David Benatar

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David Benatar (born 1966) is a professor of philosophy and head of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Cape Town in Cape Town, South Africa.[1] He is best known for his advocacy of antinatalism in his book Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence, in which he argues that coming into existence is a serious harm, regardless of the feelings of the existing being once brought into existence, and that, as a consequence, it is always morally wrong to create more sentient beings.[2]

Benatar argues from the uncontroversial premise that pain is, in itself, a bad thing.[3] Nevertheless, he offers qualified defences of the corporal punishment of children[4] and the circumcision of male infants (which he deems a matter for parental discretion).[5] He is the author of a series of widely cited papers in medical ethics, including "Between Prophylaxis and Child Abuse" (The American Journal of Bioethics) and "A Pain in the Fetus: Toward Ending Confusion about Fetal Pain" (Bioethics).[6][7]

Benatar's work has often been associated with contemporary philosophies of nihilism and pessimism. In an interview with True Detective creator and writer Nic Pizzolatto, Benatar's Better Never to Have Been is cited as an influence on the TV series, along with Ray Brassier's Nihil Unbound, Thomas Ligotti's The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, Jim Crawford's Confessions of an Antinatalist, and Eugene Thacker's In The Dust of This Planet.[8]

His work has been published in such journals as Ethics, Journal of Applied Philosophy, Social Theory and Practice, American Philosophical Quarterly, QJM: An International Journal of Medicine, Journal of Law and Religion and the British Medical Journal.

Benatar's The Second Sexism: Discrimination Against Men and Boys (2012) has been met with controversy.[9][10] Benatar had predicted criticisms in the book: "Given the prevailing orthodoxy in the academy and the sensitivity of the issues I shall be discussing, the views I defend in this book will be deemed threatening by many. I am under no illusions. My position, no matter how clearly stated, is likely to be misunderstood."[11]

Benatar is vegan, and has taken part in debates on veganism.[12]


  • Benatar, David (2012). The Second Sexism: Discrimination Against Men and Boys. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 0-470-67451-2. 
  • Benatar, David (2017). The Human Predicament: A Candid Guide to Life's Biggest Questions. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780190633813. 

As editor[edit]

  • Cutting to the Core: Exploring the Ethics of Contested Surgeries (2006)
  • Ethics for Everyday. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002.
  • Life, Death & Meaning : Key Philosophical Readings on the Big Questions (2004)


  1. ^ University of Cape Town Philosophy Department Staff
  2. ^ Steyn, Mark (14 December 2007). "Children? Not if you love the planet". Orange County Register. Retrieved 29 April 2008. 
  3. ^ Benatar, David (2006). Better Never to Have Been. Oxford University Press, USA. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199296422.001.0001. ISBN 978-0-19-929642-2. 
  4. ^ David Benatar, "Corporal Punishment", in: Social Theory and Practice, vol. 24 (1998), pp. 237–260.
  5. ^ Michael Benatar, David Benatar, "Between Prophylaxis and Child Abuse: The Ethics of Neonatal Circumcision," in: David Benatar, ed., Cutting to the Core: Exploring the Ethics of Contested Surgeries (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2006), pp. 23–46.
  6. ^ "Benatar: Between Prophylaxis and Child Abuse – Google Scholar". Google Scholar. Retrieved 29 April 2008. 
  7. ^ "Benatar: A Pain in the Fetus: Toward Ending Confusion about Fetal Pain – Google Scholar". Google Scholar. Retrieved 29 April 2008. 
  8. ^ "Writer Nic Pizzolatto on Thomas Ligotti and the Weird Secrets of True Detective."
  9. ^ The philosopher Simon Blackburn writes: "Benatar knows that such examples are likely to meet snorts of disbelief or derision, but he is careful to back up his claims with empirical data, and as a philosopher he is especially careful both about the interpretation of evidence and the use of terms such as "discrimination". [...] I do not at all doubt that there is a case to be made for the recognition of a second sexism, nor that Benatar makes it well. And it is not as if he himself is taking sides in these invidious comparisons. He is not a participant in the sex wars but a peacemaker who wants them to wind down. All that he aims to show is that if it is all too often tough being a woman, it is also sometimes tough being a man, and that any failure to recognise this risks distorting what should be everyone's goal, namely universal sympathy as well as social justice for all, regardless of gender." Times Higher Education review, 5 July 2012, retrieved 27 August 2012. The philosopher Iddo Landau writes: "Benatar suggests that in order to cope with the hitherto ignored second sexism we should not only acknowledge it but also dedicate much more empirical and philosophical research to this under-explored topic and, of course, try to change many attitudes, social norms, and laws. / This is a very well-argued book that presents an unorthodox thesis and defends it ably. It would be a useful text in both undergraduate and graduate courses in philosophy and gender studies, where it is certain to arouse a lot of discussion, much of it excited. [...] Most importantly [...] it is likely to change our understanding of gender relations." Metapsychology online reviews, 21 August 2012, retrieved 27 August 2012.
  10. ^ Suzanne Moore, a columnist for The Guardian and The Sunday Mail, writes: "... abundant tripe trickles down from on high, even academe. Every so often a new tome details how men, not women, are discriminated against (apart from rape, murder, equal pay, genital mutilation, the power imbalance in politics, business, education, law and arts they may have a point). Things are tough for some guys. Really, I know that. I just find it hard to accept feminism has gone too far, that a bit of underarm hair signals the end of western civilisation." The Guardian, 16 May 2012, "The Second Sexism is just victim-envy", retrieved 27 August 2012. In a brief letter to The Guardian, Benatar sought to correct some errors in Moore's account of his views; The Guardian, 18 May 2012, "Men and sexism", retrieved 27 August 2012.
  11. ^ Benatar, The Second Sexism, p. 16.
  12. ^ The Species Barrier, around 30 minutes in