View Full Version : Peter Singer

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Mar 1st, 2007, 01:24 AM
I have no time for utilitarianism since it is about the greatest good for the greatest number. You can't see logic in moral/ethical absolutism, but I can because to me, killing a human or a nonhuman animal is morally wrong. Same with torture. As far as the meat industry is concerned, it is all about torture and killing.

Apr 13th, 2007, 02:59 PM
I don't like Peter Singer. Not so much for his animal rights views, but he is very Anti Disabled. He thinks disabled children should be killed, and also I read on the abolitionist site that he thinks that they should test on brain damaged humans instead of primates. I found that apsolutely shocking.

When I heard him interviewed he stated "I am predominatly vegan but will resort to a vegetarian diet if there are no other options such as if I'm on an aeroplane and have no choice of vegan food". Well I can't count the number of times ive found myself in a situation with nothin to eat, so I can see where he's coming from. I think he's saying he makes as many vegan choices as he can which is all most of us can do.

Well if I go somewhere that has no vegan choice, and I don't have my own food with me, I just don't eat. After all we won't starve if we miss a few meals and it should teach us to bring food with us next time.

Apr 13th, 2007, 04:12 PM
As regards the killing of severely diabled children, I don't think he advocates this on any eugenic ground, rather on the the potential enjoyment of subsequent life and interest in continuation of life.

I am Deafblind(although I wasn't born that way). I was born with thyroid difficency and mild asperger syndrome.

I also had a really good friend at college who was born deafblind from rubbella damage. Although most people with rubella damage suffer some degree of learning difficulties, he didn't. He is one of the nicest people I've known and he did seem to enjoy life. At least he did while he was at college with me. Yet Peter Singer would have had him killed simply because of his disability.

I don't care what reasons he gives for killing the disabled. I think it's morally wrong and rather shocking that a vegan should condone his views.

Apr 13th, 2007, 05:05 PM
He thinks disabled children should be killed, and also I read on the abolitionist site that he thinks that they should test on brain damaged humans instead of primates.

Singer argues that simply because a being is a "child", or human being, should not mean that they are given any weighted preference for their interests.

Like primates children, the severally disabled, etc. Might be different in some sense (depending on the degree of the disability/age of the child) but all share a similar interest; an interest in avoiding pain and suffering. From Singers point of view, this quality is the vital characteristic that determines whether or not a being is to be given any moral consideration.

Singer isn't saying that we should test on disabled humans instead of non humans, rather if testing is to be done at all, the candidates should be determined with equal consideration; regardless of race, sex or species.

I am by no means trying to justify any form of animal testing (or human testing) for medicine, cosmetics etc. I just feel there is a big discrepancy with Singers logic; whether one agrees with his utilitarian point of view or not.

Apr 14th, 2007, 07:24 PM
It doesn't matter how you word it. There is NEVER any justification for Animal testing on ANYBODY. Peter Singers views are ethnically indefencable, Both on Animal and Disability rights. I've worked with people with severe learning difficulties. Some of them are really sweet.

“HIV research would be more useful if it were carried out on brain-damaged humans rather than chimps"

So you see he DOES say endorse the testing of brain damaged humans which I think is totally indefensable. Read more about it here:

Apr 14th, 2007, 10:59 PM
I don't like Peter Singer because he is not a true vegan-he talks about being a conscientious omnivore and that it was ok to give in in certain situations. i also don't like his view when it comes to disabled children. I am profoundly hearing impaired (deaf in the left ear, mayby20 percent left on the right ear, I wear a hearing aid).
In re Singers stand on being a conscietnious omnivore, pelase check out Gary Francione's blog, his website is www.animal-law.org (http://www.animal-law.org)

Apr 15th, 2007, 01:43 AM
“HIV research would be more useful if it were carried out on brain-damaged humans rather than chimps"

But was he saying if we're going to test on sentient beings it would be preferable to test on brain damaged humans rather than chimpanzees?

I know that he's often been quoted out of context and I've heard him play the devils advocate by saying that 'if you're going to do ***** why not do *****'

May 27th, 2007, 01:57 AM
Most vegans believe they know where Peter Singer is coming from, but it is always good to hear a little more. Tomorrow evening (Monday 28/5) on abc tv 'Talking Heads' program at 6.30pm, there is a half-hour interview with Singer. I'll certainly be watching! :)

May 31st, 2007, 12:52 AM
It was an excellent interview, and he doesn't come over as bludgeoning his views, but that is his manner anyway. He was asked some searching questions, and his answers were great.

