Campus Free Speech

Student Protesters Shouted Down the Effective Altruism Club for 'Supporting the Murder of Disabled People'

Peter Singer tries to speak at the University of Victoria.

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Singer
Tim Vickers

One might expect a student group called "the Effective Altruism Club" to be among the least likely objects of scorn for irate student protesters. Who could be against altruism—or making it more effective?

Well, University of Victoria radicals it seems. They recently ambushed an event put on by the Canadian university's effective altruism club, and used a megaphone to shout down its featured speaker, philosopher Peter Singer, who appeared remotely via Skype. They even accused the club of implicitly supporting the murder of disabled people, according to The Martlet.

In fairness, "effective altruism"—one of Singer's concepts— is more controversial than it sounds. The movement promotes the idea that people should support the charitable causes that maximize harm-reduction and are more cost-effective compared to other causes (alleviating global poverty is an example of something effective altruists tend to prioritize).

Singer himself is even more controversial. He has occasionally defended human-animal sex, and argues in favor of euthanasia—including some forms of non-voluntary euthanasia. Reason's Ronald Bailey interviewed him in the December 2000 issue of the magazine, and described his views thus:

Singer is perhaps the most thoroughgoing philosophical utilitarian since Jeremy Bentham. As such, he believes animals have rights because the relevant moral consideration is not whether a being can reason or talk but whether it can suffer. Jettisoning the traditional distinction between humans and nonhumans, Singer distinguishes instead between persons and non-persons. Persons are beings that feel, reason, have self-awareness, and look forward to a future. Thus, fetuses and some very impaired human beings are not persons in his view and have a lesser moral status than, say, adult gorillas and chimpanzees.

Given such views, it was no surprise that anti-abortion activists and disability rights advocates loudly decried the Australian-born Singer's appointment at Princeton last year. Indeed, his language regarding the treatment of disabled human beings is at times appallingly similar to the eugenic arguments used by Nazi theorists concerning "life unworthy of life." Singer, however, believes that only parents, not the state, should have the power to make decisions about the fates of disabled infants.

Disability rights advocates are no fan of Singer, and it's easy to see why.

But the effective altruism club maintains that it wasn't promoting Singer's views on euthanasia—the event was focused on "practical ways we can end global poverty, promote animal welfare, and reduce existential risks like climate change," according to The Martlet.

"It's just all about solving climate change and all the stuff that we can all agree on," said one student organizer.

This did not satisfy the protesters, who used a megaphone to disrupt the interview with Singer. Event organizers turned up the volume so that Singer could be heard over the protesters, who chanted "eugenics is hate" and "disabled lives matter."

The police showed up, but did nothing to deter the protesters. They didn't even take away the megaphone.

One protester, Luka Garvin, said that Singer's speech was hate speech, and as such, had no place on campus:

"If it was, let's say, Steve Bannon, talking about the merits of recycling, would you let him onto UVic? I don't think so. Because Steve Bannon practices hate speech, and ableist speech is hate speech, no matter what you believe."

Everything students don't agree with is hate speech, which is a shame, because a university seems like a great place to discuss and debate Singer's ideas—even his more controversial ones. If the ideas are wrong, people can—and should—reject them. What are anti-speech radicals so afraid of?

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144 responses to “Student Protesters Shouted Down the Effective Altruism Club for 'Supporting the Murder of Disabled People'

  1. If it was, let’s say, Steve Bannon, talking about the merits of recycling, would you let him onto UVic? I don’t think so.

    Are you asking me, bro?

    Singer vs Canadian college students. There are no heroes here.

    1. If there was, say, a gorilla throwing poo at both of them, we would have a hero. Not that I support the initiation of poo throwing.

      1. Well now you have something in common with Reza Aslan. Ta Daaa!

    2. Steve Bannon discussing the merits of recycling? Sounds riveting.

      1. Probably only slightly more enjoyable than Alan Vanneman discussing anything.

    3. If they think it goes without saying that certain people obviously would be barred from speaking on campus no matter what, then it’s pretty hopeless.

  2. reduce existential risks like climate change,

    Hanging anyone who says this would go a long way towards solving the problem.

  3. Did they bring some developmentally disabled people to protest along with them?

    1. That’s who was doing the protesting, dude.

      1. “What do we want?”

        “CAKE”

        “When do we want it?”

        “ALWAYS”

      1. Let he that never contemplated being Canadian cast the first stone.

        [throws stone]

        1. bring out the trebuchet!

      2. *Sigh* Are we really going to start this fight guys? With your education system?

        (Admittedly we’re currently topping the charts for dumbest world leader, but Montreal elites don’t count)

        1. You go to war with the mental deficiencies you have.

      3. Blame Canada!

  4. Shouting down? I favor nuking Australia to get even for inflicting Singer on the world. I’d favor nuking Princeton but we’d probably have to absorb the refugees fleeing the fallout,and I doubt that I’d want to put up with them.

