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Peter Singerís Raging Inconsistency
nationalreview ^ | 12.18.2012 | Wesley J. Smith

Posted on 12/18/2012 7:25:37 PM PST by Morgana

I just posted about Princeton’s notorious bioethics professor, Peter Singer, embracing Aubrey de Gray’s anti-aging crusade. As I read his piece, I was struck by Singer’s raging inconsistency about the moral unimportance of people not yet conceived. But it didn’t fit in that post, so I write about it here.

Singer essentially claims that those not yet born have no cause for complaint if the interests of those alive now are put first. From, “Should We Live to 1000?”:

If our planet has a finite capacity to support human life, is it better to have fewer people living longer lives, or more people living shorter lives? One reason for thinking it better to have fewer people living longer lives is that only those who are born know what death deprives them of; those who do not exist cannot know what they are missing.

Hmmm. But on page 186 of his book Practical Ethics, Singer claims that it is ethical and moral to kill an existing disabled baby to serve the interests of an, as yet, unborn sibling:

When the death of a disabled infant will lead to the birth of another infant with better prospects of a happy life, the total amount of happiness will be greater if the disabled infant is killed. The loss of the happy life for the first infant is outweighed by the gain of a happier life for the second. Therefore, if the killing of the hemophiliac infant has no adverse effect on others it would be right to kill him.

That’s the amorality of utilitarianism. There really are no fixed moral principles, only expedient analyses. If Singer wants a chance to experience near-immortality, the cost of the quest to the not yet born can be justified because they don’t matter yet. But when he wants to justify killing disabled babies, the lives of the not yet born matter more than the life of an already born infant–even if the latter-born sibling will never actually make it into this world.

In other words, in Peter Singer’s moral universe, consistency doesn’t matter and principles need not be applied.


TOPICS: Chit/Chat
KEYWORDS: eugenics; moralabsolutes; singer

1 posted on 12/18/2012 7:25:57 PM PST by Morgana
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To: Morgana
Peter Singer's positions may be hideous, but these counterarguments are extremely poor and unconvincing.

Utilitarianism does have a moral principle: it is the principle of greatest good. This principle is argued against by Christian, virtue, and Kantian ethicists, but it is not argued against in this particular essay.

Peter Singer's positions are consistent with his utilitarian views. Those views are wrong, because utilitarianism is wrong. Something which the essayist doesn't even attempt to show.

2 posted on 12/18/2012 7:37:47 PM PST by who_would_fardels_bear
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To: Morgana
Reading between the lines, Singer is actually very consistent, only those who are truly enlightened are worthy of life.

And as fate would have it, Singer and his learned associates just happen to be those of the enlightened class, who (as they would gladly tell you) are the only beings capable of preserving and sustaining life on this planet.

And they will also argue that the vast majority of humans currently alive (especially those from the "Red" states who drive pickups, own AR-15s, and go to church) are a literal cancer killing mother earth, and must be literally irradicated as one would a tumor.

This is no metaphor, they are quite serious about this, as anyone who takes the time to read the works of these self-delusional psychopaths will soon discover, AND THEY NOW RUN OUR GOVERNMENT.

3 posted on 12/18/2012 7:51:59 PM PST by SecondAmendment (Restoring our Republic at 9.8357x10^8 FPS)
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To: who_would_fardels_bear
Not that it matters. If you need mental masturbation to figure out that Singer is a soulmate of the Nazis, then you have wasted a lot of time and money on pointless "education."
4 posted on 12/18/2012 7:55:32 PM PST by hinckley buzzard
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To: Morgana
Therefore, if the killing of the hemophiliac infant has no adverse effect on others it would be right to kill him.

Hitler would definitely agree.

5 posted on 12/18/2012 8:01:04 PM PST by mjp ((pro-{God, reality, reason, egoism, individualism, natural rights, limited government, capitalism}))
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To: Morgana

Peter Singer, just one among many of the unofficial
inspirations of extreme relativism/utilitarianism which informs the kind of human scum that finds a home in all
left-wing Administrations. Reminds me a lot of one of Obama’s original CZARS, Cass Sunstein, another otherworldly academic who lives strictly in the realm of theory which has no real application in the real world anyone lives in, ever has lived in, or ever will live in.


6 posted on 12/18/2012 8:05:55 PM PST by supremedoctrine
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Comment #7 Removed by Moderator

To: hinckley buzzard

Not that it matters, but if logical reasoning is not important in your life then you might consider becoming a liberal.


8 posted on 12/18/2012 8:42:52 PM PST by who_would_fardels_bear
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To: hinckley buzzard

Peter Singer is a barbarian


9 posted on 12/18/2012 8:53:21 PM PST by GeronL (http://asspos.blogspot.com)
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To: who_would_fardels_bear
Moral: adj. Concerned with the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character.

Utilitarianism does have a moral principle: it is the principle of greatest good.

I'm not sure why you consider this a moral principle. The principle of the greatest good is not concerned with the rightness or wrongness of an action, only with whether it increases or decreases the sum total of happiness in the world.

That's much more a calculus of efficiency or convenience than it is of morality.

If morality is to mean anything, it means doing something because it is right even though it is more inconvenient or efficient for the individual or society.

Utilitarianism (or the principle of the greatest good) can provide input to moral decisions, but by itself it is not a moral principle.

If utilitarianism were to have a moral issue, it would be the demonstration that an increase in the total good is always right. As I understand it, utilitarianism fails to make that demonstration, but rather assumes it, making all the subsequent calculations on how to achieve that greater good morally unsupported.

10 posted on 12/19/2012 3:41:07 AM PST by Sherman Logan
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To: Sherman Logan

Should say: “If morality is to mean anything, it means doing something because it is right even though it is less convenient or efficient for the individual or society.”


11 posted on 12/19/2012 3:47:36 AM PST by Sherman Logan
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To: Sherman Logan
I was not as clear as I could have been.

There are various moral or ethical theories only one of which can be right if morality is an objective quality, which I believe it is.

We can talk about all of the moral theories and say that X theory claims that an act Y is moral because of Z. The utilitarians (or those more commonly called consequentialists) believe that an act is moral if the positive consequences of that act outweigh the negative consequence. So we can claim that they have a moral theory and that theory is based on consequences. This is what I meant by my comment. They are not as directly concerned with "human character" as say virtue ethicists are, but they would be interested in human character indirectly if it can be shown that the development of good human character is a benefit that outweighs the negative consequences, i.e. people sacrificing their lives for others.

Now if it happens that consequentialism is wrong, which is what I personally believe for lots of what I claim to be very good reasons, then they could be engaging in acts which are without support and potentially immoral.

(BTW, the one good thing about consequentialists is that they do believe in objective moral standards. So at least they are not silly self-negating relativists.)

Those beliefs of Peter Singer that the essayist brings up may be incorrect, but they are not inconsistent, at least not based on the poor argument made by the essayist. Peter Singer is not an idiot. He is wrong and misguided in my opinion, but the error he has made is at the very beginning and not with any of the carefully drawn conclusions he makes from those initial, and incorrect, assumptions.

12 posted on 12/19/2012 12:04:51 PM PST by who_would_fardels_bear
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