Friday, April 15, 2005

Peter Singer Appointed Time’s Influential Philosopher

Peter Singer, controversial utilitarian, has been appointed this year’s influential philosopher by Time Magazine (Time, April 18, 2005, p. 97). It is an interesting appointment to succeed Jurgen Habermas, and one likely to encourage some debate.

Arthur Caplan’s blurb on Singer is brief, pointing only toward Singer’s significance. But it does provide an insightful grasp of the relationship many of us, who are inclined towards ethics, have with Singer’s work (and him, by implication). Caplan writes:
It is easy to demonise Singer … since his theory points toward conclusions
that some find morally repugnant … Those who scorn his views can
rarely produce an argument about why he is wrong – they simply don’t like
his conclusions. But ethics is all about arguments, not moral pronouncements …
he is a man whose reasoning merits consideration by everyone. There are few
philosophers, living or dead, about whom that can be said.
Caplan and I agree in disagreeing with Singer, but I am willing to concede that his arguments are always worthy of careful consideration. (I am one of those who has been trying to pull apart his arguments for the moral consideration of animals so that I can maintain my carnivorism in clear conscience, ever since Singer turned me into a vegetarian for a couple of weeks in 2002). I am also drawn to his arguments regarding infanticide and euthanasia.

I would like to open this post up for a discussion of Singer’s corpus.

1 comment:

MelbournePhilosopher said...

I've had the mixed pleasure of hearing him speak. Frankly, I didn't find his views (or the man himself) repugnant, sensational or anything meriting significant comment. He struck me as towing a basically conservative line, where the most "scary" things he has to say relate to vegetarianism and infanticide. Vegetarianism is a non-offensive choice, and anyone who hasn't considered the somewhat arbitrary distinction between late-term pregnancy abortion and infanticide simply hasn't thought very hard.

Peter Singer is an intelligent, consistent man, who is influential because he advertises a media-sensitive line between the accepted norm and the slightly sensational.

As a person, I'm sure he's very nice. But as a philosopher, he's nothing exceptional. But if he can reach the masses, then more power to him.