Human Studies

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 101–108 | Cite as

Coming Into Existence: The Good, The Bad, and The Indifferent

David Benatar, Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence. Clarendon Press, 2006. 237 pp
  • Chris Kaposy
Book Review Essay

Nietzsche tells a story in The Birth of Tragedy of King Midas’s capture of Silenus, the wise companion of Dionysus. While in his clutches, King Midas insisted to hear from Silenus “what was best and most desirable of all things for man.” After resisting for a while, Silenus asked “why do you compel me to tell you what it would be most expedient for you not to hear? What is best of all is utterly beyond your reach: not to be born, not to be, to be nothing. But the second best for you is—to die soon” (Nietzsche 1992, s. 3).

Nietzsche explains that Silenus’s claim is part of the folk wisdom of the Ancient Greeks. He says, “The Greek knew and felt the terror and horror of existence” (Nietzsche 1992, s. 3). We are vulnerable, we suffer, we die, and at crucial stages of our lives, our survival requires the good will of others on whom we are dependent. These are the facts of our finitude as embodied creatures. In The Birth of TragedyNietzsche describes how the Greeks developed their...


Good Thing Happy People Potential Child Hunger Pain Suffering Child 
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  1. Benatar, D. (2006). Better never to have been: The harm of coming into existence. New York: Clarendon Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Nietzsche, F. (1992). The birth of tragedy. In W. Kaufmann (Ed.), Basic writings of Nieztsche (pp. 31–144). New York: The Modern Library.Google Scholar
  3. Nussbaum, M. C. (1986). The fragility of goodness: Luck and ethics in Greek tragedy and philosophy. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Parfit, D. (1984). Reasons and persons. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Marion McCain Arts and Social Sciences BuildingDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada

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