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Congratulations, Peter Singer

12 Jun, 12 | by Iain Brassington

Just a quick post to note that Peter Singer has been made a Companion of the Order of Australia – which is, apparently, the Aussie equivalent of a KBE.  The right-wing press ain’t happy – but irrespective of whether or not you agree with his claims, or his methods, Singer’s contribution to bioethics (and ethics more widely) is undeniable.  And since it’s not the role of the academy to say things that’ll make people happy, the fact that he has a record of saying things that don’t make people happy says nothing about his deserving the award.

H/T Brian Leiter.

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  • Jomal96

    Certainly well deserved and it shows a courage sadly lacking in the UK where distinguished scientists are refused awards in case we upset the anti animal research brigade.

  • Julian Kelly

    There are also a lot of left wingers who aren’t happy. Singer doesn’t polarize people into left right camps. He has been so self-contradictory over the years that many regardless of political persuasion are left dismayed. He is not the voice of utilitarianism that is often portrayed.

  • http://www.law.manchester.ac.uk/aboutus/staff/iain_brassington Iain Brassington

    I’m not sure that anyone who knows anything about philosophy would think him to be the voice of “utilitarianism”, though.  And as for being self-contradictory: well, maybe.  But maybe that’s a matter of changing and refining one’s views, and maybe it’s hard to avoid if and when moral questions and claims turn out to be more slippery than one thought when one made them first.  If the alternative is sticking to a party line, then self-contradiction seems to me to be desirable…

  • Richard Hain

    As a Christian ethicist, I am not necessarily the person you might expect to leap to Singer’s defence here. But I do feel that what appears to be inconsistency or self-contradiction in Singer is often in reality a highly principled determination to remain rational as well as compassionate. If it becomes clear that one’s argument is flawed, the rational thing has to be to change it and, if necessary, its conclusions. Any other approach is surely a matter of blind faith.

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