Peter Singer is often described as the world's most influential philosopher. He is also one of its most controversial. The author of important books such as Animal Liberation and Practical Ethics, he helped launch the animal rights and effective altruism movements and contributed to the development of bioethics. Now, in Ethics in the Real World, Singer shows that he is also a master at dissecting important current events in a few hundred words.
In this book of brief essays, he applies his controversial ways of thinking to issues like climate change, extreme poverty, animals, abortion, euthanasia, human genetic selection, sports doping, the sale of kidneys, the ethics of high-priced art, and ways of increasing happiness. Singer asks whether chimpanzees are people, smoking should be outlawed, or consensual sex between adult siblings should be decriminalized, and he reiterates his case against the idea that all human life is sacred, applying his arguments to some recent cases in the news. In addition, he explores, in an easily accessible form, some of the deepest philosophical questions, such as whether anything really matters and what is the value of the pale blue dot that is our planet.
©2016 Peter Singer (P)2016 Tantor
"Peter Singer is among the most vital moral voices of our time. He urges us to confront not only the question of what we should not do, but also the harder and larger questions of what we should do, and how much we owe to others." (Larissa MacFarquhar, author of Strangers Drowning)
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Ethics in the Real World. Each essay was engaging and interesting. They were short but thoughful and definitely opened my mind to new ways of thinking about certain things. I will listen again soon.
The book's title is wholly misleading. This collection should have been titled "An Overview of the Liberal Mindset for the Last 10 Years". The author hit his pet Band-Aid project (charity) hard during the first 90% of the essays, and global warming was mentioned practically every other sentence (a great Big Government cause). He must have wearied of leftist agenda-pushing, for the last 10% of the essays he selected were more objective and non-partisan.
Speaking of misguided wealth redistribution ("if not voluntary, then forced"), along with advocating Communism (the 'political naivety' I noted above), his other solution to all problems was Government Control. This displays a complete historical detachment from the 20th Century, which experimented with various forms of authoritarian rule (including Communism) and which offered us (and still offer us - say hello to Kim Jong Un) clear horrific results.
Not rising above Philosophical Subjectivity (incredibly - though even more incredibly no other philosopher has to date) (enter me). The shallow ethics of the essays were thus preached from the typical vapid platforms of subjectivity, mainly offering "just because" for reasons, and Communism and Government Control as solutions.
To the author's credit, he did note why philosophy is in the toilet - that since the Logical Positivists of the 1930's, philosophy was more about words and concepts (what I call "lexiconic twaddle" - problems that a simple agreement on terms between two people would have solved) rather than struggling to identify objective values (I've identified three) - and who wouldn't want to play parlor games rather than tackle the hard issues of the day? Just to note, the other evasive activities that academic philosophers engage in is what I call 'hiding in history', and creating long ism labels for past wrong-headed thinking - great for impressing the clueless at parties, or trying to browbeat critics down with (if credentials alone fail).
He did recommend another book, "On What Matters" - but given the state of philosophy (still ethically shallow, subjective, and clueless), either that book was equally clueless or it has been completely ignored. I will investigate, but not without a grimace, expecting the worst.
All though the essays I envisioned the author and the essayists as "Western Liberal Elitists" (or wannabe's) - as if anyone actually needed their largesse as much as they needed to achieve independence and self-sufficiency (if not leading roles for humanity).
As for ethics, you get statements this, "We evolved a mysterious sense of morality". If you do not see what a vapid statement that is, then these essays were written for you. The essays are so clueless that one even mentions a 'morality pill' (and again, if you do not see why that is clueless, then you will feel at home with the book's selection of essays).
To mention a few specific liberal agendas covered, they included being anti-Western, anti-wealth, anti-livestock, anti-fishing (and just to note, no viable solutions were offered - unless you can maintain your work life being a vegan - and anyone who does not have a low-burn sedentary occupation could not), anti-Bush of course, pro national health care, forced voting ("the Australians like to be coerced to vote") (a policy which the Democrats feel their 'votes for free money platform' will benefit from here - calculating that most of the non-voters are dregs), pro homosexual, pro transgender, Band-Aid policy on poverty, anti US Constitution, anti Separation of Powers (and that's just like a power-thirsty 'Liberal Tyrant Wannabe' I thought); hypocritical - for any program the essays do not like, they bring up the 'potential abuse' argument - when abuse already exists in every liberal program out there; pro Snowden, making preposterous statements like "the rich are using most of the energy" (as if they did not generate anything in return), and completely ignores self-sufficiency and wealth-creation, and that if poverty-burdened countries only became more like America their main problem would not be 'too little' but 'too much' (but, since it is fashionable to kick America (to make oneself feel big), to admit that would be exposing one's prior foolish beliefs, and one can't lose face, can one).
Thankfully the author ran out of 'Agenda Steam' near the end, and the last 10% of the essays were less biased - he actually selected an essay that argued against blind, blanket opposition to GMO's, and another actually argued for genetic experimentation. The last several were politically vanilla.
I am glad I stuck-it-out until the end - it was a good refresher on Western Liberal Elitism and the sorry state of Ethics (and thus of philosophy to date).
One term/concept I did like was 'longevity escape velocity'.
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