Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Peter Singer: Architect of the Culture of Death

[...] Humans and non-human animals are fundamentally sufferers. They possess consciousness that gives them the capacity to suffer or to enjoy life, to be miserable or to be happy. This incontrovertible fact gives Singer a basis, ironically, for a new form of discrimination that is more invidious than the ones he roundly condemns. Singer identifies the suffering/enjoying status of all animals with their quality of life. It follows from this precept, then, that those who suffer more than others have less quality-of-life, and those who do not possess an insufficiently developed consciousness fall below the plane of personhood. He argues, for example, that where a baby has Down syndrome, and in other instances of "life that has begun very badly," parents should be free to kill the child within 28 days after birth. Here he is in fundamental agreement with Michael Tooley, a philosopher he admires, who states that "new-born humans are neither persons nor quasi-persons, and their destruction is in no way intrinsically wrong." Tooley believes that killing infants becomes wrong when they acquire "morally significant properties," an event he believes occurs about three months after their birth.

According to Singer, some humans are non-persons, while some non-human animals are persons. The key is not nature or species membership, but consciousness. A pre-conscious human cannot suffer as much as a conscious horse. In dealing with animals, we care only about their quality of life. We put a horse that has broken its leg out of its misery as quickly as possible. This merciful act spares the animal an untold amount of needless suffering. If we look upon human animals in the same fashion, our opposition to killing those who are suffering will begin to dissolve. The "quality-of-life" ethic has a tangible correlative when it relates to suffering; the "sanctity-of-life" seemingly relates to a mere vapor. Read more
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1 comment:

John Thomas said...

This - obviously - is the logical conclusion of any thinking emanating from a purely materialist world-view. It is the reductio ad absurdum of the project of seeing humans, animals, and all life, as the accidental products of undirected chance processes. The inconsistency seen here, though, is the fact that Singer can find any reason whatever to attribute value to (what he calls) "persons". He's awfully strong on the possibility of valuing animals - I sometimes wonder if he doesn't have a little deep-seated cuddly animal-loving sentiment well hidden by all that cynicism ...