For those who fought "the battle of Seattle", and the various other battles that have become routine whenever the World Trade Organisation, the World Bank, or the World Economic Forum meet, transnational corporations are clearly the bad guys.
In the fifth century before the Christian era, the Chinese philosopher Mozi, appalled at the damage caused by war in his time, asked: "What is the way of universal love and mutual benefit?" He answered his own question: "It is to regard other people's countries as one's own." The ancient Greek iconoclast Diogenes, when asked what country he came from, is said to have replied: "I am a citizen of the world." In the late 20th century John Lennon sang that (...) it isn't hard to "Imagine there's no countries . . . Imagine all the people/Sharing all the world." Until recently, such thoughts have been the dreams of idealists, devoid of practical impact on the hard realities of a world of nation states. But now we are beginning to live in a global community. Almost all the nations of the world have reached a binding agreement about their greenhouse gas emissions. The global economy has given rise to the World Trade Organisation, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund; institutions that take on, if imperfectly, some functions of global economic governance. An international criminal court is beginning its work. Changing ideas about military intervention for humanitarian purposes shows we are in the process of developing a global community prepared to accept its responsibility to protect the citizens of states that cannot or will not protect them from massacre or genocide. In ringing declarations and resolutions, most recently at the United Nations Millennium Summit, the world's leaders have recognised that relieving the plight of the world's poorest nations is a global responsibility - although their deeds are yet to match their words. (shrink)
This short book has been a sketch of the ways in which a Darwinian left would diﬀer from the traditional left that we have come to know over the past two hundred years. In closing, I shall ﬁrst draw together, in point form, some of the features that I think would distinguish a Darwinian left from previous versions of the left, both old and new; these are features that I think a Darwinian left should embrace today. Then I will cast (...) a glance at more distant prospects. (shrink)
The G8 leaders agreed to seek â€œsubstantialâ€ cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and to give â€œserious considerationâ€ to the goal of halving such emissions by 2050 â€“ an outcome hailed as a triumph by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Yet the agreement commits no one to any specific targets, least of all the United States, whose president, George W. Bush, will no longer be in office in 2009, when the tough decisions have to be (...) made. (shrink)
In the text that followed, I urged that despite obvious differences between humans and nonhuman animals, we share with them a capacity to suffer, and this means that they, like us, have interests. If we ignore or discount their interests, simply on the grounds that they are not members of our species, the logic of our position is similar to that of the most blatant racists or sexists who think that those who belong to their race or sex have superior (...) moral status, simply in virtue of their race or sex, and irrespective of other characteristics or qualities. Although most humans may be superior in reasoning or in other intellectual capacities to nonhuman animals, that is not enough to justify the line we draw between humans and animals. Some humans—infants and those with severe intellectual disabilities—have intellectual capacities inferior to some animals, but we would, rightly, be shocked by anyone who proposed that we inflict slow, painful deaths on these intellectually inferior humans in order to test the safety of household products. (shrink)
The idea behind Lauren Slater's book is simple but ingenious: pluck 10 leading experiments in 20th-century psychology from the pages of the scientific journals in which they were first published, dust off the painfully academic style in which they were written up, add some personal details about the experimenters and retell them as intellectual adventures that help us to understand who we are and what our minds are like.
How far does the democratic right to protest go? This issue is squarely raised by the announcement that the Government will introduce new measures to curb protests by animal advocates opposed to experiments conducted at Huntingdon Life Sciences, a major animal testing company.
