Archiwum czatu z prof. Peterem Singerem (14.05.2002)

od redakcji filozofia.org.pl - Czat ten był jednym z  pierwszych, publicznie dostępnych wywiadów on-line z amerykańskim filozofem zrealizowanym w polskim internecie. Zorganizowałem go na okoliczność wzbogacenia formuły I Ogólnopolskiego Filozoficznego Forum przy wsparciu technicznym firmy WIZJA.NET. Pierwotnie dostępny był on w "serwisie dla każdego", który redagowałem na stronie www.filozofia.pl. W oczekiwaniu na kolejne spotkania ze znakomitościami współczesnej filozofii zachęcamy do lektury zapisu rozmów z przeszłości.
Grzegorz Trela

Tomek Cyparski (Ten adres pocztowy jest chroniony przed spamowaniem. Aby go zobaczyć, konieczne jest włączenie w przeglądarce obsługi JavaScript.): Do you belive in God? Why yes? (Why not?)
Peter Singer: No, I don't believe in God. I find it impossible to reconcile the nature of this world - to be more specific, the amount of suffering that takes place in it, including the suffering of innocents - with the idea that it was created by an all-powerful, all-good, all-knowing being. Admittedly, it is possible that the world was created by some other kind of god - one that is evil, or merely incompetent - but that doesn't seem to me a very likely hypothesis.

Grzegorz Trela (Ten adres pocztowy jest chroniony przed spamowaniem. Aby go zobaczyć, konieczne jest włączenie w przeglądarce obsługi JavaScript.): Why do You Think that we have "The Collapse of Our Traditional Ethics"?
Peter Singer: I could give a very long answer to that question - because my book Rethinking Life and Death is really an attempt to answer it. But to be brief: I think that the development of modern medical technology has made it much more difficult to reconcile our commonsense ideas of what is for the best, and the traditional ethic of the sanctity of human life. By that traditional ethic I understand the idea that it is always wrong to take an innocent human life, and that all human life is of equal value, irrespective of its quality. In earlier times, if a human being was irreversibly unconscious, or in other ways in a condition that meant the quality of life was very poor, it was usually not possible to keep such a person alive for more than a brief time. Now we can keep such people alive for several decades. But we can see that there is really no point in doing so. Hence - to avoid a direct conflict with the traditional ethic - we tell ourselves that we are not deciding to end their lives because of the poor quality of life they are experiencing, but because we are merely "letting nature take its course" or withdrawing "extraordinary" means of life support. But I think that in all these cases, a quality of life judgment is really doing the work. We are disguising what we are doing. It would be better to be more open, and acknowledge that quality of life, not sanctity of life, is the real test.

Gofer (Ten adres pocztowy jest chroniony przed spamowaniem. Aby go zobaczyć, konieczne jest włączenie w przeglądarce obsługi JavaScript.): Nice to see you Professor Singer. What do you think about the nature of human morality? Is it instinctive, intuitive, rational or else?
Peter Singer: That's a big question. Clearly we have some moral instincts, but we should not regard them as reliable moral guidance. They may have evolved in earlier times, when circumstances were different, and no longer be the best guide to what we ought to do. Reason certainly plays a role in ethics - we can and do reason about moral judgments. For example, we can ask whether our own moral judgments are consistent with each other. But whether we can use reason "all the way down" to discover fundamental moral axioms is a more difficult question. I think I'm still not entirely decided about that.

Gofer (Ten adres pocztowy jest chroniony przed spamowaniem. Aby go zobaczyć, konieczne jest włączenie w przeglądarce obsługi JavaScript.): There are many ethical questions in the face of which philosophers are helpless, can not give clear-cut answers. What does it mean for condition of ethics and human morality? Where should we look for answers for such questions?
Peter Singer: Yes, many ethical questions are very difficult. Sometimes the facts are unclear. Sometimes we ourselves are undecided about what to do, even when the facts are clear. But there is no where else to look for answers. We should simply admit our uncertainty, and do the best we can to make what we think is the right decision.

Gofer (Ten adres pocztowy jest chroniony przed spamowaniem. Aby go zobaczyć, konieczne jest włączenie w przeglądarce obsługi JavaScript.): Would you let people to commit suicide in particular cases (I am not thinking only about euthanasia context), just beacause they want it very much?
Peter Singer: I think that if people feel that their quality of life is not tolerable, and they persist in this view over a long period, and they are not suffering from mental illness or any other distorting effects, they have the right to reach their own decision, and to act on it.

