Existence vs Non-existence: Is One Better Than The Other?

Existence vs. Non-existence. That is the question.

David Benatar’s chapter “Why Coming Into Existence is Always a Harm” from his book Better Never To Have Been (2006) is a delightfully clever way of addressing this question. It challenges our intuitions and escapes our initial objections.1 But upon reflection, I find myself unconvinced. Here’s why: the argument relies on the assumption that existence and non-existence are commensurable. In other words, Benatar’s argument requires us to countenance the possibility that non-existent states of affairs can be better off or worse off than existing states of affairs. In what follows, I will explain why I find this unsatisfactory. But before I do that, I will need to say a bit about Benatar’s argument.

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