How's that Peter answers prank calls


Werner Moskopp

To person

Dr. Werner Moskopp, born in 1977, studied philosophy and is a research assistant at the Philosophy Department at the University of Koblenz-Landau. In 2008 he was awarded the University Prize of the University of Koblenz for his doctorate on the subject of "Structure and Dynamics in Kant's Critiques". Research focus: ethics, Kant and German idealism, Nietzsche, Heidegger.

Presentation and critical appreciation

In May 2015, a debate about Peter Singer flared up in Germany: the philosopher and pioneer of the animal rights movement was ostracized, dismissed and made persona non grata because of his statements on the subject of "infanticide" (child killing after birth). What is Singer's "Preferential Utilitarianism"? And what problems does it result in? A contribution to the debate.

Peter Singer non gratus

Peter Singer (& copy Denise Applewhite / Princeton University)
For the current German edition of his book "Practical Ethics" (2013), Peter Singer deleted an appendix to the so-called "Singer Affair" (Jamieson 1999, p. 10), which he added in the second edition: "How to is silenced in Germany "and replaced by a short reminder in the foreword (Singer 2013, p. 10 ff.). The disputes with associations for the disabled and human rights activists, which Singer had at times labeled "the most dangerous man in the world" [1], contributed to making the already renowned moral philosopher known beyond the scientific discipline. Since his book "Animal Liberation" (1975/2009) he has been a co-initiator (alongside Ruth Harrison, Roslind Godlovitch, Richard Ryder et al.) [2] and has celebrated at least medium successes since then: honors like the Giordano Prize -Bruno Foundation (GBS) for the "Great Ape Project", a number of honorary doctorates and recently the award of the "Peter Singer Prize for strategies to reduce animal suffering" [3] document the philosopher's public recognition.

In May 2015, within a few weeks, the scenario that was believed to have been overcome was repeated in Switzerland and Germany: Singer is invited as a pop star to various award ceremonies, interviews and roundtables; then he gives an interview in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) [4] and is excluded because of his comments on the subject of "infanticide" [5]. The laudation in Berlin is canceled at short notice; the Phil Cologne (the philosophical counterpart to the musical festival culture) invites one of its most important speakers again; politicians across all parties initially cautiously speak up before things take off: Singer is currently a persona non grata in Germany. If you are too close to him, there is a threat of a loss of image, and if you publicly distance yourself from him, this obviously leads to an avoidance of image loss or (if you had not invited him beforehand) even to a positive image. In academic philosophy, this new wave of "mouthing" is mixed up, [6] since free expression and the discussion of ethical standards - especially against the background of rapid technological development - should be among the democratic pillars.

In order to be able to classify Singer's philosophical position, so-called "preferential utilitarianism", in the discourse on ethical standards, it is presented in three steps below:
  1. the section "Peter Singer's Principle of Morality" provides an easily accessible introduction to Singer's utilitarian reasoning;

  2. This is followed by an overview of how these considerations affect the areas of application of bioethics - some further articles in the bioethics dossier help to understand this (links are provided in the endnotes);

  3. Finally, an insight into the technical discussion is suggested, for which a previous contact with ethics as a whole and with utilitarianism in particular could be helpful.

Peter Singer's principle of morality [7]

Peter Singer wants to keep it simple. In his field of work, moral philosophy, he is not just concerned with creating a coherent theory of morality. It is also about concrete offers of orientation for people in concrete action situations. The question that Singer is particularly interested in in these actions is: How can we shape what happens or should happen as well as possible? [8] With this initial question, life after Singer could even be given a special value, if the The search for the meaning of life would not be metaphysical [9], but ethical, and if actions were not only carried out according to discretion or intuition, but gradually aimed at the big picture in which the human being is. [ 10]

So in order not to make it seem unnecessarily complicated, Singer called his central text "Practical Ethics" in 1979 to show that he is specifically concerned with the broad application of moral ideas and not just with theory.

Since we humans are constantly active and most actions do not need to be consciously reflected upon, moral problems usually only arise where we are in the dark about what to do. If, like Singer, you assume that a few things have crept into everyday behavior that don't have to be the way they are and that could be improved without great effort, you may feel an urge to make people aware of the grievances to draw attention. In order to bring the "It could be even better ..." into people's consciousness, Singer often uses extreme examples that are supposed to shake up the reader; In these examples, however, his claim is not to already know how exactly we should improve something, but rather a request to rethink our own point of view. After that, it may well be that we just carry on as before because changes are not necessary or because they would ask too much of us. But sometimes there is just a lack of insight in order to be able to change something very easily. And that's where Singer comes in.

