The Lethal Philosophy of Peter Singer

The Lethal Philosophy of Peter Singer October 15, 2012

Over at Quadrant, James Franklin has a great piece on “The Lethal Philosophy of Peter Singer,” critiquing the well known Philosopher.

He concludes:

The essence of his [the editor of Journal of Medical Ethics] defence is that Peter Singer’s views on the permissibility of infanticide of healthy babies are now widely accepted in ethical discussion. He is able to take it for granted that the values of our liberal society include respect for free speech but not for the lives of babies—that is the province of Christian fanatics.


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  • Peter Singer is the best example I know of a very smart, moral person arguing for shockingly wicked and stupid conclusions because of his initial, flawed premises. Lord have mercy.

    • Joe

      Derek, what flawed premises? If you are saying that religious premises are necessary to justify your ethical positions, then you put yourself in a very weak position.

      • Joe, the flawed premises are those of his utilitarianism. I think utilitarianism is one of the most horribly flawed meta-ethical systems on offer. Singer is the utilitarian philosopher par excellence. You don’t have to be “religious” in the sense you’re speaking of to come to that conclusion. Just ask John Rawls.

        As for need for “religious” premises, in the first place, I actually don’t like the “religious”/secular label when it comes to ideologies because it is misleading and unhelpful. The first half of this article starts to articulate the point well. a matter of fact, about the only thing I came away convinced of in my classes on moral philosophy and the philosophy of human rights is that none of the “non-religious”/secular systems on offer could actually justify them properly, in which case some theological grounding of the sort give by Locke in the 2nd Treatise is the most viable option. Also helpful is Nicholas Wolterstorffs, “Justice: Rights and Wrongs.”

        Have a good one.

        • Joe

          Derek, the link doesn’t point to an article. Anyway, I’m mostly with Parfit on these matters, but what bothers you about utilitarianism? The consequentialist, the utility, or the “aggregation” part?

  • Craig

    To his credit Singer arrives at his position through serious, fair-minded moral and philosophical reflection. He offers reasons for the positions he takes, and he’s the sort of person with whom one can reason. He tends to be far more informed about the views of his opponents than his opponents are of his. He evinces willingness to entirely rethink his position and to give up his basic axioms. So, although I often disagree with Singer, I tend to be far more comfortable with him than with his various ideological opponents, religious or otherwise, who wish to discredit or silence him through force, demagoguery, and gasps of indignation.