    1. Given that Princeton’s in New Jersey, how would you even be able to tell it had been nuked?

      1. It would smell better?

        1. +1 Rosanna Rosannadanna

      2. Less traffic?

        1. Fewer mutants?

      3. Suntans would look less fake?

      4. fewer Parkway tolls?

      5. L’Oreal stock plummets?

      6. Save the nuke ($$$)…
        NJ will self destruct very soon.
        I got out just in time!

    2. Nukes don’t work on Australia, all you’re going to end up doing is making the spiders and drop bears radioactive.

      1. +10000 teenage superheroes

  5. The speech fascists just don’t get it. Everytime you do shit like this you increase its popularity.

  6. Singer is a distasteful character (he really does support a brand of eugenics). They should allow his disgusting beliefs to be exposed. Not silence him

    1. Singer is a perfect example of the dangers of ideology unfettered from emotivism.

      1. or rational thought

  7. “disabled lives matter.”

    Whoa – – you better watch your language. Anyone saying that is just asking to get woke.

  8. But the effective altruism club maintains that it wasn’t promoting Singer’s views on euthanasia?the event was focused on “practical ways we can end global poverty, promote animal welfare, and reduce existential risks like climate change,” according to The Martinet.

    And Singer’s solution is probably euthanasia, so. Distinction without a difference. These idiots are made for each other.

    1. Climate change will be 100% solved as soon as we euthanize all the humans.

      1. All problems would be because there wouldn’t be anyone to complain.

  9. Everything students don’t agree with is hate speech

    I’ll bet some students would disagree, which makes the above statement HATE SPEECH OMGWTF I CAN’T EVEN!

    1. They do seem to hate Singer and Steve Bannon pretty good.

      That’s a funny thing about the whole “hate speech” thing. They think that anything they find distasteful or offensive is “hate”. Yet they seethe with hate for all of these people just because they hold different views about the world.

  10. Forget about ending global poverty, capitalism will take care of that. I say we kill the idea that there is such a thing as hate speech.

    1. Don’t have to here in the US, from a legal perspective “hate speech” doesn’t exist.

    2. Hate speech is the cudgel du jour that the chronically disaffected rally around and use to censor whatever they don’t like. That being pretty much everything but their own personal catechism.

      It’s like what Thomas Sowell said about racism being liberal ketchup; they put it on everything.

      1. I thought we had moved on to cultural appropriation…shit, now I have to have two cudgels du jour

  11. Who could be against altruism?

    Objectivists?

    1. Social Darwinist; let it bleed, because we’re just better off without you.

    2. curmudgeons?

    3. Evil men.

    4. Alt-ruism is probably not well loved by classical ruists.

  12. his language regarding the treatment of disabled human beings is at times appallingly similar to the eugenic arguments used by Nazi theorists concerning “life unworthy of life.”

    His argument is more like the pro-eugenics positions of Oliver Wendell Holmes and Margaret Sanger.. but that truth is uncomfortable.

    1. Their philosophies on those matters are all at the “loathsome” end of the scale.

  13. (alleviating global poverty is an example of something effective altruists tend to prioritize).

    Enlightened self-interest has alleviated more “global poverty” than any other force in human history.

    Altruism – under the guise of socialism – has murdered millions and stymied the fortunes of billions

    its the sort of point you’d think would be T-ball for a libertarian writer. but no.

    1. Soave doesn’t do ‘actual libertarian philosophy’ man. He’s more of a non-conceptual social critic kind of guy.

      1. So…kind of like you and Gilmore then.

    2. I’m sure he’s sorry he didn’t write what you think he should write.

      1. who cares what he thinks. I only make the point in the event someone comes along and confuses this drek w/ ‘libertarian arguments’.

        1. Well I’m glad you’re on guard then.

          1. whose on guard for Canada? I mean it’s in their Mickey Mouse theme song…I mean national Anthem…

      2. Robby needs to step it up if he’s going to continue on the Peter Singer beat.

        1. Peter Singer…Margaret Sanger…mmmm seems a little too coincidental if you catch mu meaning…ever see those twoin the same room together?

    3. Agreed.

      Enlightened self interest warrants that one author a good script.

    4. Then effective altruists should promote enlightened self interest. There is a place for altruism in helping people more effectively pursue their own enlightened self-interest.

      1. that’s effectively what Bjorn Lomborg tries to do. never mind the cognitive dissonance it causes.

  14. “”It’s just all about solving climate change and all the stuff that we can all agree on,” said one student organizer.”

    You know, the noncontroversial stuff.

  15. One of these days, a bunch of self-righteous megaphones twits is going to try to disrupt the wrong meeting, and get their megaphones crammed somewhere REALLY uncomfortable.

    1. interesting picture don’t you think? I mean depending on where the wide end is…

    2. ‘What, like the back of a Volkswagen?’