I begin in the same friendly spirit of alliance that Martha Nussbaum refers to when she notes that â€œUtilitarianism has contributed more than any other ethical theory to the recognition of animal entitlements.â€ In purely practical terms, I welcome her attempt to show that a distinct approach to political justice not only includes animals, in a fundamental way, within its scope, but also leads to consequences that in major respects are very similar to those that have for some years been (...) advocated by utilitarians. Of the greatest possible importance, in this respect, is our agreement on the ethical imperative that we end factory farms as we know them.Every year, worldwide, tens of billions of animals suffer - and, one could add, are unable to exercise their most basic capabilities â€“ through being crowded indoors, unable to form the social groups natural to them, in many cases unable even to stretch their limbs, some of them so tightly caged that they are unable even to turn around or walk a single step. Undoubtedly, in terms of the sheer numbers involved and the vast amount of suffering that results, ending factory farming should be the priority issue for all concerned with either the welfare, the preference satisfaction, or the capabilities, of nonhuman animals. (shrink)
The one central point in all my writing on this top i c , f rom “ Fa m i n e , Af f luence and Morality” onward,has been that the failure of people in the rich nations to make any signiﬁcant sacriﬁces in order to assist people who are dying from poverty - related causes is ethically ind efensible. It is not simply the absence of charity, let alone of m oral saintliness: It is wron g, and on (...) e cannot claim to be a morally decent person unless one is doing far more than the typical comfortably-off person does. Nothing Kuper has said, either in his original article or his reply to my response, contradicts this central claim. His arguments go to the details of how best we can assist people in desperate poverty. Perhaps instead of giving mon ey to Ox f a m , he su gge s t s , we should buy goods from su pp l i ers wh o ensure a fair return to laborers in developing countries. Perhaps we should stop going to F l orida and Pa ri s , and inste ad go on environ m en t a lly su s t a i n a ble and non ex p l oi t ative trips to devel oping co u n tri e s . Perh a p s we should support movements against corru pti on , or for bet ter terms of trade for devel oping co u n tri e s . I ’d be very happy if people would do any or all of these things, and if they have nothing left over to give to Ox f a m , that wo u l d n’t tro u ble me ei t h er. I don’t claim to have any expertise in assessing wh et h er these opti ons are bet ter or wors e than giving to Oxfam. If someone can convincingly show me that one of them is clear-. (shrink)
In commemorating the 230th anniversary of Americaâ€™s independence last July, President George W. Bush noted that the patriots of the Revolutionary War believed that all men are created equal, and with inalienable rights. Because of these ideals, he proclaimed, the United States â€œremains a beacon of hope for all who dream of liberty and a shining example to the world of what a free people can achieve.â€.
In the presidential election that brought George W. Bush to power, the moral character of the candidates was a significant factor with some voters. Among those who rated honesty as an important factor influencing their choice of candidate, 80% said they voted for Bush. These voters were disgusted with Bill Clinton, not only for his sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky but for lying about it. They wanted someone to bring sound ethical values to the White House (...) and believed that Bush was the man to do it. What have the last three years told us about Bush's ethics? (shrink)
An asteroid colliding with the earth could cause the extinction of our species. Is this a risk worth worrying about? More important, is it a risk worth doing something about? Richard A. Posner, a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, who produces more books in his leisure hours than most authors do working full time, thinks it is.
An d rew Ku per begins his cri ti que of my vi ews on poverty by accepti n g the crux of my moral argument: The interests of all persons ought to count equally, and geographic location and citizenship m a ke no intrinsic differen ce to the ri gh t s and obl i ga ti ons of i n d ivi du a l s . Ku per also sets out some key facts about global poverty, for (...) example, that 30,000 children die every day from preventable illness and starvation, while most people in devel oped nati on s have plenty of disposable income that they s pend on lu x u ries and items that sati s f y mere wants, not basic needs. Yet after summarizing an essay I wrote for the New York Times Magazine in which I argued that the avera ge Am erican family should don a te a l a r ge porti on of t h eir income to or ga n i z ati ons like UNICEF and Ox f a m , Ku per wri te s : “ But if Si n ger ’s ex h ort a ti ons make you want to act immediately in the ways he recom m en d s , you s h ould not do so.” Why not? Because the approach I advoc a te “would seriously harm the poor.” These are strong words. It is startling to be told that a substantial transfer of resources from comfortably-off American families to UNICEF or Oxfam would harm the poor. What abo ut those 3 0,0 0 0 ch i l d ren dyi n g from preventable illness and starvation? In its 2001 fund-raising material,the U.S. Committee for UNICEF says that a donation of $17 will provide immunization “to protect a child for life against the six leading ch i l d - killing and maiming diseases:measles,polio. (shrink)
Bryan Magee's clear little introduction to the thought of Karl Popper opens with the remark that Popper's name is not yet a household word among educated people. The remainder of the book is an attempt to remedy this allegedly undeserved neglect.