May 31st, 2007, 02:42 AM
I saw him speak in Princeton and was kind of disappointed... it was like he was pretending to not be tooo into animal rights so that the snobby Princeton crowd would listen to him maybe. I remember he said "I am not an animal rights activist" at the beginning of his speech.

Oh, but the other guy debating him, on the pro-meat side... don't even know his name... was saying that humans are more evolved because we use forks which keep our hands from our mouths so that we can communicate when we dine. (Um.... not all cultures use forks, are they less evolved??)

May 31st, 2007, 03:31 PM
Well it was nothing like that, but for anyone interested in a transcript of the interview - http://www.abc.net.au/talkingheads/txt/s1932378.htm :)

Jul 1st, 2007, 12:28 PM
I grabbed his book 'How are we to live?' from the Library last Friday and am really enjoying it. I especially like his thought re if we put more effort into contributing to good & lessening harm and not getting sucked into all the wants of consumerism, we would not need any psychotherapy. As a social worker I loved that and believe it makes lots of sense. I enjoyed reading that transcript too.

Jul 21st, 2008, 12:00 PM
I have a great deal of respect for Peter Singer, even though I find myself more and more at odds with his utilitarian arguments, which seem to allow for the exploitation of both humans and non-humans in the minority who are deemed expendable according to the subjective yardsticks of others. It was his book 'Animal Liberation' which led to me becoming a vegetarian (in ~2000/2001) and a year ago, a vegan. His arguments for the equal consideration of animals are flawless and lead to many an omnivore squirming when engaged in debate. :D At the moment, I am leaning towards the 'rights' view...this is Tom Regan's response to Peter Singer's comments on the show:

"In "Father of animal activism backs monkey testing" (The Sunday Times, Times Online, November 26, 2006), philosopher Peter Singer is quoted as saying that research that involved giving Parkinson's disease to monkeys was "justifiable." Singer expresses his opinion as part of an exchange between him and one of the researchers, Tipu Aziz, an Oxford neurosurgeon who tells Singer that "[t]o date 40,000 people have been made better" because of the research done on "only 100 monkeys." The exchange is part of a BBC2 program, "Monkeys, Rats and Me: Animal Testing" that aired on 27 November.

What makes Singer's opinion noteworthy is not what he thinks but who he is said to be. He is (we are told) "[t]he father of the modern animal rights movement," and his book, Animal Liberation, "is now considered the bible of the [animal rights] movement."

Taken together, these two statements would naturally lead people to infer that Singer believes in animal rights, and that the judgment he makes (that the research is "justifiable") is one that animal rights advocates would accept.

Neither inference is true. The Peter Singer interviewed on the BBC2 program does not believe that nonhuman animals have basic moral rights. As early as 1978, three years after the publication of Animal Liberation, he explicitly disavowed this belief.

No, Singer's moral convictions are those of a utilitarian. He believes that consequences determine moral right and wrong. Right actions bring about the best consequences. Wrong actions fail to do so. It is open to Singer, therefore, to judge the research "justifiable," which he does, based on the consequences Dr. Aziz describes.

People who believe in animal rights could not disagree more. The role basic moral rights play, whomsoever's rights they are, is to protect individuals against the very type of abuse so painfully illustrated by the monkey research under review. The basic moral rights of the individual (the rights to life and bodily integrity, for example) should never be violated in the name of reaping benefits for others.

Obviously, nothing I have said here proves that monkeys or other nonhuman animals have basic moral rights, or that utilitarianism is a flawed moral outlook. These are matters I have explored in other places. My far more modest objectives have been to correct some misunderstandings: first, that Peter Singer is an advocate of animal rights (he is not) and, second, that his judgment (that the research is "justifiable") would be endorsed by animal rights advocates (it would not).

There remains a final misunderstanding that needs to be set right. In the Sunday Times story, Gareth Walsh writes that "[Singer] said last week that he stood by his comments to Aziz, provided the monkeys had been treated as well as possible," to which Aziz is quoted as saying, "It just shows (SPEAK) haven’t a case, to be honest."