Because it is extremely difficult to find out what we should regard as a benchmark for good / better and worse, Singer formulates a principle according to which we can test the moral status of our decisions. This is where the real difficulty lies: working out a thought in such a way that each individual can do something with it in his or her own life situation (although the philosopher cannot know beforehand what a concrete decision has to be made). This approach also reveals something about Singer's position with regard to morality, moral living beings and what he himself understands by "good".

To make it clear in which situations we make moral decisions, I will describe a simple, fictitious example: Peter Singer has a hard time knowing that on Sunday evenings I think it's better to watch the crime scene than to suffer from Rosamunde Pilcher. But what Singer assumes as a utilitarian: People and living beings in general prefer to do what gives them pleasure, and what causes them pain or suffering they try to reduce or avoid.

So let's think about it: What causes the most joy and the least suffering for everyone involved in the situation to be decided, best viewed in the long term and taking into account the fact that too much of a good thing does not help either (decreasing marginal utility)? Through this consideration we learn to assess what we should do best in various action situations. Morally, the matter becomes particularly delicate when other people are also affected and we have to prepare such an invoice. If my wife wants to watch TV with me, we usually agree on the crime scene as long as the topic doesn't seem too brutal - otherwise we occasionally switch to another series or we change the habit every now and then and go for a walk, just sit in the kitchen or Something like that. For me it is particularly bad when my wife receives support from her mother on a visit, because then I have to endure the trip to the coast of Cornwall (Pilcher's favorite setting) in order to be able to maintain the coexistence at a high level in the long term (and in return, if possible, to be able to watch football with my best friend on Tuesday without grumbling).

The balance seems to be very clear: every living being that has relevant interests in the options available for action also has something to say. It is therefore important to take these relevant interests into account. But if I wanted to be perfect, I would have to take into account all the interests, needs and desires [11] of all those involved and affected living beings, even if they do not weigh the same. Our cat doesn't watch TV, but she likes to lie on my legs when we stretch out on the couch to watch crime scene; your preferences are also part of it.

If we design this example in such a way that a concentrated formula results, which can then be applied to all possible examples, then we approach Singer's rather formal principle of equality [12]: "The essentials of the principle of equal interest balancing [eng. : principle of equal consideration of interests, WM] consists in giving equal weight in our moral considerations to the similar interests of all those affected by our actions [...] The principle of the same weighing of interests works like a scale: interests are weighed impartially. [...] The principle of the same weighing of interests prohibits our willingness to weigh the interests of other people, their abilities or others To make characteristics dependent, except for one thing: that they have interests. Of course, we cannot know where they are going he balancing of interests will take place before we know people's interests, and that may vary according to their abilities and other characteristics. " (Singer 2013, p. 52 ff.)

So once we have gathered all the preferences concerned for a decision-making, we have to examine the extent of the respective interest for our decision. In this way, the present preferences, each for themselves, are given a weight that can vary depending on whether you are considered a cat or a wife when choosing the television program. In order to be able to take these differences into account and evaluate them, Singer suggests a few categories with flowing transitions: If a living being has no preferences, we do not have to take anything into account (e.g. in the case of plants). But what is the slightest noticeable preference so that we can get an idea of ​​who needs to be included? Let us first say: the sensation of pleasure and pain. Every living being with an awareness of these sensations must be included and of course all living beings with additional cognitive abilities (memories, wishes for the future, communications, social ties up to self-confident beings) then possibly with increasing weight. In any accounting, it does not initially matter whose joy or pain it is. It is only important that this preference is counted as such. [13]