  16. It is never right to shout down a speaker. The disabled rights people were wrong here.

    That said, Peter Singer is the most loathsome public intellectual in the Western World and by a wide margin. His views are just appalling. Here are some of his greatest hits

    1. Singer refuses to accept that human beings have any primacy over other animals and sees eating meat as immoral no matter how much human suffering results for the refusal to do so.

    2. He is an extreme utilitarian to the point of almost being a parody. Singer believes that if one party’s interests in something are greater than someone else’ that party’s interests should carry the day at the complete expense of the second party’s lesser interests.

    3. He thinks that no newborn baby should be considered human worthy of rights until 30 days after birth and that doctors should have the authority to kill disabled children on site at birth.

    Singer is just an evil and horrible human being. It is a bit disappointing that Reason has worse things to say about Milo Yiannoppolis and seemed embarrassed to defend his free speech rights and happy to defend this monster’s rights.

    1. 1. Singer refuses to accept that human beings have any primacy over other animals and sees eating meat as immoral no matter how much human suffering results for the refusal to do so.

      I read some of Singers work in college, looking at the issue objectively and following the path to the uncomfortable realizations that make philosophy powerful. I realized that I could not in fact think of any just reason for eating animals while every bit of my nutrition, diet, and consumption levels could be replaced with a non-bloody substitute. Truly, if you have a non-survival related justification for slaughtering animals I’d love to hear it; because I am a red blooded american who’s done in enough Big Mac’s in his time to carry the weight of ten vegans.

      And I do not believe that I have any honorable, virtuous, rational, or just reason for doing this — all there really is to be said is that I like meat, it tastes good. But pleasure is and has never been good justification on its own for action. Rapists and murders get pleasure from their evil deeds, that in no way makes it morally passable.

      So I will give Singer this point, that I read his work and was not able to dispute his arguments on eating animals. I feel bad about it, and attribute it to the half-vice side of me — I believe people need some vice or sin or indulgence (however you want to think about it) to maintain a balance of their being; otherwise one runs the risk of the pent up explosion.

      1. (I ran out of space, last line should read something like….)

        I believe people need some vice or sin or indulgence (however you want to think about it) to maintain a balance of their being; otherwise one runs the risk of the pent up explosion. But that doesn’t make me feel good about any of the vicious (as in vice-ridden) aspects of my nature.

        1. sooo if it’s bacon versus self immolation (or exploding head)? I’m going with bacon…

          1. I didn’t mean to phrase it as meat OR death. I eat meat, a fuck ton of it.

            But I find no morally GOOD justification for the practice when there is a massive amount of other ways I could sustain my diet without resorting to slaughter. I believe Singer is right about that. There is no morally good reason for meat consumption with regards to our current situation.

            I do think it is morally passable to eat meat to survive or if your community has limited options of food sources and only adding meat into the diet can help maintain a flourishing community. America does not have this problem though, not by a loooooooong shot.

            1. You’re a fucking monster, plants don’t deserve life? You’re still drawing a line in the sand and declaring life past that line is ok to kill. In this case, it’s because that life form is so different from you, you are unable to empathize with it which seems to make it ok.

              And for the record, I don’t believe any of what I just wrote but it seems like you should. 😉

              1. As far as what is ‘moral’ or ‘immoral’ one should note that morality itself is a construct crated by man to perpetuate man. Not eating ‘x’ for moral reasons is kind of ironic to me.

              2. Plants don’t mind dying either.

        2. Some animals are herbivores, some are carnivores, some are omnivores.
          Humans are omnivores.

          Eating meat is an efficient way of getting needed calories, protien and fat.

          Is the lion immoral? The shark? The hawk?

          Should we kill all carnivores because they are immoral? Or would that be immoral?

          1. Eating meat is an efficient way of getting needed calories, protien and fat.

            Consensual sex and rape both achieve the same end for the actor.

            You’ve asked if to kill this creature is immoral, or if animals are moral when they kill; but what you’ve really done is taken true moral consideration out of the equation. You’ve cast aside the fact that there is no necessity for a great number of humans to eat meat, to slaughter; we can get that food elsewhere, as you say, we are omnivores.

            But again, you’ve cast aside the key part and said, ‘look meat is protein and calories and people need those things.’ This is obviously true but there is no moral consideration here, which is what we are discussing. Just because you can indulge in slaughter for meat should you? Should you if there is alternatives?

            I’ll recast your statements again in gruesome analogy above. Rape and consensual sex both get the job done — are they morally equivalent? (the obvious rejection to this is that the sex analogy deals with human interaction, where the meat thing deals with animals and see below, many thing the main logical flaw is extending moral consideration to animals. If your defense would fall along these lines it’s all good — I’m just posing questions, not providing answers.)

            1. When I watch a nature show and see a whale gobble up thousands of shrimp in one gulp, I do sometimes think it must suck to be a shrimp. It has three goals. Eat, reproduce and avoid being eaten.

