Peter Singer: The practical application of ethics.
Peter Albert David Singer, an Australian philosopher, is a professor at Princeton University. His interest is in finding the fundaments of our ethical choices from the practical point of view, investigating controversial themes. Singer formulates a practical ethic based on the renovation of the utilitarian perspective.
In Practical Ethics (1979), he analyzed why and how the interests of beings should be evaluated according to concrete properties. And not according to whether they belong to an abstract group.
Based on utilitarianism, Singer rethinks the current role of ethics. Utilitarianism is the doctrine according to which the decision or action that brings more benefits to the community is good or right. to the community. An Action is better the more positive the consequences are for the moral agent and the greatest amount of people.
Peter Singer, in turn, updates this theory to provide solutions to important contemporary ethical dilemmas.
Singer considers that all beings that are capable of suffering must have their interest considered in an equal form. Therefore, there is no priority between humans or animals.
Singer argues that the right to bodily integrity is linked with the quality of life of the being. Therefore, an advocate of abortion and euthanasia in various circumstances.
Outside academia, Singer is best known for his book Animal Liberation (1975), foundational work on animal rights, and his positions on bioethical issues.
Peter believes that the moral progression of a society can be judge by the way how they treat their most weak members, whether human or not.
The author's ideas on the subject of euthanasia have also been discussed in society. Singer differentiates euthanasia into three types: voluntary euthanasia, a-voluntary euthanasia, and involuntary euthanasia.
The philosopher states that the first type is an exercise of personal autonomy, intolerable suffering. And it occurs when death is caused by the patient's legitimate will.
A-voluntary euthanasia occurs when the person from whom life is taken cannot choose between life and death for himself.
Lastly, involuntary euthanasia refers to death provoked without the patient has expressed his position about it, for example, by increasing the dosage of drugs without the patient's knowledge.
Finally, his concept of effective altruism, described in one of his books, is about injustice and exposes his point of view about the fact that some people live in abundance when others die starving. And for him, social inequality is morally indefensible.
The finality of ethical judgment and the utilitarian perspective
Singer proposes to discuss philosophically the purpose of ethical judgment for practical decision-making.
For him, it would be necessary to return to an old approach to ethics, with simple and easily applicable rules: the consequentialist perspective. From this perspective, the consequences of our choices constitute the only fundamental standard of ethics.
The best-known consequentialist theory, although not the only one, is utilitarianism. In this perspective, it refutes the idea that ethics is relative or subjective. But possible to be demonstrated from reason.
To understand how to use reason to make a moral judgment it is necessary to consider some premises.
In the first place, everyone who thinks that what you do is for the good lives under an ethical standard. This way of reasoning is linked to the defense of a way of life, justifying it.
Second, acceptable ethical behavior is that which is somehow universal. This does not mean that the ethical judgment has to have universal "application" because it will depend on the circumstances.
Finally, the third premise is to adopt a utilitarian position to make an ethical judgment.
Although inspired by utilitarianism, this way of thinking differs from classical utilitarianism. It considers that the "best consequences" are understood as those that deepen the interests of those affected.
For Peter Singer, one important change in the attitude of contemporary societies refers to the non-acceptance of inequalities.
Therefore, reflecting on the obligations of the rich to the poor is fundamental to the very survival of humanity.
Singer made the differentiation between obligation and supererogation. He proposed that people with a good economic status could voluntarily redirect their resources to actions that would benefit needy individuals or groups.
Reflecting on the distribution of goods among all people, to supply their basic needs has been an object of reflection since ancient times. However, new themes, such as the environmental issue and climate change, which introduce the need to consider the rights of future generations, are an ethical imperative of the 21st century.