Practical Ethics

Practical Ethics

Peter Singer

Language: English

Pages: 356

ISBN: 0521707684

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

For thirty years, Peter Singer's Practical Ethics has been the classic introduction to applied ethics. For this third edition, the author has revised and updated all the chapters, and added a new chapter addressing climate change, one of the most important ethical challenges of our generation. Some of the questions discussed in this book concern our daily lives. Is it ethical to buy luxuries when others do not have enough to eat? Should we buy meat from intensively reared animals? Am I doing something wrong if my carbon footprint is above the global average? Other questions confront us as concerned citizens: equality and discrimination on the grounds of race or sex; abortion, the use of embryos for research, and euthanasia; political violence and terrorism; and the preservation of our planet's environment. This book's lucid style and provocative arguments make it an ideal text for university courses and for anyone willing to think about how she or he ought to live.

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They might recognize that she has been placed in an extraordinarily difficult situation, one in which to do what is right involves a considerable sacrifice. They might even grant that most people in this situation would follow self-interest rather than do the right thing. Nevertheless, they would hold that to disconnect oneself is wrong. In rejecting Thomson’s theory of rights, and with it her judgment in the case of the violinist, the utilitarian would also be rejecting her argument for

this is not surprising; but the discussion of this doctrine in the earlier chapters of this book shows that this premise is less secure than many people think. The weakness of the first premise of the conservative argument is that it relies on our acceptance of the special status of human life. We have seen that ‘human’ is a term that straddles two distinct notions: being a member of the species Homo sapiens and being a person. Once the term is dissected in this way, the weakness of the

justification must be of a certain kind. For instance, a justification in terms of self-interest alone will not do. When Macbeth, contemplating the murder of Duncan, admits that only ‘vaulting ambition’ drives him to do it, he is admitting that the act cannot be justified ethically. ‘So that I can be king in his place’ is not a weak attempt at an ethical justification for assassination; it is not the sort of reason that counts as an ethical justification at all. Self-interested acts must be shown

are unable to play most sports and live constantly on the edge of crisis. Nevertheless, haemophiliacs do not appear to spend their time wondering whether to end it all; most find life definitely worth living, despite the difficulties they face. Given these facts, suppose that a newborn baby is diagnosed as a haemophiliac. The parents, daunted by the prospect of bringing up a child with this condition, are not anxious for him to live. Could euthanasia be defended here? Our first reaction may well

justified on paternalistic grounds, however, for voluntary euthanasia is an act for which good reasons exist. Voluntary euthanasia occurs only when, to the best of medical knowledge, a person is suffering from an incurable and painful or extremely distressing condition. In these circumstances one cannot say that to choose to die quickly is obviously irrational. The strength of the case for voluntary euthanasia lies in this combination of respect for the preferences, or autonomy, of those who

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