However, this formal principle of equality is not the same as forgetting one's own interests and preferences when making such considerations! However, given a fair calculation, they are of course not more or less difficult to bring in just because they are our selfish interests. Furthermore, according to Singer, human interests are not fundamentally better than animal / animal ones if we really want to be impartial, etc. Whether that really works has often been discussed, because somehow we have a closer relationship to our own kind than to other species. [14 ] In many situations we therefore proceed in such a way that we prefer humans to animals, that we prefer our pets to the pets of others, that we prefer our siblings to other people's siblings; Singer knows that too, of course. But the balancing is no longer really moral and impartial and we have to regretfully admit that in such situations. We feel our personal preferences very clearly in the form of emotions / feelings, but in moral considerations we therefore use a sensible principle so that these feelings do not let us become partial. At least that is the ideal of impartiality for morally thinking beings. [15]

If we accept the preferences of other living beings from their point of view as just as lively and important sensations as our preferences are for us, then we once again clearly recognize the sense in "rational" weighing up in comparison to spontaneous, emotional action. But how do we actually know how important their own interests are to those involved in the respective situation? So let's just ask: How strong is your interest in it? In the case of living beings that we cannot ask directly, we have to try to imagine (as neutrally as possible) what the other living being would feel, want and choose, and how strong.

So there are a few formal problems with Singer's approach. Because sometimes we find options in which no joy at all can be increased and no interest can be met, but only less suffering is the decisive factor in the balance sheet. This happens in extreme situations in human life and even quite often for some professions. Think of paramedics, for example, of medical professionals as a whole.

For easy-to-make considerations, we quickly come up with rules of thumb or principles, even with more difficult processes - according to Singer, this is not a problem as long as we have thought about it carefully. But the fact that we don't know exactly what to do is a problem. And especially the real moral problems cannot always be resolved clearly. [16]

Many philosophers and most people are of the opinion that there must be limits to what everyone can decide again and again. In addition, the applicable law and also in many cases moral values ​​are binding for the people of a society. But Singer sees these clear restrictions as an obstacle to some moral considerations. Where it possibly goes too far is the questioning of the fundamental rights of people in extreme situations at the beginning of life. [17] These basic rights are intended to protect people from the arbitrary decisions of others, because no one has ever been so naive to think that all people (and especially states) always act only morally. Therefore nobody should be threatened for the good of another in life and the free development of this life. In this context in particular, it seems confusing that Singer so often speaks of "rights" (right to life), but does not mean any right in the legal sense, but mostly moral rights. If one could differentiate better here, a large part of the excitement would be to placate Singer's remarks. [18]

What Singer is certainly morally right, however, is the doubt that the establishment of a "sanctity of (human) life" leads to the best problem solutions under all circumstances, especially because this value would force some people at the end of life to do so, also against every ideal of human self-determination to remain alive with the greatest pain and with no prospect of healing. Of course, one has to be extremely careful when adding a living being's interest in life to our calculations. But in order to be able to remain moral here, according to Singer, it is best to always choose the path that means the greatest happiness (satisfaction of interests) of the greatest number of living beings. [19]

To be clear once again: Legal safeguards are important for Singer because they enable so many people to live together in the first place; When people are afraid that something will happen to them that they have observed to inflict harm on others, these concerns play an important role as interests of third parties. From a moral point of view, however, according to Singer, all people have to be on their guard against mere value or norm setting without further justification ("It's just the way it is now") and, above all, against incomprehensible arbitrariness ("I want it that way now, those I don't care about reasons "), because they don't always produce the best result; therefore, in Singer's opinion, one must be allowed to think about the validity of already existing moral values ​​and norms in individual cases, if a better result could result from the weighing up.

In this context, as already mentioned, Singer often hurts people's feelings of piety with provocative examples. A preferential utilitarian weighing can theoretically never lead to harm to a person involved if it is carried out perfectly. Unfortunately, we humans are not perfect and we often do not have enough time to carry out highly complex balancing of interests.Is that an argument against preferential utilitarianism? Do other moral concepts help us better in these cases? If they do, then we should also choose them (even in agreement with the utilitarian principle) as a guide; but if the other moral concepts have the same problems as preferential utilitarianism, nothing speaks against using the same balance of interests as a moral principle, since we always pursue the goal of making the world a little better. But how does the principle affect the core areas of applied ethics?

application areas

Even if the minimum principle of equality (justice) described above appears to be quite simple, it has far-reaching implications for those who recognize it as a rational, universal and impartial moral principle, as briefly indicated below on the basis of selected (and just discussed) subjects becomes:

a) Animal ethics

In animal ethics, Singer is classified under the so-called "characteristic approaches". [20] First of all, the properties are not relevant for the Singer principle, because all the preferences of the participants should be taken into account in the same way. However, among the preferences taken into account, the properties of the living beings that have these preferences can develop a different weight with regard to a particular situation. Regardless of whether an animal has higher or lower abilities than a human or vice versa: its preferences are taken into account! Even when it comes to the joyful life of a turtle, which is weighed against the merely luxurious desire of someone who wants to try turtle soup for fun, the preference of the turtle (usually) weighs heavier.

