Deprivation of Existence

“Had I never come to be, I would have suffered from a deprivation of existence!” According to this mythologeme and pronatalistic theorem, which has exerted considerable effect in the modern age, a decision not to procreate leads necessarily to a “possible” human being, conceived of as a “self existing before the self’s conception” or as a “proto-self”, being denied their share in the joys of existence. One of the people responding to our àQuestionnaire gave the answer that, if he had never begun to exist, he would never have had the enjoyment of reading Baudelaire.

The concept of the deprivation of existence represents an expression of àGratitude to Parents, since parents are envisaged to be those who put an end to this condition as suffered by their children by allowing them, through an act of procreation, to come into the world.

The notion of deprivation of existence also comes into effect in cases where we say, for example, that someone was robbed or cheated of their life, or of some years of their life. It is true, indeed, that, if someone creeps up on me and shoots a bullet through my head, I cease thenceforth, forever, to exist. But it remains, nonetheless, untrue to say that I have been robbed or cheated of my life, or of that part of my life which I may still have had to live. Because any “I” who could possibly have been robbed or cheated of something in fact ceased, in the moment of that pistol-shot, to exist.  The person shooting me, then, did not take my life but simply took me out of a world which continued to existence without me. It is right to say that I, a living being, was removed from the world but not that “my” life was taken from me. A symmetrical situation obtains as regards existence’s beginning. When I began to exist, life was not “given to me”; I simply came to be added, as another living being, to a world which had already previously existed without me.


Use is made of this “argument from deprivation” by anyone who expresses or subscribes to the view that he, or someone else, would have been deprived of something, or would have had something withheld from them, if they had never begun to exist. One philosopher who propounds this “deprivation” thesis is R. N. Smart in his essay “Negative Utilitarianism”, where he writes: “… conscious existence is so remarkable in itself that it is wrong to deprive the unborn of the right to ‚drink in daylight’ (to use a colourful South Sea Pidgin expression). But the metaphysics of this feeling are odd.“ (cited from Akerma 2000, 227) The metaphysics laid claim to here by Smart, however, is not just “odd” but completely untenable, if it does indeed imply an existence preceding existence.

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