In August 2001, President George W. Bush told Americans that he worried about â€œa culture that devalues life,â€ and that he believed that, as President of the United States, he has â€œan important obligation to foster and encourage respect for life in America and throughout the world.â€.
2. I’ve never put forward a “definition of the individual as a discrete, self-reliant, self-conscious person with at least an equal store of goods as others.” Again, that would be an absurd position to hold. Being unable to walk, see, or hear does not mean that one is not an individual. 3. Nor do I hold that “protected personhood”— not my ex- pression, by the way—is a conditional category based on attri- butes “that are at least equal to those of (...) the mundane norm.”. (shrink)
As we reach the end of 2004, Australia and the United States have re-elected their governments and seem to be going down similar paths. In the US, according to exit polls, 22% of the electorate said â€œmoral valuesâ€ were the most important factor in their choice of candidate â€“ ranking higher than either the war in Iraq or the economy. Of this 22%, almost four out of five voted for George W. Bush, and if the polls are accurate, those (...) voters played a decisive role in his re-election. Morality has always featured prominently in Bushâ€™s speeches. Now his moral choices will be under more scrutiny than ever. (shrink)
Stealing, lying, hurting people-these acts are obviously relevant to our moral character. So too, most people would say, is our involvement in community activities, our generosity to others in need, and-especially-our sex lives. But how about what we eat? Though eating is even more essential than sex, and everyone does it, usually more than once a day, most people don't see it as raising ethical issues. Try to think of a politician whose prospects have been damaged by revelations about (...) what he or she eats. (shrink)
In the previous chapter I gave reasons for believing that the fundamental principle of equality, on which the equality of all human beings rests, is the principle of equal consideration of interests. Only a basic moral principle of this kind can allow us to defend a form of equality which embraces all human beings, with all the differences that exist between them. I shall now contend that while this principle does provide an adequate basis for human equality, it provides a (...) basis which cannot be limited to humans. In other words I shall suggest that, having accepted the principle of equality as a sound moral basis for relations with others of our own species, we are also committed to accepting it as a sound moral basis for relations with those outside our own species - the nonhuman animals. (shrink)
Ironically, Microsoftâ€™s founder and chairman, Bill Gates, has been an enthusiastic advocate of this view. Just last October, he said: â€œThereâ€™s really no way to, in a broad sense, repress information today, and I think thatâ€™s a wonderful advance we can all feel good aboutâ€¦.[T]his is a medium of total openness and total freedom, and thatâ€™s what makes it so special.â€.
The isolation of the Netherlands as the only country in which voluntary euthanasia is legal is about to end. In October 2001 the Belgian Senate voted by almost a 2:1 margin to allow doctors to act on a patient's request for assistance in dying. The legislation is expected to pass the lower house shortly. That the Netherlands' closest neighbor is likely to be the next country to take this step should provide food for thought among those who have denounced voluntary (...) euthanasia in the Netherlands as rife with abuses. If that were really the case, why would the country that is better placed than all others to know what goes on in the Netherlands â€“ not only because of its geographical proximity, but because most of its people are Dutch-speaking â€“ be ready to copy the Dutch model? (shrink)
There is a growing consensus that factory farming of animals â€” also known as CAFOs, or concentrated animal feeding operations â€” is morally wrong. The American animal rights movement, which in its early years focused largely on the use of animals in research, now has come to see that factory farming represents by far the greater abuse of animals. The numbers speak for themselves. In the United States somewhere between 20 million and 40 million birds and mammals are killed for (...) research every year. That might seem like a lot â€” and it far exceeds the number of animals killed for their fur, let alone the relatively tiny number used in circuses â€” but 40 million represents less than two daysâ€™ toll in Americaâ€™s slaughterhouses, which kill about 10 billion animals each year. (shrink)
The timing of Austriaâ€™s conviction and imprisonment of David Irving for denying the Holocaust could not have been worse. Coming after the deaths of at least 30 people in Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Libya, Nigeria, and other Islamic countries during protests against cartoons ridiculing Muhammad, the Irving verdict makes a mockery of the claim that in democratic countries, freedom of expression is a basic right.