However, an animal can definitely have more complex cognitive abilities than some people (embryos, infants, dementia, intellectually impaired people), which is why the moral term "person" as a rational and self-confident living being is replaced by the generic term Homo sapiens in Singer to reflect a partisan "speciesism" to avoid. [21]. According to this definition, some people are not persons, while some animals are closer to being recognized as persons (primates, dolphins, pigs, ravens, ...). For Singer, the protection of people who are not people can be compared with current animal protection; This premise also demands a serious rethink.

Singer judges the potential that growing living beings could still develop in such a way that at the moment of the decision it is irrelevant to what extent a person could become out of the living being if there are currently no preferences. The difficult question is whether there are preferences or not. In this research question, Singer rejects the so-called SKIP arguments [22] and, in contrast to all-or-nothing assertions, advocates a determination of gradual differentiations that must be checked in each individual case (cf. Singer 2013, p. 269). A gorilla fetus does not bring any preferences into the balancing of interests, but the interests of the gorilla mother are definitely relevant here.

It is therefore no longer possible to say in general that people are allowed to torture, kill, breed, etc. animals at will. Rather, each individual living being is represented with its current preferences with regard to the situation to be assessed. Since the cognitive abilities of living beings are difficult to determine, we have to be careful and, if in doubt, stand up for the accused. The fact that our desire for a juicy steak runs counter to the cow's interest in a good, pain-free life in the herd shows here too that some interests are simply more fundamental than others; how easily a substitute product for nutrition could be used and satisfy all parties. But what about the interest of a pack of wolves targeting the herd we have spared? Do we have a moral duty to protect the cow from the wolf? [23] Is it better for the cow to slowly die of old age than by euthanasia (in this case a "slaughter") followed by human enjoyment? In addition, no vegetarian could possibly find an objective argument against the consumption of carrion or game accidents; So what about emergency slaughter?

As we can see from the (somewhat exaggerated) questions, the situations, the limits and comparability of an individual's abilities can only be vaguely named, and the importance that this interest represents in the overall budget of preferences remains vague. However, it remains to be considered whether we can find better instruments for our moral decision-making.

But doesn't this animal-ethical perspective of preferential utilitarianism already indicate a considerable deterioration in human status? It is obvious that Singer would like to value animals in this twofold respect (a) the same consideration for all sentient animals and b) the special weighting for personal animals; But it is not necessary to deduce from these thoughts that people are devalued because of this, because it must be remembered "that I [sc. Peter Singer, WM] pursue the intention to raise the status of animals, but not that of humans to lower "(ibid., p. 130). However, if we consistently apply the principle of equal balancing of interests, there is no moral justification for keeping people alive and caring for them under all circumstances, while some animals with more serious preferences are not yet taken into account in our considerations. The idea of ​​using orphaned mentally handicapped people instead of monkeys in various animal experiments (cf. ibid.) Should therefore be a provocation that speaks against the monkey experiments, but does not advocate human experiments. At this point, however, it is possible to reproach Singer for the fact that his examples under extreme conditions could have absurd or at least counterintuitive consequences for everyday practice.

b) Medical ethics

"Euthanasia" is a term with negative connotations in Germany due to the social Darwinist ideology of race and health under National Socialism, but which originally (according to its ancient Greek wording) was intended to encourage a "good death". [24]

In the course of technological development, new opportunities arise, but also new challenges in maintaining life, which applied ethics, or bioethics, must meet. Does the protection of life become an obligation of life, because drugs and machines at the beginning and at the end of life can keep the body of anencephalic (born without a brain) infants or comatose accident patients in its functions "alive"? Discussions about the death criteria, about euthanasia (e.g. in the case of infanticide) and the decision-making authority of the patient are extensively debated here. At the beginning of life, therefore, the questions to be asked are whether there is a certain turning point in the development of living beings through which a moral right to life comes into force, and from when the interests of parents and doctors can no longer be weighed against this right. At the end of life, "euthanasia" (in different variants) and the weighting of advance directives are to be discussed. The fact that Singer's demands amount to a "collapse of traditional ethics" - so the subtitle of the book "Leben und Tod" (1998) - is due in particular to the negative judgments about speciesism (the dissolution of impartiality in favor of living beings belonging to the same species as the doer) and the sanctity of life (the dogmatic assertion of the inviolability of (human) life).

