinelife's avatar

I am sure enjoying mine.

Out of pain and suffering come growth, deeper thoughtfulness as a person, an expanded viewpoint. Also, life has a more than equal share of joy and fun to offset pain.

filmfann's avatar

If there was no God, I would agree that Non-Existence is better than Existence.
Everything we do would be pointless.

King_Pariah's avatar

I believe existing and not existing are irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if we exist or not, but if people find it worthwhile of “their time,” then so be it. I have not read this book so I do not know if he’s arguing it or stating/sharing his beliefs. If he’s arguing that he’s right, well, that’s a bit silly. If he’s sharing it, then fine by me, it might be something that rings true for some people, awaken them to something they truly believe but never could put a finger on it.

josie's avatar

I figure you are joking. I do the same thing occasionally.
But on the off chance you are not, what exactly is the alternative to existence even if you give it the name “non existence”.
It is exactly this type of New Age nonsense that makes some people (kids too often) believe that when they commit suicide they are actually selecting an alternative.
Again, I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you are trying to stir the pot on Fluther. Nothing wrong with that.
But if you are serious, I suggest you and David consider therapy before you waste the rare gift of existence.

josie's avatar

I am not done here. I know lots of guys who I served with who are bits and pieces of their previous selves who would never consider not being here. If David really believes it, why doesn’t he donate all of his organs and kill himself? I bet he will not. He will simply talk about it. And then he will suck in a few morons along the way. Shame on the likes of him.

Mariah's avatar

I’m usually glad I exist.

linguaphile's avatar

I’d rather exist, because emerging from pain and difficulty to become stronger is one of the best feelings in the world.

thesparrow's avatar

@thorninmud The simple presence of food—and other delights—makes existence better than non-existence.

ratboy's avatar

Existence is merely a bad habit that everyone eventually manages to break.

Blackberry's avatar

@filmfann We’re worthless. Now come in the forest with me and drink this fruit punch.

Yetanotheruser's avatar

I wouldn’t know what non-existence feels like.

@Keep_on_running as far as “godly power”, I believe that the Creator, being all-perfect, could not experience imperfection, so we were created to experience it for Her/Him/It.

Mr_Paradox's avatar

I’m DNR so I should know if anything happens to me which is better.

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