George W. Bush is not only Americaâ€™s president, but also its most prominent moralist. No other president in living memory has spoken so often about good and evil, right and wrong. His inaugural address was a call to build â€œa single nation of justice and opportunity.â€ A year later, he famously proclaimed North Korea, Iran and Iraq to be an â€œaxis of evil,â€ and in contrast, he called the United States â€œa moral nation.â€ He defends his tax policy in (...) moral terms, saying that it is fair, and gives back to taxpayers what is rightfully theirs. The case he makes for free trade is â€œnot just monetary, but moral.â€ Open trade is a â€œmoral imperative.â€ Another â€œmoral imperative,â€ he says, is alleviating hunger and poverty throughout the world. He has said that â€œAmericaâ€™s greatest economic need is higher ethical standards.â€ In setting out the â€œBush doctrine,â€ which defends preemptive strikes against those who might threaten America with weapons of mass destruction, he asserted: â€œMoral truth is the same in every culture, in every time, and in every place.â€ But in what moral truths does the president believe? Considering how much the president says about ethics, it is surprising how little serious discussion there has been of the moral philosophy of George W. Bush. (shrink)
The home secretary is debating whether to allow the American animal rights activist Dr Jerry Vlasak into Britain after it was reported that he had said that killing five to 15 vivisectors could save millions of non-human lives. (He has subsequently denied that he was encouraging anyone to act in this way.).
In recent years, the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, and Spain have recognized marriages between people of the same sex. Several other countries recognize civil unions with similar legal effect. An even wider range of countries have laws against discrimination on the basis of a personâ€™s sexual orientation, in areas like housing and employment. Yet in the worldâ€™s largest democracy, India, sex between two men remains a crime punishable, according to statute, by imprisonment for life.
Beyond that point, an increase in income doesnâ€™t make a lot of difference to peopleâ€™s happiness. Americans are richer than they were in the 1950s, but they are not happier. Americans in the middle-income range today â€” that is, a family income of US$50,000-$90,000 â€” have a level of happiness that is almost identical to well-off Americans, with a family income of more than US$90,000.
As the war goes on, the casualties inevitably rise: American and British combatants, Iraqi combatants and Iraqi civilians are being killed. How many lives is it justifiable to sacrifice in order to protect American security and to free the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein's dictatorship?
Not so long ago, any form of sexuality not leading to the conception of children was seen as, at best, wanton lust, or worse, a perversion. One by one, the taboos have fallen. The idea that it could be wrong to use contraception in order to separate sex from reproduction is now merely quaint. If some religions still teach that masturbation is "selfabuse," that just shows how out of touch they have become. Sodomy? That's all part of the joy of (...) sex, recommended for couples seeking erotic variety. In many of the world's great cities, gays and lesbians can be open about their sexual preferences to an extent unimaginable a century ago. You can even do it in the U.S. Armed Forces, as long as you don't talk about it. Oral sex? Some objected to President Clinton' choice of place and partner, and others thought he should have been more honest about what he had done, but no one dared suggest that he was unfit to be President simply because he had taken part in a sexual activity that was, in many jurisdictions, a crime. (shrink)
Every human society has some code of behavior for its members. This is true of nomads and city-dwellers, of hunter-gatherers and of industrial civilizations, of Eskimos in Greenland and Bushmen in Africa, of a tribe of twenty Australian aborigines and of the billion people that make up China. Ethics is part of the natural human condition.
