EGMT 1540: To Be or Not to Be? The Ethics of Existing

To Be or Not to Be? The majority of people through history have answered that question—at least for themselves—in the affirmative. Yet the question of not-being subtlety shapes our practices of being alive. On the one hand is the question of “no longer existing”—whether a life should be removed from existence—encompassing problems such as suicide, euthanasia, the death penalty, and species extinction. On the other hand, is the question of “never existing”— whether a life should be brought into existence—encompassing topics such as population control, abortion, eco-anti-natalism, and gene editing technologies like CRISPR. How does power intervene through cultural and legal frameworks to determine who and what should not exist in the world? Who should have the right to decide when a life—human or animal—should begin or end? Is procreation an unavoidably selfish act? We will interrogate our own ethics of existing through sources ranging from Supreme Court cases, psychological studies, existentialist literature, dystopian cinema, and feminist social reproduction theory.