The forced cancellation of philosopher Peter Singer’s speaking event in New Zealand is testament to the utter, unhinged totalitarianism of the anti-free speech left. Once again, the left is eating its own and another leftist icon is discovering that you can never be woke enough for the inquisitors of offence culture.
The only thing that can be said in the wokerati’s defence is that at least they don’t play sides: Singer is a lefty as they come. This is the guy who quit the Labor Party because Bob Hawke wasn’t left enough, and has run for the Greens twice. Singer is the wellspring of animal rights and ticks all the lefty boxes on everything from abortion to anti-Israel.
But it’s his views on the disabled which have got the wokerati’s panties in a bunch.
Utilitarian and moral philosopher Peter Singer is best known by many for the parable of the drowning child, a thought experiment which equates ignoring a drowning child to not spending your disposable income on reducing poverty, thereby saving the same theoretical life. It’s a greatest hit from his public speaking repertoire that he compares to The Rolling Stones having to play ‘Satisfaction’ night after night.
Never mind that it’s a terrible argument which has been widely criticised in philosophical literature. Bernard Williams notes that Singer’s arguments would logically require the extermination of all predator species. Howard Darmstadter points out that Singer’s “drowning child” argument leads to absurd conclusions such as that people shouldn’t give their own children any preference at all. Although Singer unconvincingly tried to reject Williams’s counter-argument, he agrees with Darmstadter about not privileging our own children.
Which is one thing that can be said for Singer: if his “vacuous utilitarianism” leads to unpalatable conclusions, he sticks to his guns nonetheless.
And that’s what upsets disability advocates.
In the disabled community, Singer is most famous for believing that parents should be allowed to kill disabled newborns[…]
After his appointment to Princeton in 1999 was met with an outcry from the disabled community, one New York Times piece noted “Mr Singer is not easily categorised.” He has advocated for veganism and animal rights since the 1970s, and for people giving away as much income as possible to poverty relief agencies (Singer and his wife donate 40% of their income). He founded The Life You Can Save, a foundation which identifies the most effective charities for poverty relief, and the Great Ape Project which seeks to confer the same legal rights of humans on chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans.
He believes we are duty-bound to relieve suffering. This beneficent logic extends to involuntary euthanasia for both cognitively impaired adults and disabled infants.
Singer’s retard-killing eugenics is the logical extension of his pro-abortion stance. Singer uses the same logic as other pro-abortionists and simply extends it a little bit further than most of them are willing to acknowledge. If the “pro-choice” crowd are willing to countenance “partial birth abortion” (i.e. killing newborns), why come over all squeamish if that newborn has a disability?
Where the argument falls down, according to disability advocates and his many critics, is that definitions of ‘good’ and ‘happy’ are subjective and that Singer is woefully under informed about the lived reality of disabled people’s lives.
Writer, activist and attorney Harriet McBryde Johnson[…]noted: “We take constraints that no one would choose and build rich and satisfying lives within them. We enjoy pleasures other people enjoy, and pleasures peculiarly our own. We have something the world needs.”thespinoff.co.nz/society/19-02-2020/disabled-voices-on-peter-singer-whos-actually-listening-to-this-guy/
I see no reason to doubt Johnson’s argument – but doesn’t it apply just as much to any aborted foetus or “partial-birth aborted” infant? If “good” and “happy” are subjective and unable to inform rational debate, then doesn’t the same logic apply to animals?
As it happens, I disagree with almost all of Singer’s key arguments. But however much I disagree with him, I absolutely defend his right to have them and to speak them freely in public. Aside from their blatant hypocrisy, the fundamental mistake that the Cancel Culture loons trying to shut down Singer’s speaking engagement have made is to confuse words with actions. There is a fundamental difference, as John Stuart Mill showed, between free speech and incitement. Singer is not inciting anyone.
Or are they just afraid that, when Singer’s views are so vehemently attacked, someone might start asking uncomfortable questions about stuff like abortion?
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