The world-renowned Australian philosopher Peter Singer asks: does knowledge of evolution help us to understand ethics? Our moral compass may have evolved over time, but how does enhancing our reproductive fitness help us work out what is really right or wrong?
While evolution is neutral with regard to values, Peter Singer tackles the question of altruism's place in evolution's "survival of the fittest" campaign, explaining how reciprocal and trusting relationships generally make for success.
Then Singer humbles us with the reminder that innate judgments are neither necessarily correct, nor better than other judgments. He proposes that human kind has evolved to prefer those who are like us, and suggests humanity is at its best when showing it can move beyond this paradigm.
This event is co-presented with Sydney Ideas and the Think Global School.
Peter Singer is the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics in the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University. He specializes in applied ethics and approaches ethical issues from a secular, preference utilitarian perspective. Singer is well-known for his book, Animal Liberation, a canonical text in animal rights/liberation theory. From 2005 on, Singer has also held the part-time position of Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne, in the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics.
Princeton ethicist Peter Singer addresses what he regards as the evolutionary urge to make ethical decisions intuitively, rather than rationally. "The fact that we have one of these intuitions should not be taken as a reliable guide to what's right and what's wrong," he says.
Branch of philosophy that seeks to determine the correct application of moral notions such as good and bad and right and wrong or a theory of the application or nature of such notions. Ethics is traditionally subdivided into normative ethics, metaethics, and applied ethics. Normative ethics seeks to establish norms or standards of conduct; a crucial question in this field is whether actions are to be judged right or wrong based on their consequences or based on their conformity to some moral rule, such as Do not tell a lie. Theories that adopt the former basis of judgment are called consequentialist (seeconsequentialism); those that adopt the latter are known as deontological (seedeontological ethics). Metaethics is concerned with the nature of ethical judgments and theories. Since the beginning of the 20th century, much work in metaethics has focused on the logical and semantic aspects of moral language. Some major metaethical theories are naturalism (seenaturalistic fallacy), intuitionism, emotivism, and prescriptivism. Applied ethics, as the name implies, consists of the application of normative ethical theories to practical moral problems (e.g., abortion). Among the major fields of applied ethics are bioethics, business ethics, legal ethics, and medical ethics.
Evolution of modern human beings from extinct nonhuman and humanlike forms. Genetic evidence points to an evolutionary divergence between the lineages of humans and the great apes on the African continent 85 million years ago (mya). The earliest fossils considered to be remains of hominins (members of the human lineage) date to at least 4 mya in Africa; they include the genus Australopithecus and other forms. The next major evolutionary stage, Homo habilis, inhabited sub-Saharan Africa about 21.5 mya. Homo habilis appears to have been supplanted by a taller and more humanlike species, Homo erectus, which lived from c. 1,700,000 to 200,000 years ago, gradually migrating into Asia and parts of Europe. Between c. 600,000 and 200,000 years ago, Homo heidelbergensis, sometimes called archaic Homo sapiens, lived in Africa, Europe, and perhaps parts of Asia. Having features resembling those of both H. erectus and modern humans, H. heidelbergensis may have been an ancestor of modern humans and also of the Neanderthals (H. neanderthalensis), who inhabited Europe and western Asia from c. 200,000 to 28,000 years ago. Fully modern humans (H. sapiens) seem to have emerged in Africa only c. 150,000 years ago, perhaps having descended directly from H. erectus or from an intermediate species such as H. heidelbergensis.
Sketch, you've oversimpflified Singer's positions on abortion and infanticide, which are prceded by decades of a highly developed ethical system. It's fine to disagree with him, but to say he "believes" in infanticide is facile and shows you have a surface understanding of his views, research, and assertions. You sound like a reactionary anti-intellectual, and your opinion means very little in comparison to Singer's, in my view.
Well, "the most moral man alive" believes not only in abortion but infanticide too, so there seems to be something wrong with that appraisal in my view. This idea that we can use our intellect to advance past the "dumb programming" of Evolution is flawed. Who's to say our rationality has evolved to a sufficiently advanced state over our emotions? There is no reason to say that rationality should win over emotions, and I think that rationalizing infanticide is a good indication that they don't.
Because he's Peter-f**king-Singer, the man Richard Dawkins calls "the most moral man alive today"!! Don't spend much time listening to contemporary philosophers, do you? Check out Slavoj Zizek if you really want to experience the obtuse!