Peter Singer

Peter Singer - Peter Singer's principle of equal...

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Peter Singer's principle of equal consideration of interests can be understood as follows. For any entity that has interests, these interests must be taken as equally morally important with the similar interests of another entity. An example will help illustrate this principle. Imagine you have to deliver an electric shock to one of two strangers, George or Fred. The shock will cause an equal amount of pain in each person. According to Singer, both George and Fred have an interest in avoiding pain. Furthermore, according to Singer's principle, George's and Fred's interest in not feeling pain must be considered equally – one does not take precedence over the other. Thus, all else being equal, it does not matter morally to whom you deliver the shock. Or, put another way, you ought to make the decision of who to shock through the flipping of a coin. Singer tries to establish this principle through the following argument. First, he wonders how we could justify a principle of unequal consideration of interests. For example, a racist may hold the view that the interests of white people count for more than similar interests of black people. To return to the example in the previous paragraph, this person would consider the race of George and Fred when deciding who to shock. To Singer, this racist view is wrong because it involves arbitrarily deeming certain entities interest's as more valuable than others (based on the arbitrary criterion of skin colour). Singer believes that there are no non-arbitrary ways to justify unequal consideration of interests. Therefore, we must accept a principle of equal consideration of interests, since this does not rely on any arbitrary devaluing of certain entities interests. A possible objection to Singer's principle is that it fails to recognize the moral importance of special relationships (sometimes referred to as agent relative permissions). An important feature of our common sense morality is that we have a stronger duty towards our families and friends than to strangers. Thus we feel we can (and ought) to give
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This note was uploaded on 02/28/2011 for the course PHIL 205 taught by Professor Carter during the Spring '09 term at BYU.

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Peter Singer - Peter Singer's principle of equal...

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