Since Singer assumes that parents fundamentally love their children, there is usually no interest in killing an infant. However, the fact that it became common practice in the course of the 20th century to consider an "abortion" for certain findings in early pregnancy screening [25] leads Singer to investigate the question of whether that is not the case here as well The principle of the "holiness of life" has long since served its purpose as a moral standard and whether preference utilitarianism is better served as a moral principle. According to Singer, this would reduce a lot of suffering, as an example shows: If an infant is facing a short, painful life without the prospect of therapy, while the parents feel overwhelmed by the situation and no one is available for adoption; Couldn't an omission of relief measures or even painless active euthanasia (Singer asks where the moral difference lies here) be considered in the conversation of all those directly involved? Why is childbirth a limit for considering killing if abortion remains unpunished until late in pregnancy if medically indicated? [26] After all, a technology of the future might allow human life to be "carried out" directly outside the female body . Are premature births to be treated differently from human life in the womb by setting a time? The outrage that Singer had forgotten his insight and his concession to Hoerster (cf. Singer 1993, p. 251) (Link: 33779), that the birth should be considered a socially accepted, value-creating event and that he was returning to the permission of infanticide in the wording of the NZZ interview, but based on the principle of morality and the conditions made at this point (ibid., p. 252: Release of children for adoption to state institutions and permission for active and passive euthanasia in special cases, against the compulsion to lead a miserable life) there are clear restrictions.

Because if you look at it in an exaggerated way, termination of pregnancy with no punishment would also be a form of selection of living beings. However, it is then not a selection from a pool of offers, but a successive rejection of embryos / fetuses in favor of a preference for a future, as yet indefinite life. On the part of living beings, according to Singer, already from the 6th / 7th. Week after fertilization, the first signs of consciousness (cf. Singer 2013, p. 234), but by no means any interests in a self-confident life. According to the same consideration of interests, the fetus only receives a weight in the weighing up from the status of consciousness, this weight corresponds to a preference of animals on a similar level; and the preferences of the born infant are accordingly as weighty as those of the unborn fetus at comparable stages of development. These comparisons (viability, dependence on the mother) serve as arguments for Singer, but not as plausible reasons for establishing a clear turning point in the development of human life and the resulting obligation to make decisions through a right to life.

Here, too, the limits of morality must be discussed separately in case of doubt. The principle of equal balancing of interests results for "merely conscious" but not (yet) self-confident people that in addition to the lack of clarity of the right to life, their lack of interest in the future, the lack of autonomy and the possibly highly negative balance of joy and suffering show no duty to keep the child alive if no one thinks this is necessary. In extreme cases, according to Singer, at the beginning of life it could even be that a right to life could be morally questionable. This does not induce him to demand the abolition of basic rights (cf. Singer 2013, p. 276), but in his opinion justifies a neutral consideration for morality in extreme situations that, in clearly defined exceptional cases, the absolute protection of life only shortly after Let birth begin (cf. ibid., P. 277).

People at the supposed end of their lives, who were people and therefore (had) self-confidence, could, on the other hand, already formulate goals, the disregard of which would be violated by an abrupt killing. Singer differentiates between voluntary (living will, power of attorney), involuntary (a special case for foreseeable inhuman atrocities that would be spared a person) and involuntary cases of killing (failure to use artificial respiration or feeding through a gastric tube for comatose patients, in which the will cannot be determined) human life. We have to be aware of the pressure to make decisions in this area that weighs on those involved. The deliberate failure to take action and even the decision not to make up one's mind also have an impact on the life and extent of the patient's suffering.

