JDN 2455648 14:17 EDT.
My post “You are a utilitarian” raised a lot of discussion on Facebook, which is great; it’s always good to see Internet discourse about important moral issues instead of the usual frivolities (I’m thinking sports, celebrities, lolcats and the like).
There were three broad classes of objections:
- “Your definition makes utilitarianism a tautology”. I had already answered this one in the original post, so I’ll not answer it again.
- “You are not really a utilitarian”. This amounts to using the narrow, classical definition; but I’ve already said that I am not a classical utilitarian, so I don’t really see what the argument is about. If you don’t like my definition, I suppose that’s your business; but there is no substantive debate here. I think you may need a course on Dissolving the Question.
- “No, actually Singer’s classical utilitarianism is the One True Utilitarianism, and moreover it is absolutely correct. We only fail to give our children’s college funds to UNICEF because we are morally weak in will.”
It is this third line of argument that I would like to now address. It is not only wrong, it is deeply wrong, and indeed morally insidious. Peter Singer is not a moral hero; he is well-intentioned as far as I can tell, but his philosophy is false and dangerous.