Peter Singer
#4
(04-15-2010, 06:59 PM)Antonius Block Wrote: I remember hearing a bit about Singer in college in the course of my ethics courses, but I never studied his books. All I know is that he is one of the leading proponents of consequentialist ethics today, and deserves some respect for carrying his arguments to their logical conclusions, horrific though they might appear to common-sense. That, and his book Animal Liberation was highly influential in spurring the modern animal-rights movement.

I can't respond to his book specifically, but I can say I think consequentialism generally falls apart. Because an ethical agent, in this system, is equally responsible for the consequences of acting or failing to act in any given context, the individual agent ultimately dissolves into a node in an infinite web of "other peoples'" actions and intentions. The notion of an agent ceases to make sense (much less any useful concept of virtue, which I think is the proper focus of ethics).

Antonious, that is an interesting take on Singer and not at all unreasonable. He defines himself as largely utilitarian in his book, but he indicates that his perspectives are not always utilitarian and sometimes at odds with it. However, I think Singer would respond that, evaluatively speaking, a person should act according to the reasonable deductions of ethics as defined by the actions' consequences at any given point in time. One cannot always know the outcomes of their actions, but they can anticipate them. The rightness or wrongness of an action is determined by "your evaluation of what you expect the best consequences to be, after a reasonable amount of deliberation spent sorting through the various circumstances and facts available to you." (Shoemaker on [Ethical] Egoism, P.26 [Emphasis in original]) Though that is a view typically maintained by ethical egoists, it must also be the conclusion of the consequentialist.

Still, I think that Singer would define himself as an agent-neutral, preference consequentialist: "Agent-neutral consequentialism ignores the specific value a state of affairs has for any particular agent. Thus, in an agent-neutral theory, an actor's personal goals do not count any more than anyone else's goals in evaluating what action the actor should take."  And preference consequentialists posit that: "'good' is described as the satisfaction of each person's individual preferences or desires, and a right action is that which leads to this satisfaction." 

But I certainly agree with you. A closer examination of it reveals its folly.

Have you ever heard a consequentialist qualify "consequence"? I have not. To the consequentialist: "a morally right action is one that produces a good outcome, or consequence." But what is a "good outcome"? What is good for you might not be good for me. Say someone wanted to assassinate a powerful political leader. If the tyrant is exterminating the poor in your own country, then killing the tyrant would produce a "good outcome". But if that same tyrant is supporting the poor (by preventing them from being killed) in another nation, killing the tyrant would produce a "bad outcome". If it is relative according to one's own personal needs and wants, then it begins to sound a lot like ethical egoism, which, although holds some weight, is not without its various pitfalls.
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Messages In This Thread
Peter Singer - by INPEFESS - 04-12-2010, 06:18 PM
Re: Peter Singer - by INPEFESS - 04-15-2010, 06:29 PM
Re: Peter Singer - by Antonius Block - 04-15-2010, 06:59 PM
Re: Peter Singer - by INPEFESS - 04-15-2010, 07:42 PM
Re: Peter Singer - by Anastasia - 04-15-2010, 08:47 PM
Re: Peter Singer - by Antonius Block - 04-15-2010, 08:56 PM
Re: Peter Singer - by Antonius Block - 04-15-2010, 08:58 PM
Re: Peter Singer - by INPEFESS - 04-15-2010, 10:55 PM
Re: Peter Singer - by INPEFESS - 04-16-2010, 12:26 AM
Re: Peter Singer - by INPEFESS - 04-16-2010, 12:59 AM
Re: Peter Singer - by Historian - 04-16-2010, 09:10 AM
Re: Peter Singer - by INPEFESS - 04-16-2010, 06:21 PM
Re: Peter Singer - by Benno - 04-23-2010, 05:20 AM
Re: Peter Singer - by INPEFESS - 04-23-2010, 11:25 AM



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