Gofer (Ten adres pocztowy jest chroniony przed spamowaniem. Aby go zobaczyć, konieczne jest włączenie w przeglądarce obsługi JavaScript.): What is the origin of moral values in your opinion, professor Singer?
Peter Singer: Please see my answer to your previous question, about whether morality is rational, instinctive, etc.

Tomek Cyparski (Ten adres pocztowy jest chroniony przed spamowaniem. Aby go zobaczyć, konieczne jest włączenie w przeglądarce obsługi JavaScript.): Have we (as people) free will or not? Does it have any consequences for our live? What kind of consequences?
Peter Singer: It depends what you mean by free will. Obviously, we can decide what we want to do. I can now decide to answre your question, or to go away and do something else. But on the other hand, perhaps someone who knew everything about me - really, everything - and about my situation could have predicted that I would not go away, but would answer your question. So in that sense, maybe my decision to answer you was determined by these factors. I don't think that determinism makes a difference to how we live, because we must still reach our own decisions.

Andrzej (Ten adres pocztowy jest chroniony przed spamowaniem. Aby go zobaczyć, konieczne jest włączenie w przeglądarce obsługi JavaScript.): Can cognitive science (e.g. neuroscience) help us in our moral attitudes?
Peter Singer: Any relevant information can help, so I suppose neuroscience can help too, in some circumstances. But perhaps you are referring to recent work done at Princeton using fMRI imaging of the brain while people were asked moral dilemmas. I think it is interesting work, because it suggests that different kinds of dilemmas lead to reactions that involve different areas of the brain. This suggests that sometimes we respond in an emotional way to moral dilemmas, and sometimes in a way that relies more on rational or cognitive faculties. Although this is really only preliminary work at this stage, it may provide a way of explaining why our intuitive moral judgments are sometimes in apparent conflict. Ultimately, I believe such work may tend to discredit our initial intuitive reactions to moral dilemmas.

Gofer (Ten adres pocztowy jest chroniony przed spamowaniem. Aby go zobaczyć, konieczne jest włączenie w przeglądarce obsługi JavaScript.): What reason for killing is moral? Eating, scientific researches...?
Peter Singer: For killing who, or what? The wrongness of killing depends, in my view, on the characteristics and desires of the being killed. If the being is not conscious, then I think we need very little justification for killing [other things being equal - sometimes, for example in the case of a human being, the reactions of the family may be relevant]. If the being is conscious but not self-aware, and has no sense of its own existence over time, then we may need a more serious reason to justify killing, depending on the quality of life that the being would have, if it continued to live. Finally, if the being is self-aware and knows that it has a [possible] future, then that being is capable of having desires for the future, perhaps also desires to go on living, and these must be given great weight. So you need to make your question more specific: what kind of being is it that we are contemplating killing?

Bogusław Wojnar (Ten adres pocztowy jest chroniony przed spamowaniem. Aby go zobaczyć, konieczne jest włączenie w przeglądarce obsługi JavaScript.): To kill in a virtual world=to kill in a real world? How's your opinion?
Peter Singer: I'm not sure if I understand what you are getting at. But if killing in a virtual world doesn't really do anyone any harm, then it is not at all the same as killing in the real world.

Gofer (Ten adres pocztowy jest chroniony przed spamowaniem. Aby go zobaczyć, konieczne jest włączenie w przeglądarce obsługi JavaScript.): People often argue against ethics that it put more questions than giving answers. What do you think about this accusation?
Peter Singer: Is there a better way of reaching answers to ethical dilemmas? I don't know of any. So in the absence of anything else, ethics is still the best, or perhaps only, way of approaching these questions.

Gofer (Ten adres pocztowy jest chroniony przed spamowaniem. Aby go zobaczyć, konieczne jest włączenie w przeglądarce obsługi JavaScript.): Which theory of morality is the one you mostly disagree with and of course why?
Peter Singer: I disagree with all theories that are absolutist, in the sense of trying to apply moral rules that do not have any exceptions. So, for example, I think that the idea that it is always wrong to tell a lie [defended by Kant, and some natural law theorists] is wrong, because if telling a lie is the only way to save a life, one should lie. And there may be some circumstances in which it is even wrong to kill an innocent person, perhaps to prevent a much greater catastrophe. Often attempts to decide issues by appeals to simple moral rules lead to much worse consequences than judging right and wrong in terms of the consequences.

