On Monday, Peter Singer added yet another medal to his trophy cabinet – an Order of Australia.
He was given the laurel for his “eminent service to philosophy and bioethics as a leader of public debate and communicator of ideas”. However, just because someone sparks “debate” and “communicates ideas” doesn’t make them an eminent intellectual. Singer has spent his career proposing outlandish theories, and in the process had a pretty nasty influence on our society. He should not have been given our highest civic honour.
Singer has certainly had a lot to say. He’s written over 25 books, including his famous Animal Liberation, and edited 16 more. He’s published hundreds of articles, given hundreds of interviews, and done 15 major television interviews. He’s currently the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, as well as being a professor laureate at Melbourne university.
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The other day I was watching ABC’s The Drum where Peter Singer was talking about the importance of giving to charitable causes to help alleviate global poverty. Good stuff from Singer, but out of nowhere comes a reference to Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell from one of the panelists.
Apparently Pell, at some point, had said that there is no genuine altruism, people only do good because it makes them feel good (well duh, I’ve heard that before). Anyway, next thing I know the inference is being made that Pell would rather have us walk around flagellating ourselves than giving to charitable causes.
There I am, watching the show, and I’m just baffled as to how went from generous giving to medieval self-mutilation at the behest of George Pell. Then it finally dawns on me, “Of course, this is the The Drum, the final credits can’t roll without at least one Catholic being bashed.” I should have known better.
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The Jerry Springer of modern philosophy was in good form when he addressed a packed crowd on Wednesday evening in the Great Hall of the University of Sydney.
Peter Singer, now a professor at Princeton University in the US, was back in his native Australia for a visit.
Most philosophers count themselves lucky if their mother appreciates their work. But Singer is regarded - by journalists, at least - as the most influential living philosopher. In fact, at Sydney Uni, he was introduced with the fulsome praise normally reserved for superannuated television stars: “If we had a collection of national living treasures, Peter would certainly stand tall amongst them.”
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