If children were brought into the world by an act of pure reason alone, would the human race continue to exist? Would not a man rather have so much sympathy with the coming generation as to spare it the burden of existence, or at any rate not take it upon himself to impose that burden upon it in cold blood?
As Schopenhauer states, there is no pure reason to create children. What he means is that, children are not created for their own benefits. In fact, children are produced either by accident or for the benefits of others, such as their parents and the society. I next present some reasons why people may want children and my counter arguments to them.
To take care of them when they get old
There is no way for you to know for certain that your child will be there when you are old. They may no longer be alive or may be unavailable in many other ways. The best you can do is to save for your retirement and geriatric care. Anyway, there is no shortage of old parents without children support. We will all age and die someday with or without people to look after us.
To experience parenthood which gives life meaning
Well, you may experience parenthood by adopting and there are many things in which you may find meaning. It’s not necessary to create children to fulfil one’s life which is lacking in meaning and experiences.
To prove their love to their spouse
You could use your imagination to come up with so many other ways to impress your spouse. If for some reasons, you can’t conceive, does it mean that you love your spouse any less?
We can’t control it: it’s human nature to procreate
Why then do you limit the number of children that you can have? Surely, you have control over your reproductive capabilities. You may well limit the number to 0.
To share the joy of living
Life may well have some pleasures. However, the unborn child is missing none of the pleasures. Also, you cannot guarantee that the life of your child will be a joyful one.
To carry on the family name/genes/power/wealth
This reason may in fact be the most common reason why people who are unwilling to have children, procreate. This reason is rooted in ego and pride. And why does the child have to carry the father’s name instead of the mother’s? The surest way of carrying the family name is to do something remarkable like an invention or a work that will benefit many. As for one’s genes, what is so special about them? Are they immune to diseases? Even if they were, they would be mixed with other genes by one’s descendants. Finally, for power and wealth, there is nothing that prevents someone from growing their family by adopting.
The purpose of life is to reproduce because of evolution
Evolution describes how things have come to exist the way we know it, not how things ought to be. The purpose of life is a human construct and varies from person to person. We do have an instinct to reproduce. However, we also have control over our own instinct. Would one say the same thing if medical tests showed that one’s would-be child would likely be born with with a jarring infirmity?
To make the world a better place
Some people, especially those who are well-educated and financially well-off, may believe that they will raise good children who will contribute to make the world a better place. Firstly, nobody can even guarantee that they will be alive and in good health to look after their children. Similarly, parents have little control over much of the variables affecting the environment, motivation and the physical or mental abilities of their children.
Humans will become extinct
More than 99% of species ever living on earth have become extinct. Our best science models tell us that humans will also become extinct sooner or later. All evolutionary progress achieved is temporary in the grand scheme of things.
As can be seen, none of the reasons above are for the sake of the children themselves. On the other hand, the needs for these reasons can be met in other ways. Thus by procreating, we subject new lives to the miseries as well as pleasures of living. However, no matter how well-off you are, your children will be vulnerable to accidents, harm caused by others, diseases, old age and death.
While pleasures are usually few and short-lived, sufferings are usually plenty and long-lasting. There is nothing such as chronic pleasure but chronic pain is rampant. On the other hand, by not procreating, the unborn child is not missing on any of the pleasures but is effectively saved from the sufferings.