Re: Arguments from Nonexistence

Robin Hanson (
Wed, 13 Jan 1999 14:34:17 -0800

Dale C wrote:
>It cannot be emphasized enough that an entity that never exists does not
>"miss" the life it hasn't attained, and that taking its fictional
>"desires" into account when making moral calculations seems to
>overcomplicate an already breathtakingly complicated business.

I don't see that introducing this specific consideration makes the difference between complex but manageable calculations and unmanageable calculations. So I don't see why we should reject this consideration on such grounds.

Regarding the fictionality of desires, consider the view that me-today and me-tommorow are two different but closely related creatures. If you suddenly and without warning killed me, you might argue that me-tommorow became a fictional creature whose desire to live is irrelevant. And you didn't hurt me-today, except via his altruism toward me-tommorow.

>The rhetoric here is interesting, painting animal rights folks and vegetarians
>as chauvinists stamping out a way of life they find distasteful, rather
>than as people seeking to protect sentient beings from unecessary

I argued that if farmers anticipate your choice of meat vs. veggies, you don't get to choose between "suffering sentient being" vs. "not suffering sentient being." What you choose between instead is "suffering sentient being" vs. "non-sentient veggies."

Robin Hanson   
RWJF Health Policy Scholar             FAX: 510-643-8614 
140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 510-643-1884