Human Exceptionalism

Peter Singer Supports “Ashley’s Treatment”

Of course he does, and of course, he is allowed to do so in the New York Times. You see, although he doesn’t say it in this article explicitly, to Peter Singer, Ashley is not a person. That means that if it serves her parents’ “interests,” they had every right to give her “Ashley’s Treatment.” But unstated in Singer’s article, is that it would also support their killing her and allowing her to be used in medical experiments–so long as these actions did not cause her to suffer.

Singer claims that arguments supporting her “dignity” are misguided. He knows, of course, that the term is used to denote intrinsic moral worth. We can’t have that. So, he misconstrues the term into something different, the concept of acting or appearing dignified: “But we should reject the premise [innate dignity] of this debate. As a parent and grandparent, I find 3-month-old babies adorable, but not dignified. Nor do I believe that getting bigger and older, while remaining at the same mental level, would do anything to change that.”

Notice also that Singer calls Ashley a “what” and not a “who”: After the riff denying even the concept of Ashley having intrinsic dignity because she is human, he writes: “She is precious not so much for what she is, but because her parents and siblings love her and care about her.” He could say the same thing about a favorite house plant.

Peter Singer’s denial of the importance of being human opens the door to terrible oppression and killing against the weak and vulnerable. We hearken to his sterile utilitarianism at the distinct peril of the most weak and vulnerable among us.

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