There is now a regular season for discussing drugs in sports, one that arrives every year with the Tour de France. This year, the overall leader, two other riders, and two teams were expelled or withdrew from the race as a result of failing, or missing, drug tests. The eventual winner, Alberto Contador, is himself alleged to have had a positive test result last year. So many leading cyclists have tested positive for drugs, or have admitted, from the safety (...) of retirement, that they used them, that one can plausibly doubt that it is possible to be competitive in this event otherwise. (shrink)
After ruling our thoughts and our decisions about life and death for nearly 2,000 years, the traditional sanctity of life ethic is at the point of collapse. Consider the following signs of this impending collapse.
John Stuart Mill argued in On Liberty that the sole purpose for which the state can rightly exercise power over an individual is to prevent harm to others. "His own good, either physical or moral," Mill wrote, "is not a sufficient warrant." A century and a half later, although many people think a limited amount of state paternalism is reasonable-for example, to require people to wear seat belts when in a car and motorcycle helmets when riding a motorbike-we tend to (...) agree that the state should not seek to impose its own conception of what is morally right on individuals who are not harming others. One of the implications of this principle is that the state should not prevent people who are terminally or incurably ill from ending their lives when they see fit, as long as they have reached a considered decision about this. Who else can make a better judgment about when life is worth living than the person whose life it is? (shrink)
In October, hundreds of millions of people all over the world learned about a one-year-old boy from Malawi called David. A month before, it seems safe to assume, many of these people had never heard of his native land, a landlocked African nation of about 13 million people bordering Mozambique, Zambia, and Tanzania. Suddenly, David became the worldâ€™s best-known Malawian because it was his good fortune to be adopted by Madonna, the pop star who is to TV cameras what honey (...) is to bears. (shrink)
How selfish are human beings, really? It's a perennially fascinating question. In ancient Athens, if Plato is to be believed, Socrates debated it with Glaucon, who maintained that if only we could get away with it, we would all rob and kill to achieve our own ends. Socrates argued that only ignorance of the real nature of justice could lead a person to do that.
Some doctors closely involved with children suffering from severe spina bifida believe that the lives of those worst affected are so miserable that it is wrong to resort to surgery to keep them alive. Published descriptions of the lives of these children support the judgment that they will have lives filled with pain and discomfort. When the life of an infant will be so miserable it would not be worth living, and there are no 'extrinsic' reasons - such as the (...) feelings of the parents - for keeping the infant alive, it is better that the child should be helped to die without further suffering. (shrink)
The aftermath of the 11 September terrorist attacks dramatically highlighted the way in which state sovereignty has ceased to be a sacred principle of international relations. Compare US demands on Afghanistan with Austria-Hungaryâ€™s demands on Serbia after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on 28 June 1914 â€“ the incident which sparked the First World War.
As the war goes on, the casualties inevitably rise: American and British combatants, Australian and British journalists, Iraqi combatants, and Iraqi civilians are being killed. How many lives is it justifiable to sacrifice to protect our security, and to free the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein's dictatorship?