c) Global Justice

In "The Expanding Circle" (1981/2011) Singer started his mission to educate people about what every single citizen of the world could achieve through small donations. [27] He deepens these pointers in "The Life You Can Save" (2010) and asks about justice and / or equality in terms of earnings, property and the distribution of funds. This book gives specific addresses where donations can be made for specific purposes and prepares statistics that document the current distribution of monetary and vital resources (water, arable land, ...). In this way he wants to develop an awareness that one's own actions have global consequences. Singer's texts in this area are not neutral philosophical considerations, but aim to influence them in a targeted and well-founded manner. They try to work against the common selfish, entrepreneurial, abstract prejudices and instead to accept concrete assistance as expedient. In doing so, Singer chooses the strategy of suggesting donation habits that motivate against the background of ethical tradition, but do not overwhelm or deter. The question "How should we live?" (1996) immunizes ethics at the same time against mystical, religious and abstract associations and determines evolutionary and social developments with regard to the ecological and economic challenges of globalization in a new way. [28]

Many people already suspect from their common understanding of morality that they should act differently than they have done so far - others do not waste a thought on it; still others happen to act as the universal principle of morality would suggest. Singer's philosophy is formed for the individual in question and is intended to offer testing and guidance in moral decision-making. The unfair assumption of what would happen in utilitarianism if all people were "bad" and exploited the principle to carry out racial cleansing or the like is forbidden. Rather, it should be taken into account against this background that, according to Hannah Arendt's argument, " evil "in the true sense of the word is someone who doesn't care what society / world he lives in:" This indifference represents, morally and politically speaking, the greatest danger, even if it is widespread "(Arendt 2014, p. 150 ). [29]

"If we can prevent something bad without sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we should do it." (Singer 2013, p. 356) [30]

Some problems of utilitarianism in general

The questions addressed to the utilitarians often aim at unmasking and force utilitarians to give extreme answers, for which other moral philosophers either do not need an answer or an argumentation stopper: What the utilitarians cannot always make quite clear is the above-mentioned conviction of moral values Define pathocentrically [31] - that is, starting from the suffering living beings - and thus contribute to the improvement of practical decisions (ethics, politics, economy). [32] The cold calculation of joy and suffering, as well as desires and interests for their mere benefit, takes a back seat to the seemingly warm approach of a care ethic, concern, "common sense" and personalistic relationships. Human rights / dignity - so the concerns - would be degraded from being inviolable to a subject of discussion (cf. Gesang 2003, p. 8), whereby the entire humanistic scale of rights and values ​​would degenerate into arbitrariness. Is it allowed to enslave, kill, and set off a person's life for the good of many? We are often overwhelmed by the demands of the utilitarians when global balances and "rational choice" formulas are used. The "role reversal" necessary to ascertain the preferences (regardless of whether between the living beings (interpersonal), imagining a neutral comparative position or even just putting them in the position of the other (intrapersonal)) does not correspond to any formal procedural basis.

Is the term "good" definable as pleasure and benefit by equating it with happiness, or is "good" something completely different in the moral sense; can it be defined at all (cf. Moore 1903)? Both the equation and the conclusions of subjective preferences on universalistic norms can be viewed as "implausible" or even as dangerous for morality and people (cf. Krantz 2002, p.81 and p. 97 ff. And Teichman 1993). Ever since Mill's apologetic essays on the "dangerous" Benthamian subject of "utilitarianism", utilitarians have therefore repeatedly had to resort to relevant defense strategies.

Allegations specifically to Singer

Downright grotesque case studies are devised to simulate stress tests of utilitarianism and to show again and again with satisfaction what inhuman consequences the weighing of benefits can lead to. With a little skill it is possible for any journalist to urge preferential utilitarians into counterintuitive and irreverent ways of reasoning if they do not want to give up their moral principle.

As shown above, the activists' efforts against Singer are entirely justified, because in fact the "right to life" of (disabled) infants is threatened, just as the "right to life" of highly developed animals is still at risk today. Singer actually assumes that no one would prefer a life with a disability to the same life without a disability (Singer 2013, p. 96); He derives this from a whole series of treatments, operations, prosthesis designs, abortions, etc. that are carried out for this reason. The fact that the discussion about the best for the child is often confused with the talk of the best child is shown in individual cases by the analysis of the arguments. [33]

Peter Rödler (2015) counters Singer from his experience in dealing with "non-speaking, severely impaired and profoundly developmentally disturbed people with autistic behaviors" (ibid., P. 451): "The indeterminacy thus becomes in the sense of an 'absolute presupposition' Inevitable starting point for all considerations, models and theories related to man and his world, that is, to the central evidence not only for philosophy, but especially for pedagogy, which is dedicated to the qualifying development of the individual in this jointly created world. " (Ibid., P. 453) Only social affection on the basis of already established signs and patterns of interpretation enables human beings, despite their biological indeterminacy, a process of self-education (also in the sense of acquiring preferences). According to Rödler, participation is a development condition for every human being and thus becomes a fundamental human right.

