Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Ethics of Life

Peter Singer

Is human life really always sacred? Is Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection right – or left? Is charity a virtue or an obligation?

Much of human behavior, and all public policy, rests on moral concepts that are frequently invoked but seldom examined. What standards should govern how we treat prisoners, address poverty, and fight wars? Do other species – animals and perhaps even trees – have rights that deserve respect?

In an age when science and technology enable us to control the world as never before, the need for serious ethical reflection and broad public debate has never been greater. How far should individual life be prolonged and at what cost? How far may we go in manipulating our genetic structure? Will biotechnology bring better life or lead to a Brave New World and still inconceivable inequalities?

No contemporary thinker is more qualified to dissect the moral issues of the future than Peter Singer, Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University’s Center for Human Values and founding President of the International Association of Bioethics.

Since the 1975 publication of his acclaimed book Animal Liberation, Peter Singer has stood at the forefront of ethical debates on abortion, euthanasia, genetic engineering, and “collateral damage” on the battlefield. Often, Peter Singer has stood alone, courageously staking out intellectual positions that provoked opposition – sometimes even outrage. But gradually he convinced many through the force of his formidable arguments and graceful writing. Little wonder that in 2005 Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Peter Singer's monthly commentaries on The Ethics of Life, written exclusively for Project Syndicate, bring the insights of one of the world’s leading philosophers to newspaper readers around the world.

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