              And I guess it must suck to be cow, too. But in the end, it all balances out. Enough shrimp survive to reproduce. Enough cows survive to reproduce as well. And depending on your beliefs, God gave us dominion over the animals or Darwin has humans pretty high up on the food chain.

              If you are battling with eating meat, I can’t help you. I can’t stand beans and too many greens give me the runs. I don’t have a problem eating meat. It played a big part in our advancement from apes to intelligent humans.

              You seem to be very educated and ponder deep subjects, and I’m just a simple guy. You might be right, but would you want to FORCE me to be a vegan? I couldn’t do it.

              1. Hey it’s all good my friend, you seem plenty educated to me. I would never advocate force to stop meat eating — I consume almost 100% meat I swear. Just in the context of Peter Singer’s works on, whatever you want to call it, animal cruelty. It was just thought provoking to me when I first came across it, and I did some deep thinking on the subject, I realized I only eat meat cause I like it, period. What sort of reasoning is that to slaughter though? Queue moral dilemma. 🙂

                Wasn’t throwing shade at you, just waxing philosophically with all y’all in a really great conversation.

                1. I’m just glad – scrolling up from the bottom – to see other people on the thread discussing serious moral philosophy in a vaguely rigorous way.

            2. Rape and consensual sex both get the job done — are they morally equivalent?

              If the “rape” is of someone in an irreversible coma, sure. Can’t hurt.

      2. Singer is wrong. First of all, it doesn’t harm anyone for you to not eat meat. If the entire human race stopped eating meat, a lot of people would starve. So, if someone has to eat meat, then why is it wrong for you to do so? Second, his justification for not eating meat is raw utilitarianism. It says animals have a bigger interest than you do, therefore their interests win out. Sorry, but I don’t buy that. The question isn’t decided by who has a bigger interest. If it was, then we would have to be utilitarian about everything else.

        1. I thought it was all about who tasted better…

        2. His utilitarian justification is crap, but that doesn’t mean the point or end of his argument is wrong.

          So, if someone has to eat meat, then why is it wrong for you to do so?

          THIS right here is the rub. If someone has to eat meat, I find that to be totally morally passable, BUT I do not have to eat meat. There is no necessity governing my meat consumption, all there is is my will to do it, and the forces behind that will are selfish and without justification besides appeasing my indulgence and pleasure — which is fine to do, unless appeasing your pleasure comes in the form of slaughter and death, no?

          1. It is like most ethical questions a tough call in some ways. I can respect someone who decides they can’t do it, even if I don’t agree. The people who drive me nuts are people who eat meat and then object to hunting. There are people like that and it from my experience is impossible to get them to understand the nonsequitur.

            1. The people who drive me nuts are people who eat meat and then object to hunting.

              You might as well call these people the hopelessly blind.

        3. So, if someone has to eat meat, then why is it wrong for you to do so?

          You’ve got Kantian morality running into Utilitarianism here. They aren’t completely incompatible but they’re not really the same. Not saying your point isn’t valid. Kant believed that animals were means not ends and so had no moral value.

          I can see HV-HV’s quite interesting point as well.

          1. I can see HV-HV’s quite interesting point as well.

            Thanks man. But I must say again, it was reading Singer’s work in college that lead me down this philosophical road of human and animal interactions as it were. So as I began with my response to John, for all the other heinous ideas that the commentariat has roasted Singer for in this article, I have to concede this argument of his being pretty thought provoking for me personally.

            1. it was reading Singer’s work in college

              Whoa this whole conversation guys… Case in point example of why college used to be a ground for the expansion of consciousness; why the words of unsavory sorts are still beneficial to the objective listener. While we might not end this conversation in agreement, it has still be worthwhile, and it was from the work of a condemable man that spawned a very healthy discussion. Thank you to all involved.

      3. [Singer] believes animals have rights because the relevant moral consideration is not whether a being can reason or talk but whether it can suffer.

        I realized that I could not in fact think of any just reason for eating animals while every bit of my nutrition, diet,
        and consumption levels could be replaced with a non-bloody substitute.

        I think there is a strong argument to be made for the humane treatment of animals from this line of thinking. However humans probably do a trivial amount of the overall killing of animals capable of suffering. What do you or Singer propose be done with, say, sharks or wolves each time they kill another animal?

        1. Deer are a good example of that. Okay, so we stop hunting deer. Do that and the deer overpopulate and do all kinds of ecological damage causing suffering to other animals. And the deer still end up dying, they just die from starvation or sickness or old age instead of a bullet. How exactly have we prevented suffering? And if we are going to hunt them, why is it wrong to then eat them?

          Singer is in addition to being an evil and awful person, a very simple-minded one as well. Time and again he makes these ridiculous and simplistic assumptions in his philosophy. He just assumes that not eating meat or killing animals reduces animal suffering just like he assumes that people sending money for poverty relief reduce poverty. It says so many bad things about the intellectual state of this country that a malignant doofus like Singer could hold a tenured philosophy chair at a university.

