Narration by: The Girl Reading This
Editing by: Garrett Baker
(Warning: spoilers for the movie American Beauty.)
“Once for each, just once. Once and no more. And for us too, once. Never again. And yet it seems that this—to have once existed, even if only once, to have been a part of this earth—can never be taken back. And so we keep going, trying to achieve it, trying to hold it in our simple hands, our already crowded eyes, our dumbfounded hearts.” – Rilke, Ninth Elegy
Various philosophers have tried hard to validate the so-called “intuition of neutrality,” according to which the fact that someone would live a wonderful life, if created, is not itself reason to create them (see e.g. Frick (2014) for efforts in this vicinity). The oft-quoted slogan from Jan Narveson is: “We are in favor of making people happy, but neutral about making happy people” (p. 80).
I don’t have the neutrality intuition. To the contrary, I think that creating someone who will live a wonderful life is to do, for them, something incredibly significant and worthwhile. Exactly how to weigh this against other considerations in different contexts is an additional and substantially more complex question. But I feel very far from neutral about it, and I’d hope that others, in considering whether to create me, wouldn’t feel neutral, either. This post tries to point at why.
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