In which Peter Singer Fails to Look in the Mirror

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of Peter Singer. He’s a eugencist. Start here with Harriet McBride Johnson. For more recent context, perhaps read this press release from the National Council on Disability.

What may be less clear is that I’m not bothered by him. The world is full of terrible people saying terrible things, and this eugenicist is no worse than Holocaust Deniers, Islamophobes, Antisemites, KKK members, and other kinds of horrific bigots. It’s just that most of the other folks don’t get big fancy jobs at Princeton in part on the basis of their bigotry. They don’t get called “controversial” but treated as if they belong in polite company. They don’t get profiled and interviews all around the world. The philosophy and bioethics community, writ large (I know lots of individuals who object), are responsible for the propagation of Singer’s deadly views.

I’m not actually going to debate anyone about Singer’s views today. Much as I won’t debate with white supremacists or Islamophobes.

Last week Singer was interviewed in the New York Times. He said, among other things:

Why do racism, sexism and discrimination against people with disabilities still exist, despite the widespread acceptance that they are wrong? There are several reasons, but surely one is that many people act unthinkingly on the basis of their emotional impulses, without reflecting on the ethics of what they are doing.

So if I get this right, Singer suggests that discrimination against people with disabilities in part continues because people don’t think about ethics; if they do think about ethics, on the other hand, says the world’s most famous ethicist, we realize it’s ok to kill babies with disabilities. And that will solve discrimination.

If Peter Singer really wants to answer why such discrimination exists, he must, in part, look in a mirror. And so must everyone who gives him a favorable platform.

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