Peter Singer Speaks - Utilitarianism Shines
The Independent has Peter Singer responding to questions from the public. It does the job nicely of showing how scary some of his thinking is.
Would you kill a disabled baby? KAREN MEADE, DublinKilling a baby could be in the best interests of the baby? That's a pretty twisted bit of ethics isn't it. In many ways, Singer's views here are a vindication of pro-life groups, which he happily admits.
Yes, if that was in the best interests of the baby and of the family as a whole. Many people find this shocking, yet they support a woman's right to have an abortion. One point on which I agree with opponents of abortion is that, from the point of view of ethics rather than the law, there is no sharp distinction between the foetus and the newborn baby.
The really irrational comment that caught my attention however was
Does free will exist and if so, is it restricted to human beings, or can other animals have it? E CASTLE, BrightonI have heard this from my lecturer too. It is total nonsense. If free will doesn't exist, this means our actions are determined by things outside of our control (either chance [which is an irrational concept in itself], natural law, or some other intelligent agent). If we are not the ones determining our actions, then in no sense can it be said that we make choices. That is the sloppy thinking of ethicists who want to try and keep moral accountability without free will.
In a deep metaphysical sense, I don't think free will exists. But we, and some animals, can make choices, and that's real enough, whatever the causes of our choices.
It gets worse if you believe in determinism, because if determinism is true, there is no such thing as a choice at all. The word choice becomes meaningless and it is only used out of the desperation of our current academics to avoid the logical consequences of their beliefs.
Utilitarianism also shows its irrationality
Are there moral absolutes, if so, what are they and why? RENAE MANNYep....we have a deontological duty to be a consequentialist. Why just that moral absolute? Well, a further question highlights the reasoning (at least for Singer)
The only moral absolute is that we should do what will have the best consequences for all those affected by our actions.
Why should I be moral? KATIE FARRELL, New YorkSo we should be 'moral' because it is a sort of enlightened self-interest. Not because there is some 'absolute' as Singer previously declared. he is trying to have it both ways, where as neither seems particularly convincing. Most people realise that morality is not about doing what is best for you.
Well ... I've written a whole book on that topic How Are We to Live?, but in a single sentence: you'll find it more fulfilling, in the long run, to contribute to making the world a better place, than to think just of your own interests.