The Irrelevant Singer? image

The Irrelevant Singer?

Peter Singer, whether we regard him as a brilliant popular philosopher (who else can make Hegel comprehensible?), or a notoriously odious ethicist (who else believes killing toddlers is defensible?), or both, is hard to dismiss as irrelevant. So I found it fascinating to read this post at First Things:

Singer has spent a lifetime justifying the unjustifiable. He is the founding father of the animal liberation movement and advocates ending “the present speciesist bias against taking seriously the interests of nonhuman animals.” He is also a defender of killing the aged (if they have dementia), newborns (for almost any reason until they are two years old), necrophilia (assuming it’s consensual), and bestiality (also assuming it’s consensual) …
While it is necessary to consider and debate unpopular views, there should be a minimum standard for ethical discourse whether on the elementary playground or in the lecture halls of Princeton. There are certain moral issues that are all but universally recognized as self-evidently wrong by those in possession of rational faculties. Rape is wrong, torturing babies for fun is objectively morally bad, and the Holocaust was not just a violation of utilitarian ethic, but an event of grave moral evil. If someone cannot meet this basic requirement, they can safely be ignored, regardless of where they received a paycheck.
For far too many years, Singer’s ill-conceived sophistry has been considered and debated by some of our country’s best minds. It’s time to end such silliness. Let’s assign a sophomore philosophy student to rebut his arguments and the rest of academia can move on to squashing the bad ideas being championed by morally and intellectually serious people.

Similar sentiments have previously been expressed by fellow Princeton professor Robert George, and Singer’s preferential utilitarianism was even compared less than favourably with Christian ethics in The Guardian, of all places, just last month. Maybe, just maybe, the tirelessly controversial ethicist of our day is falling from favour.

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