Smiling is a universal human practice, although readiness to smile at strangers varies according to culture. In Australia, where being open and friendly to strangers is not unusual, the city of Port Phillip, an area covering some of the bayside suburbs of Melbourne, has been using volunteers to find out how often people smile at those who pass them in the street. It then put up signs that look like speed limits, but tell pedestrians that they are in, for example, (...) a â€œ10 Smiles Per Hour Zone.â€. (shrink)
Even though it has always seemed to me so evidently erroneous, the view that we must test our normative theories against our intuitions has continued to have many adherents [...]. But now it faces its most serious challenge yet, in the form of Peter Unger's Living High and Letting Die. On one level this book is an attempt to tighten the argument I advanced in 'Famine, affluence and morality'. Unger argues that we do wrong when we fail to send (...) money to overseas aid organizations that will use it to save many lives. But he does much more than that. He makes his argument by presenting a wide variety of examples and telling us about the intuitive responses that he had found most people - especially his students - have to them. The responses are very difficult to reconcile with each other. Unger then offers explanations for them. His explanations are devastating for the view that we should take our intuitive responses to particular cases as the test of a sound theory, because the explanations show that our intuitive judgments are based on things that are obviously of no moral significance at all. Here is an example. Unger uses some variants on the 'trolley problem', much discussed by philosophers during the past thirty years. The problem is posed by a runaway trolley rolling down the railway track, on course to kill several innocent people further down the line. In one version of the problem you can throw a switch that will divert the trolley down another track, where it will kill just one innocent person. In another version, there is no switch, but you could push a very heavy person off a bridge in front of the trolley. The heavy person will be killed, but the trolley will be stopped and the six people will be saved. Most people think that you should throw the switch, thus causing one to die, rather than six; but they think it would be wrong to push the heavy person off the bridge into the path of the trolley. To a consequentialist this difference is puzzling. In both achieve this outcome? A Kantian, however, can claim that the responses show that our intuitions are in line with the Kantian idea that it is wrong to use someone as a means, even if by doing so there is a net saving of innocent human life.. (shrink)
In Oregon, doctors are allowed to kill patients who are terminal and want to die. In Vermont, they're debating whether to do that. And in Holland, they not only allow euthanasia, but also at least two doctors there are killing babies born with catastrophic illness.
If we agree with the notion of a global community, then we must extend our concepts of justice, fairness, and equity beyond national borders by supporting measures to decrease global warming and to increase foreign aid, argues Peter Singer.
In Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine, two doctors from the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands outline the circumstances in which doctors in their hospital have, in 22 cases over seven years, carried out euthanasia on newborn infants. All of these cases were reported to a district attorney's office in the Netherlands. None of the doctors were prosecuted.
Amidst all the headlines about the Democrats gaining control of the United States Congress in the November elections, one big election result was largely ignored. Although it illuminated the flaws of Americaâ€™s political system, it also restored my belief in the compassion of ordinary Americans.
You don't say much about who you are teaching, or what subject you teach, but you do seem to see a need to justify what you are doing. Perhaps you're teaching underprivileged children, opening their minds to possibilities that might otherwise never have occurred to them. Or maybe you're teaching the children of affluent families and opening their eyes to the big moral issues they will face in life â€” like global poverty, and climate change. If you're doing something like (...) this, then stick with it. Giving money isn't the only way to make a difference. (shrink)
The unknown author of Genesis portrayed God as first creating the animals and then making man in his own image. Ever since, western tradition has tried to draw a sharp divide between ourselves and other animals. Even after Darwin had shown the continuities between ourselves and other apes, we have tried to cling to the idea that there is something quite unique to human beings, some way in which we differ, not only in degree, but also in kind, from animals. (...) The most popular candidate for that unique distinction is our use of language. (shrink)
Getting ready to visit Australia makes us think about what it is to belong to a country. We joke about our lives as "rootless cosmopolitans". That was Stalinist code for Jews, of course, a sign of how treacherous they were, because they didn't really have roots in the Motherland. But, with globalisation, it's no longer a bad thing to be a cosmopolitan.
Thirty years ago, in The New York Review of Books, I reviewed a pioneering work of what was to become the new animal rights movement. The book was a collection of essays called Animals, Men and Morals. I headed my review "Animal Liberation", a title that invited - and received - ridicule. But I used it deliberately, to say that just as we needed to overcome prejudices against black people, women and gays, so too we should strive to overcome our (...) prejudices against non-human animals and start taking their interests seriously. (shrink)
When a human embryo consists of not more than 64 cells, its cells are, like a young dog, able to learn new tricks. If injected into a diseased kidney, they take on many of the properties of ordinary kidney cells, and may help the kidney to perform its normal function. This seems to hold for any organ, even any kind of cell.