Peter Singer

How to live a good life


May 28, 2024
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World-famous utilitarian philosopher and Princeton Professor of Bioethics, Peter Singer, has spent his career asking (and answering) questions that make even the most radical thinkers uncomfortable. He joins UnHerd to discuss his maverick moral calculus and the struggle for telos in a culture both more isolated and more connected than ever before.

 

You can watch the full event above.


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marjan m
marjan m
17 days ago

I disagree on nearly all points with Mr Singer.

He seems to have very little experience of real life emanations of the things he so readily promotes.

Maybe once a Maverick, now rather a poster boy of how we like to think about things in an abstract and detached fashion. A synthetic, perfectionist way of viewing the human race, life and society.

I hear nothing about the subject child in the surrogacy debate. Which was appalling.

He seems to be oblivious to the existence of post traumatic growth or resilience brought on by suffering. He seems to have a narrow understanding of a meaningful life. Life is not the absence of illness or suffering. When you walk through an older forest you see all sorts of trees. Many have strange growth, broken twigs, some lie down and still manage to sprout offshoots. It protects other plants, houses animals, micro-climates for all sorts of funghi and other organisms. And we realise it’s beauty. We don’t go and take all the “faulty ones” out. We obviously have higher consciousness and more self-control, but we have not learned yet to deal well with inevitability (and merit) of adversity and decay. We rather not look.

This acceptance of the idea that genetic screening is obviously a good thing as many mothers-to-be now engage in it, is also extremely tenuous. I imagine that if all people today would have been screened for genetic proclivities at embryonic stage, many would have been chucked out. Let’s ask them whether they would have preferred not to have been born, I wonder what the majority would say. It is an intolerable synthetic and sanitised version of life and procreation. It happened to me. I have some genetic issues, brain tumours, complicates life for sure, yet I still lead a full life and have beautiful daughters. I am very glad I wasn’t chucked away with the biological waste 49 years ago.

His trust also in large-scale plans and approaches to problems? Every plan has unintended consequences. Some of them will be negative. The larger the plan, the bigger these unintended consequences will be. We saw it very clearly with the Covid-response, yet he still defends it. The mind boggles.

Finally, I cannot believe that he still advocates the merit of rule by a wise benevolent ruler. He seems to be completely oblivious about human nature and, it’s not as if we don’t have a couple of millenia of history to fall back on. No one is omniscient, there is always a lack of perspective. Also, what is benevolent? And, even if benevolence was present at a certain time it does get corrupted. Always.

The idea with democracies is not that we think people will make the wise decisions. They will make their decisions. Sometimes wise, sometimes less so, and our perspective on the outcome will inevitable change over time. The thing is that with democracy a balance is built in. With rule of law and separation of powers, we take the fallibility of the power of leaders into consideration, we allow for moments of accountability.

He isn’t an ethicist, I don’t know what he sells, maybe convenient narratives for the maker and MBA space, but definitely not ethics though.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
16 days ago
Reply to  marjan m

“Life is not the absence of illness or suffering. When you walk through an older forest you see all sorts of trees. Many have strange growth, broken twigs, some lie down and still manage to sprout offshoots. It protects other plants, houses animals, micro-climates for all sorts of funghi and other organisms. And we realise it’s beauty. We don’t go and take all the “faulty ones” out. We obviously have higher consciousness and more self-control, but we have not learned yet to deal well with inevitability (and merit) of adversity and decay. We rather not look”.
Great! I applaud these remarks appreciate the totality of your comment. Cheers.

Tessa B
Tessa B
19 days ago

Some of the answers Peter Singer gave made me feel uncomfortable. I think the answers he gave regarding vaccines and globalism (?) need further discussion as there are counter narratives that Peter Singer did not seem to be aware of? There may be counter narratives that Freddie Sayers will not be aware of?
Peter Singer is actually on the World Economic Forum website, this does not mean anything in itself. Some of his answers did leave me puzzled.
Of course Peter Singer had to give short answers because of time limitations.
Effective Altruism….. a can of worms? A two edged-sword? Not black and white?
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20-highly-effective-charities-rickard-vikstr%C3%B6m
https://blog.ted.com/20-resources-for-better-giving-and-living-a-more-altruistic-life/ Over ten years ago, things will have changed?
Is Peter Singer aware of the differing opinions on Gates and gene drives for example. https://www.malariaconsortium.org/blog/genetic-interventions-to-combat-obstinate-mosquito-borne-scourges/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlOwRSaxU88
Counter narratives, there are many examples.
https://www.etcgroup.org/content/driven-extinction

As part of our contribution to a new Global Citizen’s Report ‘Gates to a Global Empire’, we explore the way in which the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) is forcing dangerous gene drive technologies onto the world. BMGF is either the first or second largest funder of gene drive research (alongside the shadowy U.S. military organisation Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) whose exact level of investment is disputed). BMGF have also funded and influenced lobbyists, regulators, and public narratives around gene drives, in an attempt to push this dangerous sci-fi sounding technology into real world use, shifting research priorities on industrial agriculture, conservation and health strategies along the way, and attracting the interest of the military and agribusiness sectors alike.

Another NGO on the “highly effective charities” list https://www.gainhealth.org/about/partnerships please see AGRA.
Counter narrative here: https://cagj.org/agra-watch/

AGRA Watch is a grassroots, Seattle-based group challenging the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s questionable agricultural programs in Africa, including its Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). The Gates Foundation and AGRA claim to be “pro-poor” and “pro-environment,” but their approach is closely aligned with transnational corporations, such as Monsanto, and foreign policy actors like USAID. They take advantage of food and global climate crises to promote high-tech, market-based, industrial agriculture and generate profits for corporations even while degrading the environment and disempowering farmers. Their programs are a form of philanthrocapitalism based on biopiracy.

FIAN https://www.fian.org/en/press-release/article/wef-takeover-of-un-strongly-condemned-2273
https://grain.org/en/article/6283-what-s-wrong-with-biofortified-crops-the-fight-for-genuine-solutions-to-malnutrition-is-on
Interesting event, but on one level concerning, as the panel of one meant that some of the various views put forward might not be further explored.

Tessa B
Tessa B
19 days ago

Thank you UnHerd for arranging the event and thank you to Peter Singer. Not everyone was in agreement with everything Peter Singer said. I would urge people to do their own research for example, regarding vaccines, globalism (but guess it depends on the definition) and on the “recommended” effective altruism charities mentioned. One of the charities (if you look them up) is promoting “AGRA” but it might be good to be aware of differing opinions before considering donating to a particular charity: I guess time limitations meant that Peter Singer did not always have time to expand on his answers. There is much to think about.
AGRA Watch website

AGRA Watch is a grassroots, Seattle-based group challenging the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s questionable agricultural programs in Africa, including its Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). The Gates Foundation and AGRA claim to be “pro-poor” and “pro-environment,” but their approach is closely aligned with transnational corporations, such as Monsanto, and foreign policy actors like USAID. They take advantage of food and global climate crises to promote high-tech, market-based, industrial agriculture and generate profits for corporations even while degrading the environment and disempowering farmers. Their programs are a form of philanthrocapitalism based on biopiracy.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
18 days ago
Reply to  Tessa B

I don’t think anyone who takes the trouble to watch the video will be unduly influenced by Singer. The vast majority won’t be watching to help them form opinions but just to hear first hand from him. I can’t say i was impressed.