Precisely what is it that shows that SPEAK has no case against vivisection in general, the construction of the new research laboratory at Oxford in particular? It can only be that Peter Singer stands by his judgment that the research in which Aziz participated was "justifiable." It is the fact that Peter Singer said this that is supposed to expose SPEAK's opposition as groundless.

One must hope that Dr. Aziz is a better researcher than he is a thinker. It is an elementary principle of logic that no statement is true because of the identity of the person who makes it. Granted, Peter Singer is an influential philosopher. But not even Peter Singer can make statements true merely by making them. The truth of the matter is, Dr. Aziz and his colleagues will need to address SPEAK's opposition on its merits, not pretend that they have done so by enlisting Peter Singer on their side."



Jul 21st, 2008, 06:56 PM
I think Peter singer does the animal rights movement more damage then credit. It gives people the misleading impression that we care more about animals then we do humans but it doesn't seem he cares about either if he will talk and even agree with monsters that torture primates.

I sent Peter Singer an email. I'm yet to get a response from it. It's obvious I'm not worth bothering about just because I am not 'perfect'.

Jul 21st, 2008, 11:01 PM
That's a badly unfair thing to assume.

Jul 22nd, 2008, 01:40 AM
Any email I've sent to Peter Singer has always been answered immediately. What you are assuming about him, dreama, is purely in your own mind.

Jul 22nd, 2008, 10:19 AM
Any email I've sent to Peter Singer has always been answered immediately. What you are assuming about him, dreama, is purely in your own mind.

Well that just proves my point doesn't it. He obviously doesn't want to communicate with anybody who is disabled as he thinks we should all be killed at birth.

Jul 22nd, 2008, 10:40 AM
Singer likes the sound of his own voice far too much.
He seems to look for a grand unified theory of everything all the time and ends up sounding like a c0ck to me and a nutter to others. Utilitarianism has its flaws with regard to the treatment of living things and all too often he rather obtusely refuses to see it.

Jul 22nd, 2008, 05:16 PM
His living is to ramble in an at least mostly coherent way. Streams and streams of wordy logic for his entire career. Useful thinking points for many, but anyone having that much of their own reasoning exposed to, & immortalised in, the public view will always be doomed to appear nuts & arrogant.
What he says is far away, and is all cold mathematics, just in words, so there is no need at all to be upset by it. Intellectual masturbation is all it amounts to, so there's no need to assume anything about the man's character as a human being, dreama. Especially the value judgement on your own real life that he has never made, and will never make.

Jul 22nd, 2008, 05:40 PM
yes - I think that basically philosophers construct arguments in order to see things clearly. Modern preference utilitarians such as Singer might - for example- point out that there is no difference morally between infanticide, abortion and animal experimentation (though clearly there is a legal difference) but that does not mean that they are actually advocating all or any of these; my understanding is that Peter Singer is only looking at what logically follows from the arguments.

Jul 22nd, 2008, 05:59 PM
You are right Prawnil.
It is his purpose to appear just as he does, I suppose. Fair enough.

Oct 17th, 2008, 02:46 PM
NOTES: I agree with almost everything philosopher Pete Singer says about animal rights. He does however believe that the comparative VALUES of human lives and non-human animal lives are unequal because humans have a greater mental capacity and treasure their pasts and futures in ways that animals cannot. Singer concludes essentially that human beings value their lives more than non-human animals do, and that given a choice of saving the life of only one, human or animal, the human's life is more valuable. This is my rebuttal to his view:

From a human standpoint, I believe it is ethically improper to subtract value from the lives of non-human animals based on whether or not they can anticipate a clear future or lament a defined past. Those things which seemingly add meaning to our lives as human beings are not necessarily the same items that qualify the value of the lives of non-human animals. Most non-human animals, as we understand, do not have an in-depth awareness of or infatuation with the passage of time as most human beings do, excluding those humans born without the necessary mental faculties to sense time. I would argue that interpreting extra worth in a life based solely on the abilities to both reflect on a past and look forward to a future is unfounded, and deeply rooted in human egoism.

