Peter Singer Asks If It’s Ethical to Reproduce

Cover of "The Life You Can Save: Acting N...
Cover via Amazon

Here’s a happy surprise: The New York Times’ series of philosophy columns, dubbed the Stone, finally includes one work of actual philosophy, courtesy of ethical philosopher and author of The Life You Can Save Peter Singer.

In the column, Singer asks whether, given the problems future generations would be sure to face—the fallout from climate change being chief among them—it is ethical to bring those future generations into the world. Would it just be better if we all universally agreed to stop having kids?

Unsurprisingly, he concludes that the answer is “no.” But he takes some interesting detours along the way, including a passage on Schopenhauer that serves as an intriguing contrast to some of the existentialist stuff about projecting towards ends we’ve been discussing:

The 19th-century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer held that even the best life possible for humans is one in which we strive for ends that, once achieved, bring only fleeting satisfaction. New desires then lead us on to further futile struggle and the cycle repeats itself.

I think you can see the seeds of some existentialist thought in there, although the existentialist would argue that it’s not about¬†achieving those goals—it’s about defining yourself and seeking fulfillment through the act of projecting towards them.

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