Princeton's Pride: Quotes by Dr. Peter Singer
"...our physical similarities with other mammals...are so strong that the taboo on bestiality stems not from physical differences but from our desire to differentiate ourselves...from
animals. Who has not," he opines, "been at a social occasion disrupted by the household dog
gripping the legs of a visitor and vigorously rubbing its penis against them? [I]n private not
everyone objects to being used by her or his dog in this way, and occasionally mutually
satisfying activities may develop."
"Killing a disabled infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person. Very often it is not
wrong at all,"
"When the death of a disabled infant will lead to the birth of another infant with better prospects of a happy life, the total amount of happiness will be greater if the disabled infant is killed...Therefore, if killing the hemophiliac infant has no adverse effects on others, it would, according to the total view, be right to kill him. The main point is clear: killing a disabled infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person. Very often it is not wrong at all."
"...in supporting euthanasia, I do not accept the idea that it is always wrong to kill an innocent human being."
"self-awareness, a high level of rationality, perhaps awareness of your own existence over time, capacity to see that you've got a future and to plan for that future or to have desires for that future."
But, he cautions, "OK, but if that's so, then we have to note that it is not a capacity possessed by all humans. And in particular, it's not possessed by infants
"...let me simply say that in my view potential is not really enough justification to regard the lives of beings who lack these capacities as to be protected in the same way as beings who have them...there is not an obligation to make sure that they fulfill that potential."
"...I argue for the reasons I believe now, that killing an infant is never equivalent to killing a person. Yet it may still be very wrong...but...not because of the loss to the infant whose life has barely begun and who cannot glimpse what it has lost, but because of the loss to the parents...But of course, that's an extrinsic factor, not a factor intrinsic to the nature of the infant."
In explaining why it's acceptable, if not mandated, that we kill disabled babies, he says, "...it's indeed a reasonable view to take both during pregnancy and with the immediate newborn that the life has barely begun; if it's beginning in a very clouded way (with prospects that are clouded), then it's reasonable to say no, better not to go on with this -- better to consider starting again."
In clarification: "...my position for many years has been that in a society where you can have families who will adopt these children, and where the children can have good lives, there is no justification for euthanasia...But the reason for this is not because of the right to life for the infant, the reason for this is because of the extrinsic circumstances."
"Killing a defective infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person." (from his "Practical Ethics," first edition.)
"...the life of the newborn baby is of less value...than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee."
"I want us to have a graduated moral approach to all sentient beings, related to their capacities to feel and suffer. If the being has self-awareness, we ought to give it even more rights. I'm not a biological egalitarian...I don't think it's as bad to kill a simple animal, like a frog or fish, as it is to kill a normal human being."
"...what actually makes it worse to kill one being rather than another[?]...the...answer...is one's sense of self, that you are alive and have a past and future."
"But you really have to question human superiority..." and continued to explain that, once you get away from either subscribing to Aristotle's view of rationalism or the Judeo-Christian view that God has given humans dominion over the world -- then you're free to understand that "there just isn't a basis for drawing a sharp moral boundary between us and them."
"Aristotle attributed purpose to the universe, and I don't."
"...does a baby have a right to life as soon as it's born? Or does its right to life come into existence gradually? Of course it's gradual, but that doesn't help the policy makers...So I came up with an arbitrary point..."
"...babies, unlike older children, don't yet have the capacity for seeing themselves as independent beings."
"I would not be happy with the view that we should keep every baby alive from birth no matter how serious its disabilities. But right now we can't actually kill newborns, because we're just not comfortable with that."
"...I cared for and loved my children, and would have been deeply upset if they died, but that is really because of my feelings, and those of my wife, not because of what they were at that moment."
"The idea that it could be wrong to use contraception...to separate sex from reproduction is now merely quaint."
"If some religions still teach that masturbation is 'self-abuse,' that just shows how out of touch they've become."
"Sodomy? That's all part of the joy of sex, recommended for couples seeking erotic variety." (or AIDS) [emphasis and parenthetical comment mine]
"But the vehemence with which this prohibition continues to be held, its persistence while other non-reproductive sexual acts have become acceptable, suggests that there is another powerful force at work: our desire to differentiate ourselves, erotically and in every other way, from animals."
"We copulate, as they do. They have penises and vaginas, as we do, and the fact that the vagina of a calf can be sexually satisfying to a man shows how similar these organs are."
"Some men use hens as a sexual object, inserting their penis into the cloaca, an all-purpose channel for wastes and for the passage of the egg. This is usually fatal to the hen, and in some cases she will be deliberately decapitated just before ejaculation in order to intensify the convulsions of its sphincter. This is cruelty, clear and simple."
"But sex with animals does not always involve cruelty. Who has not been at a social occasion disrupted by the household dog gripping the legs of a visitor and vigorously rubbing its penis against them? The host usually discourages such activities, but in private not everyone objects to being used by her or his dog in this way, and occasionally mutually satisfying activities may develop."
"...indeed, more specifically, we are great apes. This does not make sex across the species barrier normal, or natural, whatever those much-misused words may mean, but it does imply that it ceases to be an offence to our status and dignity as human beings."
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