On the Social and Personal Value of Existence

Marc Fleurbaey, Alex Voorhoeve

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

14 Scopus citations


If a potential person would have a good life, if he were to come into existence, can we coherently regard his coming into existence as better for him than his never coming into existence? And can we regard the situation in which he never comes into existence as worse for him? It has been argued by several authors that such comparisons are absurd because in a state of non-existence there is no person to hold preferences. This chapter argues that both questions should be answered in the affirmative. The chapter also explains where prominent arguments reaching a different conclusion go wrong. Finally, the chapter explores the relevance of our answers to issues in population ethics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationWeighing and Reasoning
Subtitle of host publicationThemes from the Philosophy of John Broome
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191765223
ISBN (Print)9780199684908
StatePublished - May 21 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


  • Broome
  • Critical level
  • Neutral level
  • Population ethics
  • Preferences
  • Value of existence


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