          1. And the deer still end up dying, they just die from starvation or sickness or old age instead of a bullet.

            Or from the front end of an 18-wheeler, or, worse, a subcompact.

        2. Firstly, I do not have any answers, I’m a Grecian of a philosopher, all I see is moral conundrums and grapple with the problem, the answers to these things are best left to wise.

          What do you or Singer propose be done with, say, sharks or wolves each time they kill another animal?

          For me this is simply nature and I do not object; moreover this also falls along the lines I laid out above. I find it morally passable to eat meat to survive, which obviously animals do. And I have no qualms with humans killing and eating animals to survive — hearkening back to the nature thing, is man not just another animal? And a apex predator at that? There is a certain quota of the food chain and the balancing of nature that expects us to take in our lion’s share of dead animals. But again, none of this justifies slaughter when slaughter is not necessary and is in fact only done for pleasure.

          1. I find it terribly interesting that many would divorce man from nature and say our actions are somehow unnatural when we are just as much a part of the natural order as any other thing.

            Riddle me this, is a termite mound unnatural? Most would say yes, but on close examination how is a termite mound different from, say, New York?

            1. *is a termite mound natural

              God I hate autocorrect on my phone 🙁

              1. lol, this makes much more sense now 🙂

          2. Physically, people are very much prey. You see it in the eyes of people who are being confronted by an aggressive dog or even a spoiled Chihuahua (something I witness a lot in my line of work). It’s only once you factor in a superior mind and opposable thumbs that we have the upper hand and become the hunters. That’s where our superiority lies and it makes us very, very different from animals.

      4. I don’t start with the presumption that all actions need moral justification. I’m not happy about killing animals, but I don’t think it’s a moral failing or vice either. Because, as the saying goes, if the cow had the chance he’d eat me and everyone I care about.

        1. If people an animals are morally equal, then why is it okay for animals to eat each other but not okay for humans to eat animals? Singer thinks humans are morally equal to animals except when holding humans to a higher standard is convenient to his argument.

          1. I suspect, having not read “Animal Rights”, that he would quite reasonably point out two things:

            1) Animals don’t seem to have the capacity for moral judgment of that, and thus can’t really be held responsible for “doing wrong”; just as if a tree falls on you it’s not a murderer, just a tree that fell over.

            This holds humans to a higher standard exactly because they have a higher capacity for moral action, and is thus not obviously unfair.

            (Just as a notional entity with a moral standard we lack the capacity for even understanding, or perhaps the senses for evaluating or acting on [and thus I can’t example it] could fairly hold its own kind to a higher standard than it holds us.)

            That one is honestly sufficient on its own, but also:

            2) Animals that are obligate carnivores must eat flesh or die, and the literally unavoidable is hard to call immoral; humans can live without doing so, and thus open themselves up to moral judgment.

            Also, ethical judgment (almost, and the exceptions I am quite willing to call untenable or insane) always hinges on action and motivation; a human being that knows an animal died for its meal could be held to a different standard than e.g. a cat, that doesn’t even have an obvious concept of “death” or “mouse personhood”.

            How can it be doing wrong if it can’t comprehend that there’s a moral issue to respect?

        2. I don’t start with the presumption that all actions need moral justification.

          Do we as Libertarians not do this though? We vet every action against the NAP to determine if one should be free to take that action. Actions needing moral justification, adherence to the Non-Aggression Principle — these are different paths to the same idea.

          1. I start with the presumption of liberty, with its corollary that everything which is not forbidden is permitted. I haven’t read Singer as you have, but my understanding is he’s one of the many philosophers out there who generally follow the opposite, that everything not deemed permissible is forbidden (or may be forbidden with no moral outrage). Where “moral justification” means proving that something is good or ‘worthy’ and therefore must be respected, and not merely that it does not run afoul of prohibitions and so must be tolerated. My recollection is that Singer’s argument for global redistribution is precisely that your property is not of any moral significance, and therefore is up for grabs.

        3. The premise is not “all actions need moral justification”, is it?

          It’s “all actions need to not be actively immoral” – or, well, they’re wrong. That’s what “immoral” means, and why we argue about what is or isn’t moral or wrong so damned hard.

          It’s kind of important to not do bad stuff, if you care about moral outcomes, ain’t it?

          (TBC, I don’t disagree with you on eating meat, not at all; I’m a happy omnivore.

          But I am one because I judge eating their delicious flesh to be not-wrong, because I disagree with Singer on their position on the heirarchy/state of personhood.

          Equally it’s very hard to prove him wrong, since it is necessarily a value judgment, not something subject to an external, rigorous proof.)

          1. As I nodded towards in my response above, my amateur take on a lot of modern philosophers is that they require actions to be morally validated to be respected. Actions that are not proven to be morally worthy are at best confined to moral indifference, and can be cast out as the philosopher pleases. The way HV,HV described it sounded very much like a meat-eater needs to justify eating meat, and if he has no sufficient argument, it is deemed wrong. That was what prompted my post.

