Item description for Rethinking Peter Singer: A Christian Critique by Gordon Preece...
Who is Peter Singer?What does he say about issues like abortion, infanticide, euthanasia and animal rights? What does he say about Christianity? What exactly is his philosophy?"Peter Singer is probably the world's most famous or infamous contemporary philosopher," says Gordon Preece. Recently appointed as professor of bioethics at Princeton University's Center for Human Values, Singer is best known for his book on animal rights, Animal Liberation, and for his philosophical text Practical Ethics. But underneath his seemingly benign agenda lies perhaps the most radical challenge to Christian ethics proposed in recent times.In Rethinking Peter Singer four of Singer's contemporaries, fellow Australian scholars Gordon Preece, Graham Cole, Lindsay Wilson and Andrew Sloane, grapple with Singer's views respectfully but incisively. From a straightforwardly Christian perspective, they critique Singer's thought in four major areas: abortion and infanticide, euthanasia, animal rights, and Christianity.Rethinking Peter Singer is not only for those who want to understand Singer's views but also for all who want to challenge the thinking that more and more informs our society's stance on moral issues.
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Studio: InterVarsity Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.7" Width: 5.9" Height: 0.6" Weight: 0.5 lbs.
Release Date Jun 30, 2002
Publisher IVP-InterVarsity Press
ISBN 0830826823 ISBN13 9780830826827
Availability 0 units.
More About Gordon Preece
Rev'd Dr GORDON PREECE is Director of Macquarie Christian Studies Institute at Macquarie University (MCSI) and involved in the ongoing professional development of Christian lawyers. He is editor most recently of Rethinking Peter Singer (IVP, 2002) and with Simon Holt, The Bible and the Business of Life (ATF Press, 2004).
Reviews - What do customers think about Rethinking Peter Singer: A Christian Critique?
Are Peter's Ideas Dangerous? Jun 17, 2004
Let me begin by stating I am not a born again Christian. I don't believe it is necessary to resort to religious arguments to challenge Peter Singer's ethical system. So what's so dangerous about Peter Singer? First we should note that in Singer's Bioethic only persons have a right to life. The law protects persons. We owe persons moral consideration. Peter Singer introduces a new category called human non-persons. The concept of human-non-person draws the circle of humanity smaller than usually understood. Now if you have any historical sense an alarm should be ringing in your head. The alarm reminds you of all those occasions in our tragic past when a dominant segment of humanity defined a minority as 'subhuman' (i.e., non-persons). Singer limits his discussion to medicine, where humans become non-persons through disease and accident. In other words, non-persons lose a complete set of rights. The right-to-exist being the premier right being lost by a non-person designation. So what is a person according to Singer? A person is autonomous, self-aware and has a capacity for having interests. What is a non-person? Any human who has lost or has not achieved the above: fetuses, infants, the mentally retarded, those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's etc. It?s common knowledge that Peter Singer did not demand euthanasia for his mother when she slipped into the category of non-person. He loved her and had an interest in keeping her alive. But Singer must admit it could have been otherwise. Instead of being a dutiful son, he could have been a selfish one, eager to inherit his mother's estate etc. This issue of interests, I submit, is his most dangerous idea. Interests are really an issue of power. If interest holders do not wish to care for non-persons they are not obliged too. It's hard not to see this idea of 'interest' as a perversion of our innate nature to care for those in need. We are born dependent, we may become dependent at any time, and many of us will die dependent. I suppose with Singer's system one can hope one will never be dependent. And if one should becomes dependent or comatose? Well one can hope one's guardians have an interest in our continued existence. It's really odd but Singer couches his ideas on personhood and interests under the umbrella of compassion. That language masks something sinister. His ideas on personhood, in the end, undermine a basic human obligation to care for those who need caring, i.e., the weak (non-persons). To my mind, Singer's personhood theory is a form of the will-to power. It tells us that the powerful (persons) will decide when and if the less powerful (non-persons) may live. But what about the rights of the disabled and other various non-persons? Well Singer rejects the notion of rights. He imagines that moral saints, like himself, will always look at the big picture objectively and dispassionately.
Fatal Misunderstanding May 31, 2004
Many of the critiques of Peter Singer's books that somehow make it onto this website as "reviews" are riddled with logical flaws or a fatal misunderstanding (deliberate misrepresentation?) of Singer's arguments.
The review below states that Singer somehow failed to live up to his own ethical system by not euthanasing his mother (who suffers from Alzheimer's Disease). Not only does this overlook Singer's oft-repeated, clearly outlined distinctions between voluntary and non-voluntary euthanasia, but it overlooks a fundamental part of his arguments about the treatment of non-persons.