Non-human animals, like human beings, are in fact AWARE that they exist. Based on these requirements, it would follow that the lives of human beings who truly live "in the moment", without any serious consideration of their pasts or for their futures are somehow less valuable than the lives of those human beings who look back on their pasts with a nostalgic or regretful sense of remembrance or meticulously plan and anticipate their futures. Please note that non-human animals do employ the most important aspects of time awareness. Birds build nests to plan for their young, and a cat, upon being burned by a hot stove, will avoid making the same mistake in the future. Non-human animals both learn from their pasts and plan for their futures. They do not, however, as far as we know, experience wishfulness, dread, regret, or nostalgia, all of which are inherently selfish, and none of which are morally significant. Thus, identifying these morally hollow emotions and thrusting them forth as evidence of the greater value of human life as compared to the lives of non-human animals is shrouded in self-interest and without moral basis or impartial judgment.

Let me digress for a moment to attempt to quickly estimate the non-human animal's capacity for morality. Non-human animals certainly cannot be accused of causing intentional harm, or acting wickedly, but they do exhibit very basic abilities to act to do what is right. For example, animals are morally compelled to care for their young as we do. When veal calves are wrenched away from their mothers on factory farms directly after birth, the mother will "scream", obviously tormented by the event. It is not in the mother's self-interest to do this. Her physical pain and fate does not depend on the presence of her calf. I believe this agony is directly caused by the ability of the sow to recognize moral "rightness" and the offense thereof, and although the sow does not realize that her child will be slaughtered, she does realize that her moral obligation to care for her calf is being compromised. In the relative respects, the sow's instinctual capacity for morality is much like that of a human child, who also has a built-in capacity to recognize morality, but has not yet acquired the tools to apply this morality unfailingly to the world in which we live. I would refer to any sentient being that cannot intentionally act wickedly yet has a capacity for moral rightness (however limited), innocent, and would argue that it makes very little sense to use the same system to assign value to the lives of innocents (non-human animals and human children) as we do to assign value to the lives of non-innocent, desirous beings such as adult humans.

One needs only a skeletal understanding of animal behavior to recognize that animals, like human beings, are aware that they exist, enjoy the benefits of a free (or perceived free) existence, and experience discontent and/or suffering when their free existence is compromised or they are subjected to pain. These intrinsically fundamental facts should be, in my opinion, the only criteria for placing comparative value on a non-human animal's life.

Oct 17th, 2008, 03:31 PM
Hi Lauralam.

Thats very interesting, I didn't know Singer believed in this basis for valuing humans over non-humans. Can you say what book of his says this or give a link to his arguement? (I have animal liberation and how are we to live, but don't recall him argueing that human lives have more value).

I would argue that as we are members of the human species we can not objectivly evaluate the worth of other species because our perspective is not impartial - we are biased because we see things from the human perspective.

I also belive that some non-human animals such as Eliphants and Dolphins are of similar intelligence to humans and are very self aware. They may well be aware of things that humans do not understand.

If you could ask an Eliphant what species life has the more value they may well say Eliphants.

"given a choice of saving the life of only one, human or animal, the human's life is more valuable."

In such a moral dilemma I would choose to save which ever I believed would suffer the most. I'd decide on the basis of trying to minimase the amount of suffering rather than try and evaluate the value of life.
ie. I'd sooner a human dies a quick painless death than have a dog tortured to death. I never really have to make such decisions though - thankfully.


Oct 17th, 2008, 04:30 PM
I place unequal comparitive values on the worth of humans, let alone humans and non human animals. I may not totally agree 100% with the reasoning behind Singers argument but i agree with the final sentiment in a practical sense.

My family and my friends would come before a stranger if i had to make a choice who to save in a disaster situation,say! I'd try and do the best i could but there would deff be an order in which i'd prioritise.

If there was a fire in a forest and i found an injured dog beside an anthill i would carry the dog away rather than scoop up 100,000 ants and save them. Again, i have no problem with that!

I agree that in a perfect world every living thing has the same value but philosophy can be annoyingly impractical sometimes and i think PS knows that too.

Oct 20th, 2008, 02:29 PM
I wouldn't even know where to start on where I disagree with Singer, there are so many points, I will have a think and post them coherently later when I am not at work, but yes unfortunately many of his views are indeed speciesist.