Tag Archives: morality

Peter Singer Conservatives

Peter Singer, Austrailian moral philosopher, recently did a Reddit AmA.

The most pertinent quote about Peter Singer’s views, from Wikipedia:

Ethical conduct is justifiable by reasons that go beyond prudence to “something bigger than the individual,” addressing a larger audience. Singer thinks this going-beyond identifies moral reasons as “somehow universal”, specifically in the injunction to ‘love thy neighbor as thyself’, interpreted by him as demanding that one give the same weight to the interests of others as one gives to one’s own interests. This universalising step, which Singer traces from Kant to Hare,[21] is crucial and sets him apart from those moral theorists, from Hobbes to David Gauthier, who tie morality to prudence. Universalisation leads directly to utilitarianism, Singer argues, on the strength of the thought that one’s own interests cannot count for more than the interests of others. Taking these into account, one must weigh them up and adopt the course of action that is most likely to maximize the interests of those affected; utilitarianism has been arrived at.

Even though I’m a libertarian/conservative, I find myself agreeing with Singer’s views on utilitarianism, which bears a similarity to consequentialism. Neoconservatives, of all the subsets of conservatism, seem the most aligned with this view, as evidenced with the post 911 response, war in Iraq, and 2008 bank bailouts. The Christian Right, Palo Right, and Jeffersonian Republicans tended to be more skeptical of all or some of these initiatives, believing that policy should be based on subjective, unscientific concepts such as ‘morality’ or ‘sanctity of life’, not the quantifiable data & risk/reward analysis preferred by the pragmatic right.

I never got on board the whole ‘sanctity of life’ thing shared by some on the right. There are people who are intrinsically better and worse than others; just look at the empirical evidence. I agree with the part about intervention against terror, low regulation and low taxes – but not that. Some people are born to be good at high-IQ stuff like STEM; they have the potential create technologies that advance civilization. Those who are less intelligent are born to do manual labor and less theoretical stuff – jobs that are important to some degree – but doesn’t advance civilization. Some people become murderers, and that whole sanctity of life concept flies out the window when we put some of them to death. So even if some on the right preach ‘sanctity of life’ or ‘equal under God’, policy and evidence doesn’t support it. To want to believe that a person with an IQ of 70 is as valuable as one with an IQ of 130 is a delusion and no different than being a liberal who thinks raising taxes on the most productive of sciety will grow the economy.

Related:
Atheist Conservatism and the Dark Enlightenment
Religion is Becoming Irrelevant