When Is It Okay to Kill Infants?

The Sydney Morning Herald has a generally positive profile of Peter Singer that touches on the controversy over his comments on bestiality. Singer defends his book review in Nerve by saying,

There are cases [of sex with animals] that you can imagine that don’t seem to do harm to animals. The question then is what is really wrong with that? Why do we have that taboo? I just wanted to raise those questions.

Anyway, what continues to strike me as bizarre is that Singer insists on claiming that his critics misrepresent his views, but then he almost always follows this up by making them even more extreme than his opponents do. For example, Singer says that his view on infanticide is misunderstood. He says that his defense of infanticide is meant to apply to severely disabled infants who are going to die anyway. But then he apparently cannot resist adding that infanticide is also okay if a child is less severely disabled but nobody wants to care for the infant. According to Singer, “If there’s no-one else who’s sufficiently interested in the life of this child to want to care for it, then I think it’s not [unethical to kill the child].”

His students — well at least the one interviewed by the Herald — find him intriguing, which is downright scary. Presumably if Singer wrote articles arguing that homosexuals could be killed because they are not living a quality life, the reactions would be less sympathetic, but as long as he sticks to infanticide and forced euthanasia of people with Alzheimer’s, he’s safe in his position at Princeton.


The philosopher from Monash excites fury in Princeton. Gay Alcorn, Sydney Morning Herald, March 31, 2001.

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