Since Singer for his part assumes that the killing of conscious living beings is fundamentally morally questionable, he must investigate all the more carefully the conditions under which exceptions occur. This was recognized in impressive form by the disabled scientist Harriet McBryde Johnson, who initially went into the encounter with Singer under the assumption that he was the man according to whose opinion she (or at least every infant who is like her) was dead (cf. (McBryde Johnson 2009, p. 195). After meeting Singer, her sister was stunned to find that Harriet is now even protecting the proponent of the “genocide.” But Harriet replies that this danger is even in Singer's argumentation framework not given because, with the sincere motivation to do good, he only wanted to give parents a choice to decide about human lives who are not persons (cf. ibid., p. 202). Although McBride Johnson also supported Singer in the She did not share any more, but she saw that one had to consider the considerations in connection with the basic philosophical assumptions. Singer writes: "We are just beginning about di Reflect on the injustice inflicted on people with disabilities and view them as a disadvantaged group. That it took so long is due to the uncertainty about factual and moral inequality discussed earlier. [...] Mere equality of opportunity is not enough in situations where a disability makes it impossible for the person concerned to become an equal member of the community. [...] Therefore it is generally justified to spend more for the disabled than for the others. "(Singer 2013, p. 94 f.)

But in order to look beyond this central aspect of the dispute with Singer, the technical objections should at least be briefly indicated:

Many comments refer to his "metaethical" approach [34], which actually coincides with the traditional pattern of justification of utilitarianism and, above all, with a two-level approach by RM Hare: In everyday life we ​​have already made many moral decisions a habit , but under special circumstances we may need to think critically (as openly and as precisely as possible) about the conditions and consequences that arise for us to make a decision. Of course, all variations of utilitarianism are often attacked, as we have seen above, and attacked from other positions on the basis of ethics. This is about the validity of methods, goals, and intentions with regard to their moral value (what is the moral aspect of an action?). What morality actually is and on what prerequisites it is based (feelings, the ability to simulate / the ability to empathize with others, the ability to generalize and reason, or everything together ...) is not as clear for moral philosophers as scientific subjects are normally for researchers are defined. Even in the application, even if the other areas achieve agreement, there is still a need for discussion around Singer's thinking and work, because whether he is too paternalistic or even too unscientific or even too careless (for the animal rights activists he is not radical enough): this all are allegations that can be found in secondary literature. Another question is, for example, whether impartiality in Singer's sense is even possible, since it is not particularly plausible that one should take a stranger as seriously as one's own best friend or best friend.

As we saw above, many of these allegations are simply based on misunderstandings or prejudices about Singer's rationale. However, some objections are not so easy to dismiss, such as: B. the danger in an open moral approach to human life. Since moral philosophy has many offers on how to lead a good life, one does not have to rely on Singer's arguments. But in any case it is important to recognize Singer's suggestions and also his commitment to a better world, because on the way to a good life we ​​are all called upon to be able to justify our moral decisions to others.


Note from the author

In the third edition of "Practical Ethics" (2011), Peter Singer approaches "classical" utilitarianism (ibid., Pp. X and XIII) and has been pleading since 2014 in "From the Point of View of the Universe "for an argument based on Henry Sidgwick (1838-1900) and currently close to Derek Parfit on (meta-) ethical questions. The questions relevant to bioethics will probably not be answered differently at this level (an elaboration on the part of Singer is to be expected in the coming years), but only given alternative reasons, which is why the focus in this bioethics article is based on the approaches of preferential utilitarianism that have already been worked out . This approach can also be justified by a specific "further" reading of hedonistic utilitarianism, which Singer (2013, Chapter 1) is considering and which could marginalize the difference between classical utilitarianism and preferential utilitarianism.


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