            And while your version is fair and may be more accurate to Singer’s argument, my position is that the onus is on the person calling something immoral to justify its wrongness, especially when we’re talking about something that man has been doing as long as man has existed. Of course it can still be wrong – like slavery and non-consensual sex – but I don’t think it’s on omnivores to justify their behavior. I say the same thing when someone asks, like, what rights do parents have to be the default guardian for their children anyway, y’know? Shouldn’t they have to prove their suitability to parent first?

        4. I don’t start with the presumption that all actions need moral justification.

          Me neither. I start with the presumption that all prohibitions need moral justification.

      5. I haven’t read his arguments, so maybe I’m missing something.

        But I don’t know why the fact that animals suffer necessarily means that it’s immoral to eat them. The reason we don’t cannibalize each other isn’t that people can feel pain. It’s that they are people.

        And if it’s all because of suffering, wouldn’t anesthetizing animals before slaughtering them make it OK?

        The way I look at it, morality is something people created and it has to do with how people interact with each other.

        1. It’s the childish notion that plants are immobile and therefore cannot suffer. If plants didn’t suffer they never would have evolved defense mechanisms.

          Singer’s a retard who’s philosophy is basically “leave animals alone but fuck with people as much as you want.” Which is so close to statism the world will probably be a better place when he’s gone. And I find people dying by their own philosophies to be completely unobjectionable.

          1. And the notion that suffering (or, more accurately when talking about non-human animals, pain) is necessarily a moral ill. Pain is a signal to sentient organisms that something is wrong. Pain is necessary and good if you want complex life to exist. Wanting to minimize pain in people and animals is understandable, and is a desirable characteristic in people. But it’s really a projection of our feelings and desires onto others. Which is quite sensible when it comes to people, but less so when it comes to non-human animals.

            1. I agree with most of that, pain and suffering can teach lessons, it can make one stronger. But we are not just discussing suffering, we are discussing death.

              Specifically, death that mankind deals out that — objectively — it deals without necessity for doing so.

              And death has no gains, no boons, no lessons learned; it has no merit (in this context), whereas, as you say, pain and suffering have meritable application.

              1. Then you have to say why death is bad when it’s an animal, but OK when it’s a plant. Some kind of death is necessary to keep me alive.

                The main answer to that will be that animals have nervous systems and the big mammals that we eat seem to be conscious of their existence in some way. But I think that has more to do with sympathy for things that look kind of like us than it does with any consistent moral code.

              2. You forget the lessons learned when you see the first asshole burn his eyes out looking at the sun; one does not learn from personal experience alone.

          2. Can you quote where you derive that from Singer’s actual words?

            Or is the opinion entirely that of interpreters and their opinions of his work?

            (Sorry, as a literal – Bachelor’s – student of Philosophy, “I hear such and such about so and so” is just … not rigorous. And it needs to be pushed back against.

            Singer’s someone I deeply disagree with on various parts of his ethics and conclusions, but your summary doesn’t seem plausible from my knowledge of him, and everyone deserves to have their actual words and opinions judged, rather than someone else’s summary/critique/assertion-of-consequences.)

          3. It’s the childish notion that plants are immobile and therefore cannot suffer. If plants didn’t suffer they never would have evolved defense mechanisms.

            Then is anesthesia worthless?

        2. morality is something people created and it has to do with how people interact with each other.

          This is exactly right. Morality is an entirely human construct that attempts to keep us from obliterating ourselves. That’s why there are so many different moral codes.

          1. The only ‘moral’ reason not to kill and eat animals (that I can think of off the cuff) is that it reveals sociopathic tendencies in the human; animals are easier to empathize with and because man is an animal who mistakenly projects his or her own mind upon those who have none.

            To put it another way, we don’t like people to torture animals because we fear they will eventually torture a human. That, and some people believe animals are people.

        3. Rightio, Zebio. As BYODB said above, we naturally sympathize with animals and so project our feelings on to them, leading us to think they deserve a place in that moral code, but it’s quite silly to take that feeling so far.

          1. Many of you seem to be saying that morality is a human construct; that without man there would be no morality. Yet part of me wants to frame morality as a force outside of man that we tapped into as our understanding and intellect grew… There is a tiny thought experiment that I find powerful, it goes:

            2+2=4 and that will hold true even if there is no man or creature left in the universe with the ability to compute 2+2=4.

            Now I am not talking about A morality, or THIS moral code but the very notion of Moral Consideration itself; could this not be universally extent is a similar vein as the computation of 2+2 equaling 4? Most will probably say no. But consider how we all see the path, we see some of us who would extend moral consideration to animals, to plants; most of us here can see how others would extend the bounds of morality beyond just human consideration.

