Monday, April 25, 2005

Singer and Singer – The Moral of the Story: An anthology of Ethics Through Literature

Peter Singer, and his wife Renata, have published a new anthology: The Moral of the Story. Leslie Cannold, in her review in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Spectrum, claims that it will be the sort of volume that will be returned to again and again.

Cannold’s thoughts on Singer himself, in the review, prove interesting. Cannold observes that with “the exception of Alain de Botton, Singer is without peer when it comes to picking the right topic and penning erudite and accessible prose steeped in casual references to philosophical debates on similar issues dating back thousands of years” – it is an observation that I would like to challenge. While de Botton is definitely accessible, I would not claim him to be erudite, since it always feels bland, contrived, and pretentious. Claiming that de Botton is the better of the two is simply misguided, Singer clearly is (this said even with my disdain for Singer and my enjoyment of de Botton). To even try to compare them seems somewhat pointless, since Singer is first and foremost an academic and an intellectual while de Botton is yet to amount to anything much more than a sophist. I am also yet, in my limited reading of Singer, to find him making casual references – his style always strikes me as well considered, and each reference is purposeful (unlike de Botton’s collections of attributions and quotations, jumbled together in a vain attempt at de Montaigne).

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