Saturday, May 10, 2008

Ominous thinking from philosopher

Socrates had followers. Peter Singer, the globe-trotting philosopher whose tour has included a stop at Princeton University, seems to have fans. They are given to hailing him in the hyperbolic language of rock-star groupies. Singer is, you hear his fans declare, the greatest living philosopher.
The praise usually is unaccompanied by a definition of terms. Certainly, however, it can't be disputed that Singer excels at getting attention for himself. And that's surely a singular achievement in academia where the doctoral outfall pipes endlessly emit turgid disquisitions that go unnoticed.

In article titled "Killing Babies Isn't Always Wrong" Singer said : " The notion that human life is sacred just because it's human is medieval."In a book titled "Rethinking Life and Death", he said : " Parents should be free to kill, say a Down's syndrome baby within 28 days of its birth."In a book titled " Practical Ethics ", he said : " Since human infants have no self-awareness - or so Singer debatably but confidently asserts - " The life of a newborn is of less value that the life of a pig, a dog or a chimpanze."
Singer is nothing if not relentlessly avant-garde in his philosophical ruminations. That he has sought to share his insight far beyond academia suggests to think. More likely, we suspect, he takes glee in riling the bourgeois Babbitts. In this quest Singer has enjoyed his little triumphs. Some fat-cat Princeton alumni were provoked to object to an academic sinecure for a man of his views. The fat-cats had to vouchsafed tut-tutting lectures on the imperatives of academic freedom.

Now, however, the bold-thinking Singer may have ventured too far out on the margins even for the intelligentsia. In a recent piece in Free Inquiry magazine, Singer has defended - in fact, urged - research to determine the links (if any) between race and intelligence.
Since race and intelligence are two concepts that have eluded scientific definition, such research seems not merely a futlile endeavor but one fraught with the potential of insidious racist agendas. Singer however, as usual seems ablivious to the possibility of horrendous consequences.
Maybe he has failed to grasp that in academia on all matters remotely relating to race a rigid dogma prevails that welcomes no question on any of dogma's tenets, wheter affirmative action, diversity, "speech codes" or what-have-you.

If in his avant-garde philosophizing Singer has been looking all along for the limits of tolerance in academia, he just finally be getting warm. He'll know for sure he's found the limits when protesting mobs of students and professors approach him bearing an updated cup of hemlock.

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