Persons who become non-persons (through disease, accident, etc.), i.e. lose their self-awareness, autonomy, self-consciousness, use of their cerebral coretex, etc., lose their capacity for having interests (as Singer argues that interests are a factor of self-awareness, autonomy, etc.). However, and this is what many deliberately overlook, persons may have in interest in the welfare and survival of non-persons. Singer obviously had a desire to keep his mother, whom he loved, alive. Parents who give birth to severely mentally or physically handicapped children can have an interest or desire for that child to continue to live. So the ad hominem attack on Singer that his failure to ethuanase his mother is somehow ethically inconsistent shows a significant misreading of his work.
Check out Rethinking Life And Death, Practical Ethics or Unsanctifying Human Life.
Hero or Herod Nov 13, 2002
"Since neither a newborn human infant nor a fish is a person, the wrongness of killing such beings is not as great as the wrongness of killing a person."
"...regarding a newborn infant as not having the same right to life as a person, the cultures that practiced infanticide were on solid ground."
These are two of four quotes from philosopher Peter Singer that were featured in a quarter-page ad in the Australian newspaper during the 1996 federal election. The Australian Family Association took out the ad because Peter Singer was running as a Green Senate candidate. Fortunately for the unborn, the newborn, the elderly and many other "non-persons", Singer received only a tiny fraction of the vote.
He now teaches at Princeton University, after a long career at Melbourne's Monash University. He has written over twenty books, and is regarded as a leading contemporary philosopher and bioethicist. He is famous for his advocacy of animal liberation, as well as for his callous view of human life.
This new book, edited by an ethicist at Melbourne's Ridley College, contains five important articles offering a critical assessment of Singer's philosophy and writings.
After an incisive introduction, Preece offers a close look at the man and his work in chapter one. While recognising the relative consistency throughout his writings, he points out the well-known inconsistency of his regard for his mother has she wrestled with Alzheimer's disease. He rightly notes that on the basis of Singer's utilitarian and consequentialist outlook, he should have bumped off his own mother. But fortunately for his mother, "Singer is a better son and person than ethicist".
He shows how his univeralised utility calculations are really a secualrised version of the parable of the good Samaritan. But without the moral and theological framework which underlies the parable of Jesus, his system is not sustainable. Indeed, because Singer makes personhood a "special prize, not a humanly universal gift," he is unable to properly enact the parable, which recognises that every person is my neighbor.
Andrew Sloane's article looks at one especially nasty aspect of Singer's philosophy - his support of infanticide. Sloane argues that his case for infanticide is only successful if his ethical theory (preference utilitarianism) is successful. But he argues that it is not, but is in fact incoherent and inconsistent. It is "an impoverished, reductionistic theory" which denies any "ultimate meaning to the universe and human life".
In such a cold world, the argument for infanticide may make sense. After all, the newborn do not contribute anything to society, and are therefore expendable. The newborn may not have any utilitarian value, according to his own theory, but he has not successfully argued that his theory should be accepted and others rejected.
Graham Cole argues that Singer's critiques of Christianity are misguided, as they are based on caricature and straw men. He picks and chooses those portions of the biblical account that he finds offensive, but does not appeal to other passages which may act as a corrective or balance.
In a chapter on personhood and Singer's view on animals, Lindsay Wilson argues that Singer, while offering some helpful contributions to the debate, in fact can not compete with the biblical picture of animals and their worth. Singer's critique of "speciesism" - the idea that humans wrongly (in his view) consider themselves better than animals - is based on the idea that sentience (the ability to feel pleasure and pain) is what unites humans and animals. Because both humans and animals suffer, Singer says we should treat both respectfully, and not give special preference to humans, based on outdated concepts of personhood and human dignity.
Wilson argues that Singer's views on animals have major philosophical shortcomings, and that the biblical picture, rightly understood, offers a better framework in which to respect (but not worship) the rest of the created order.
Preece then offers a concluding chapter on Singer's view on life and death issues, especially that of euthanasia. Singer has long argued that sanctity of life ethics should be replaced with quality of life ethics. The former, Singer rightly recognises, is bound up with the Judeo-Christian worldview, while the other is not. As an atheist, Singer prefers the latter viewpoint, arguing that the former can no longer stand up in a scientific age.
Two consequences flow from this. First, the biblical concept of responsibility is replaced with the secular concept of autonomy. That is, instead of seeing life as a gift, which we are entrusted with and expected to be good stewards of, life is seen as something people earn and can forfeit. Secondly, instead of seeing humans as ends in themselves, they are treated as means to an end. Instead of having inherent dignity and worth, we acquire this by our social utility and functionality.
Thus instead of considering all lives as worthwhile and important, Singer considers many to be worthless and expendable, based upon his own criteria of what it means to be a person. In the end his views of personhood are reductionistic and demeaning. Which is why disabled groups usually protest when he speaks, or why German audiences are less than thrilled when he shows up. They have been there and done that.
While all the chapters of this book are quite helpful, those by Preece and Sloane are especially strong. But every author (each one associated with Ridley College) helps to build an impressive case against Singer. This is an excellent collection of essays offering a biblical and philosophical assessment of one of our most noted and notorious thinkers.