What is it about?

Some people think that biological parents benefit their offspring by bringing them into existence. This view faces a serious problem, however. If we benefit people by creating them, it seems that there would be moral reasons to create happy people. And if there are moral reasons to create happy people, it is difficult to see how they could be any weaker than the moral reasons to save the lives of already existing people. This essay attempts to resolve this problem, reconciling the view that we have reasons to create happy people with the view that saving lives is more important than creating lives. It draws on the intuition that we have reason to maximize the number of lives saved, even when doing so would not secure a greater overall benefit. If so, there is typically an “extra” consideration that favor saving lives over creating them.

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Why is it important?

The argument shows that it is plausible to think that people benefit their children by bringing them into existence. In doing so, it challenges the common view that procreation is a matter of moral indifference. The argument also addresses recent work about how to decide whom to benefit when we cannot benefit everyone.

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This page is a summary of: Beneficence, Numbers, and the Procreation Asymmetry, Journal of Moral Philosophy, June 2021, Brill, DOI: 10.1163/17455243-20213472.
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