The subtitle of this work is "The Collapse of Our Traditional Ethics." Author Singer presents arguments that cannot easily be dismissed, arguments which challenge many traditional ethics accepted by humanity for centuries. He demonstrates that the traditional ways of thinking, such as insisting on "the sanctity of human life" as an absolute, often lead to absurdities.
The chapter titles: 1. Birth After Death. Two specific case studies 2. How Death Was Redefined. By a legal definition that upset few. 3. Dr. Shann's Dilemma. How traditional ethics prevented healing. 4. The Tony Bland Case. "Life's intrinsic value" fails the test. 5. Uncertain Beginnings. The abortion debate. 6. Making Quality of Life Judgements. On selective non-treatment. 7. Asking for Death. How voluntary euthanasia actually works. 8. Beyond the Discontinuous Mind. The Western Image under attack. 9. In Place of the Old Ethic. Some answers. Singer's plea (page 220) is "I hope I have shown that it is not so easy to ignore the fact that our standard view of the ethics of life and death is incoherent." He has done exactly that in this book; its arguments cannot be ignored. "That's what you say; I think you are wrong" is not a valid response. Singer provides a tentative pattern for a new ethic, not "something carved in stone," but a discussion point for an ongoing activity. Here is that pattern; he defines it as "five commandments" but means something much less dogmatic: The old commandment The new commandment 1 Treat all human life Recognize that the worth as of equal worth of human life varies 2 Never intentionally Take responsibility for the take innocent human life consequences of your actions 3 Never take your own life, Respect a person's desire and always try to prevent to live or die others from taking theirs 4 Be fruitful and multiply Bring children into the world only when they are wanted 5 Treat all human life as Do not discriminate on the always more precious than basis of species any nonhuman life There is much to agree with in this book; there is much to question, as well. And that's what the author wants to happen. In the closing pages, Singer suggests that abandoning just two central assumptions of one's life ethic is enough to make the transformation! 1. We are responsible for intentional acts in a way that we are not responsible for acts of omission. 2. The lives of members of our species are more worthy of protection than the lives of any other being. Each of these assumptions, he argues, has a religious origin, and is on weak grounds otherwise. Singer proposes their renunciation. What is our answer? Reviewed by John W. (Burgy) Burgeson BURGY@www.burgy.50megs.com Published in Compuserve's library in the early 1990s.
Press Backspace to return