Rhodes sticks to the invitation to Peter Singer
Rhodes College’s Philosophy Department held a conversation with controversial bioethicist Peter Singer on Wednesday, as scheduled, despite opposition to the event from faculty members from several other programs.
The singer has systematically argued that parents should have the right to choose euthanasia for their severely disabled infants.
Ahead of the virtual event, billed as a conference on pandemic ethics, the Department of Anthropology and Sociology and the Africana Studies Program sent an open letter to campus expressing “the deepest dismay” that Singer would be welcomed, as well as concern that the event could worsen the racial climate on campus. The letter cited “long-standing advances in philosophical arguments which presuppose the inferiority of many disabled lives.” The “creation of a hierarchy of lives to justify the allocation or denial of scarce resources (whether ‘pleasure’, medical care, insurance, etc.) arguments, also read the letter.
The faculty letter further asked why Singer’s presentation did not include disability academics, given that COVID-19 “is one of the deepest disability rights issues in our lives. “.
A group of Rhodes historians sent a similar letter to campus, saying: “Hypothetical philosophies on morality cause real violence” and “Singer’s blatant inhumanity has no place in serious academic exchange here. in Rhodes “.
While Singer’s reflections on disability invite criticism, much of his work focuses on what he calls animal liberation and global poverty. The singer, a vegetarian, has previously warned that human treatment of animals, especially livestock, makes pandemics more likely. He also advocated for equitable distribution of vaccines around the world.
Responding to various calls to cancel or change the format of the event, Rhodes said in a statement that “the spirit of support of our institution for expressive speech does not preclude the participation of Professor Singer in this virtual panel. At the same time, the values of our community compel us to speak out against some of the opinions that he has repeatedly expressed over the years through various speeches, writings and media interviews.
The statement included a series of affirmations, including the “strong belief in an inclusive, diverse, equitable and accessible community – as stated in the college’s IDEAS framework – a community in which the worth and dignity of all people are upheld. and supported. “
Rebecca Tuvel, president of philosophy at Rhodes, responded by email to some initial reviews of the event, according to the philosophy blog We daily.
“Serious intellectual exchange on important issues cannot avoid provoking anger, offense and pain at times, and no one should be cavalier about this. However, what follows from our colleague’s understandable expression of disturbance in the face of some of Professor Singer’s views is not clear to us, ”Tuvel wrote. “Are these opinions preventing Singer from participating in the exchange of ideas that should take place at a liberal arts college?” If this is the conclusion, we respectfully disagree, because its premise is that ideas that cause anger and dismay should not, for this reason, be part of the exchange and that premise, to our opinion, is incompatible with our mission to teach students how to engage in productive dialogue even, and indeed most importantly, with thinkers with whom they vehemently disagree.
A speech in favor of people with disabilities took place earlier Wednesday in Rhodes, according to We daily.
Singer, Ira W. DeCamp professor of bioethics at Princeton University, said Inside higher education via email that it is “disappointing” that these Rhodes faculty members “place so little importance on the role of a university teaching in getting students to think about some of the presuppositions underlying the positions they are doing. they occupy, that they seek to prevent the expression of opinions with which they do not agree.
He continued, “Obviously, these teachers haven’t thought very deeply about these issues. They say they oppose my plea to allow parents to choose euthanasia for severely disabled newborns (as they can do in the Netherlands, for example, according to the Groningen protocol). They say it is “eugenic” and “denies the very humanity of people with disabilities”. I challenge these professors to explain to their students and the general public their position on abortion following a prenatal diagnosis that indicates severe disability, or on whether parents can choose to withdraw resuscitation for severely disabled infants. in neonatal intensive care units, knowing that the infants will die by then.
Singer asked if critics of his faculty would view such choices as just as offensive. “Would they also argue that speakers who defend these choices should not be heard in Rhodes?” If not, how do they distinguish the attitudes implied by these choices from those I have expressed?
Along with philosophers Francesca Minerva and Jeff McMahan, Singer recently launched the Controversial Ideas Journal, an open access publication that allows researchers to publish under a pseudonym if they wish.