Pawel Kawalec (Ten adres pocztowy jest chroniony przed spamowaniem. Aby go zobaczyć, konieczne jest włączenie w przeglądarce obsługi JavaScript.): Are there any more formal approaches to moral issues that you find relevant and perhaps plausible, or at least serious enough to discuss? Is Bayesian updating (you change your mind in response to the upcoming empirical evidence)anything that a naturalistic project in ethics may seriously take into account?
Peter Singer: In brief, my answer is that whatever works, in the sense of giving us more and better information, or helping us to handle the information we have, is a good thing. I don't really know enough about Bayesian updating to answer that specifically, but if it leads us to greater accuracy in estimating probable outcomes, then it could be useful. So far I've not seen anything that really is particularly helpful, but this is not an area that I really know well.

Gofer (Ten adres pocztowy jest chroniony przed spamowaniem. Aby go zobaczyć, konieczne jest włączenie w przeglądarce obsługi JavaScript.): In the name of what we are allowed to punish someone bad and evil, if we agree that the world is evil? Maybe we should let everyone to be evil as the world is evil? I know that it sounds terribly, but what are the arguments against such perspective?
Peter Singer: The argument against such a perspective is that then more people [and perhaps other sentient beings, like animals] will suffer than if we punish those who do bad things. I do not view punishment as retribution for evil, but as preventing people committing further crimes, and as deterring others who might be contemplating commiting crimes.

Pawel Kawalec (Ten adres pocztowy jest chroniony przed spamowaniem. Aby go zobaczyć, konieczne jest włączenie w przeglądarce obsługi JavaScript.): Do ethical claims have implications as regars moral obligations? Are, therefore, ethicists obliged to take their own view seriously in their own practice?
Peter Singer: Well, what would be the point of making ethical claims, or even of discussing ethics at all, if it had no effect on your actions? Why would anyone else take seriously what you are saying? To say this is not to say that one is necessarily going to be committed to doing everything that one believes to be right, because sometimes this can be very demanding. But if, conversely, one took no notice of what one claims to be right, there would be no point to doing ethics at all.

Gofer (Ten adres pocztowy jest chroniony przed spamowaniem. Aby go zobaczyć, konieczne jest włączenie w przeglądarce obsługi JavaScript.): I think that it is very interesting if there are some reasons for killing which are almost always moral. (In fact every being can be killed, but the reason for it is the most important thing.)
Peter Singer: On a consequentialist view, the only moral reason for doing anything is that better consequences will result from doing it than will result from doing any alternative action open to you. So that applies to killing as well. I'm not sure that there is anything especially interesting about the application of this perspective to killing, rather than to, say, telling a lie.

Bogusław Wojnar (Ten adres pocztowy jest chroniony przed spamowaniem. Aby go zobaczyć, konieczne jest włączenie w przeglądarce obsługi JavaScript.): What do you think about abortion?
Peter Singer: Since I don't think that a potential being has a claim to come into existence [or at least, no greater claim than the egg and sperm, when still separate, but viewed collectively] I do not think that abortion can be wrong until the fetus becomes sentient. [That is, able to feel pain.] Even then, a serious reason for a abortion would override the brief pain that the fetus might feel, although steps should be taken to eliminate or minimize that pain when possible. As for when the fetus becomes sentient, that is difficult to determine with precision, but not earlier than 18 weeks, and perhaps quite a bit later than that..

Pawel Kawalec (Ten adres pocztowy jest chroniony przed spamowaniem. Aby go zobaczyć, konieczne jest włączenie w przeglądarce obsługi JavaScript.): Chisholm regards ethics as turning upon theory of knowledge. What are the most important implications of such a claim that you will disagree with?
Peter Singer: It's a long time since I've read anything of Chisholm, so I can't really answer this question properly.

Tomek Cyparski (Ten adres pocztowy jest chroniony przed spamowaniem. Aby go zobaczyć, konieczne jest włączenie w przeglądarce obsługi JavaScript.): What do you think about euthanasia?
Peter Singer: You should really read the chapter on this topic in Practical Ethics, or in Rethinking Life and Death. One must first distinguish voluntary and non-voluntary euthanasia. Voluntary euthanasia is the easier case to decide, ethically. I support voluntary euthanasia, where there are safeguards, as for example in the Netherlands now.

filozofia.pl (Ten adres pocztowy jest chroniony przed spamowaniem. Aby go zobaczyć, konieczne jest włączenie w przeglądarce obsługi JavaScript.): Dear Professor, thanks a lot for answering us. See you next time.
Peter Singer: It was my pleasure, but I have to go now. I'm sorry I have to leave some questions unanswered. Best wishes to you all.