            Those of you who reject that notion do so because you say that is just us “projecting our feeling on them (the animals, or plants, or objects)” thus things outside of humanity warrant no moral consideration. Yet isn’t this placing arbitrary limitations on the notion of morality? Where you see “projection”, I see the whole, the logical extreme of morality. You cut of a sliver of the whole and say this is real morality, the rest is projection; yet this very discussion is predicated on the larger sphere of moral understanding. Are you looking at it and limiting it? Am I looking at it and taking it as is?

            1. If you’re pushing objective morality, you won’t find purchase with me.

              I won’t say that they warrant no moral consideration, but that it’s an intuition likely sparked by our loopy empathic system, and I would not expect widespread agreement about these intuitions, at least in a pluralistic society (obviously, Hindus do a good job respecting animal lives). I’m not sure I’d want to push for agreement, and I do think there’s a case to be made that we shouldn’t put these intuitions at the same level of our intuitions regarding human-to-human relationships. I don’t want to live in a society where torturing animals is OK, but I’m cautious of discussions where respect for animal life is defended with the same language and principles as not murdering or stealing from another human.

            2. What you descibe is God, not morality, and I hope you can see the difference conceptually.

              1. Oh, and 2+2=4 is also a human construct when it comes down to it. Mathematics is just another language and is just as bound to human fallacies as English. As a thought experiment ask yourself what the 5th dimension looks like.

            3. I can definitely sympathize with what you are saying. For a long time I wanted to think that morality could be absolute, objective and universal. But unless you believe in a God who sets the rules and that’s that, I can’t make that work.

              My morality is based on some simple assumptions that might seem self-evident to me. But they are still assumptions.

              1. This touches on a good argument for libertarianism, in that morality and beliefs are so varied and non-objective that people should be free to persue them as long as aggression can be kept out of it as much as possible. Just thought I would mention it. The same goes for ‘laboratories of democracy’. Humanities fractured ideologies demands a fractured system of governance for exactly the reasons layed out in the above conversation.

                Food for thought.

            4. 2+2=4 is only a universal truth only insofar as someone exists to define 2 and 4 and + and =. Math is a human constructed overlay created to make our understanding of the universe easier for us to follow. It is entirely possible that we only believe 2+2=4 to be a universal truth because we don’t have a proper understanding of the universe. Granted, these things we call universal truths can be applied well enough in practice for us to believe that there is something there beyond our beliefs.

              Plato went down this road with morality as well saying that things like ‘good’ and ‘just’ have universal forms that exist beyond what humans perceive. I’m not sure I entirely agree but I’m not sure I entirely disagree either. It’s an interesting thought experiment that is likely beyond the limited perceptive ability of the human mind.

              1. Damn guys, really loved the discussion, don’t have time to keep replying individually but I shall reflect on your words and reassess how my own principles and understands my be refined.

              2. Given that Something Exists.

                We posit that more than one thing exists – we call these “entity”.

                Entity thus has quantity, and quantity can be compared.

                Math remains universal, no matter that the symbols are arbitrary.

                (“But everything is really one and there’s no entity at all!” is not going to be effective given the universal experience of it and the way our scientific constructs based on it make accurate predictions about observed reality.

                It’s the last one that really destroys the “there isn’t really anything but Everything!” concept.)

                1. Math remains universal, no matter that the symbols are arbitrary.

                  Maybe just a difference in terminology, but I would say that universal processes exist regardless of any human attempt to describe them. Thus, the universe is still doing something even if there is no math to describe it.

            5. Morality requires some pretty complex thought that animals are incapable of. My Jack Russell Terrier doesn’t look at a mouse, could never look at a mouse and think- Should I kill this mouse? It’s an animal just like me. It’s not hurting anyone and I’m not hungry. What if he’s taking food to his young? It would be morally wrong to kill this mouse. Maybe I should let it go on its way. Instead, she grabs it by the neck, shakes a few times, drops it and goes after the next mouse that moves because she can’t help it.

              I love all those videos of dogs staying by their dead companion or cat saving a squirrel and the human emotions they put on them. I once taught a lecture class on behavior and I said that we all like to think our dogs love us but, as a behaviorist, I know dogs don’t love us. They’re just using natural behaviors that they’ve learned to get the things they need from us in our generally sterile environment. The easiest way to do that is to mimic behaviors of love.

              There was a woman in the class with a seeing eye dog and she complained. I was told to apologize to the class for saying that our dogs don’t love us when they don’t. I didn’t. I couldn’t. Dogs don’t have the ability to build relationships on emotion. And they don’t have the ability to think in a way that would allow them to have a sense morality.

              1. I was told to apologize to the class for saying that our dogs don’t love us when they don’t. I didn’t.

                I admire your conviction in the face of pressure.

                1. Thanks. It wasn’t easy because they were playing the blind card but she was an adult and understoond what I saying even if she didn’t agree. And I have to admit, that I know my dog loves me as does my fish. I mean, my human heart knows it but my head knows that they don’t.

                  1. You monster. Wait till a jackbooted thug shoots your dog. Then you will miss the love YES LOVE from one of god’s gentle, stupid, yapping creatures.

        4. The reason we don’t cannibalize each other isn’t that people can feel pain. It’s that they are people.

          But what’s the significance of that? It doesn’t seem to work for “dog eat dog”.

      6. Truly, if you have a non-survival related justification for slaughtering animals I’d love to hear it

        Simple: People enjoy it, & animals don’t mind it.

    2. Singer refuses to accept that human beings have any primacy over other animals and sees eating meat as immoral no matter how much human suffering results for the refusal to do so.

      See, that’s where he’s wrong, because most animals don’t mind dying, since they have no conception of (& hence no plans for) the future, so they can’t be disappointed by the prospect of impending doom, or even conceive of it. What they do mind is pain, so the important thing is to not inflict pain on them. Killing them doesn’t hurt them; hurting them hurts them.

  17. The disability people made a huge mistake disrupting his speech. It just made Singer into a martyr and made him look like a good guy. They should have just gone to the speech and quietly held signs that said “If it were up to Peter Singer, I would be dead.” or “according to Peter Singer I am not a human being.” That would have been much more effective than what they did and not deprived Singer of the right to speak.

    1. They should have just gone to the speech and quietly held signs that said “If it were up to Peter Singer, I would be dead.” or “according to Peter Singer I am not a human being.”

      I disagree with you on a lot of things, John, but you’re dead right about that. If they got any press coverage at all, it would have been brutal for Singer.

    2. sooo they should have disabled him? I got your wheel chair right here buddy…

      1. a couple of sharp, well placed blows to the lower back and poof there goes his argument

        1. What’s his argument that you think that destroys?

          It isn’t “anyone in a wheelchair should be killed”.

          Re. the quote in the parent article: Persons are beings that feel, reason, have self-awareness, and look forward to a future. Thus, fetuses and some very impaired human beings are not persons in his view and have a lesser moral status than, say, adult gorillas and chimpanzees.

          I’m not a fan of Singer’s pure-utilitarian ethics (never have been; I’m more a virtue-ethics guy).

          But “can’t feel, reason, be self-aware, or have any future-awareness” seems like a very good definition of personhood.

          And one that anyone even in the normal category of severely disabled can pass. Certainly people with Down’s Syndrome and a lot of kinds of brain damage, let alone every single purely-physical disability would qualify.

          And anyone that doesn’t qualify as a person under that definition … literally wouldn’t know it (or even realize they were being killed, or disapprove) because being able to know that is implicit in the definition.

          I think the “real issue” is that the activists either “heard someone else’s summary of an alleged implication or slippery slope” or simply Felt Bad About Someone Suggesting that “someone in their category” could ever not be a person, despite it being very hard to argue against that criterion of personhood, short of saying “God says so because I’m Catholic”.

          1. Sigivald you’ve made a number of insightful contributions to this thread. Really the best thread I’ve seen on a Reason article in weeks.

            I’m more a virtue-ethics guy

            Fuck. Yes.

  18. Who could be against altruism?or making it more effective?

    My guess would be left-wing cunts whose idea of “altruism” involves the government forcibly taking money from some and claiming to use to “help the poor” when in reality all but a few cents on the dollar goes to pay for an unwieldy and ineffective bureaucracy.

  19. appallingly similar to the eugenic arguments used by Nazi theorists concerning “life unworthy of life.”

    So he’s a strong supporter of Obamacare then.

  20. Never would have known about Singer if not for the protesters shouting him down.

    Sounds like there’s marketing money to be made as a protestor-for-hire.

    1. I thought he passed away a few years ago. Apparently not!

  21. It’s UVic, what do you expect?

    Canada literally doesn’t have free speech, not under American standards.

    (I am reminded of this by my Canadian friends all, while self-identifying as friends of everything good and liberal – having completely anti-civil-libertarian attitudes about speech that they dislike.

    “How can American not just ban the KKK and why can it allow nasty hate speech?”

    “Uh, because freedom of speech is actually part of our constitution, and that doesn’t mean “freedom to say nice things and nothing else”, you goddamn Communists?)

  22. he believes animals have rights because the relevant moral consideration is not whether a being can reason or talk but whether it can suffer. Jettisoning the traditional distinction between humans and nonhumans, Singer distinguishes instead between persons and non-persons. Persons are beings that feel, reason, have self-awareness, and look forward to a future. Thus, fetuses and some very impaired human beings are not persons in his view and have a lesser moral status than, say, adult gorillas and chimpanzees.

    I disagree w him about some things, but on those points he’s right in most cases. Pain is bad because it’s pain, & if you can’t feel pain you can’t be hurt, but you can still be disappointed. If you can’t be either hurt or disappointed, nothing that happens to you can be bad. But I’m an individualist about it.

    What surprises me is how, in some of the cases discussed in this cx, many libertarians forget a central tenet of most people’s libertarianism: that all value is subjective. It doesn’t matter how bad mangling a body looks to you; if it’s not a negative experience to the mind connected to that body, why prohibit it?

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