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Principle Of Equality In Practical Ethics Philosophy Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 1558 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The principle of equality in Singer’s work can be rationally defended from many perspectives, especially when it is being applied to human beings. However, Singer goes further to consider all animals as well. It is the basic assumption of the current investigation that Singer’s ideas about equality are much more rational, and much less radical, when they are employed to describe human beings; however, when they are expanded to include all sentience, some of the supposed equalities Singer proposes are no longer rational. Some of Singer’s theories about equality can therefore be challenged by logic, and not accepted, by people who, for example, see a difference between animals and humans, in terms of the equality applied and implied to them.

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When Singer talks about equality, he rejects the traditional Rawls-influenced notion of moral personality and human equality. Singer proposes a broader and more collectivist ethics, and therefore his idea of equality is also broader. However, there needs to be an alternative to this philosophy because it is untenable and seeks a level of sophistication which the author frequently is unable to convey appropriately, as seen by his use in the following sentence of creative semantics within their rhetoric. “The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been with-holden from them but by the hand of tyranny (sic). The French have already discovered that the blackness of the skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor” (Singer, 1989). Singer’s essay, which proposes to have a utilitarian argument structure, is basically all about morality, and it corresponds to the rightness or wrongness of an action that impacts that action’s significance in terms of utility.

This concept of utility has been stretched and formed the main basis for those who would criticize Singer’s embrace of the equality of animals and humans, as a dry and humourless statistical impossibility that drained the imagination out of humanity and based impulse on quasi-scientific ethical propositions. This is a valid criticism in the light of various authors’ use of utilitarianism, but it is also important to keep in mind that utilitarianism is basically a positive principle that lays out a plan for happiness, not equality. In other words, there are bright and dark sides to this issue, in which the philosophy can be changed and develop a more hybrid definition as it is interpreted by different scholars, such as Singer, or Bentham. In these cases, one scholar usually comes before the other.

Singer’s ideas of equality also have a lot to do with the equal consideration of disparate interests. From this perspective, the philosopher can be rationally defended by those who seek to end the reign of racism, sexism and discrimination on the grounds of disability, from society. From an egalitarian perspective then, Singer can be rationally defended in his conception of equality, as it is basically a parallel of the status quo of most industrialized societies, at least in principle. And Singer asks thought provoking questions about the nature of real equality, for example, asking reasonably if any readers would really consider a stranger’s family to be equal to theirs, if both were under some external threat.

Some of the more utilitarian of Singer’s defences of equality seem to make more rational sense than his defence of animals being equal to humans. Singer’s utilitarianism has a political and legal value, even in the justification theory perspective, because it can separate levels of harm caused to society in terms of either rules that encompass actions or actions which in themselves become rules. It is difficult to say which interpretation is more faithful to the basic tenets of utilitarianism, but it seems that in terms of alternatives, Singer has chosen not to look deeper into this philosophy than just “one counts as one.” What can be said, however, is that, justification-theory utilitarianism as stressed by Singer, consists of a doctrine that relates to moral goodness rather than ethical goodness, and also a doctrine that relates to what the author believes is morally right, not ethically right.

The originators of utilitarianism, Mill and Bentham, both saw utilitarianism as a moral theory, and this is correct, and therefore the author uses the moral theory to back up their own moral philosophy. “Jeremy Bentham incorporated the essential basis of moral equality into his utilitarian system of ethics in the formula, Each to count for one and non for more than one. In other words, the interests of every being affected by an action are to be taken into account and given the same weight as the like interests of any other being” (Singer, 1989). In utilitarianism, deliberation can be conflated with intention and determination, whereas justification can be thought of as proven reasonability. There are differences between different categories of the philosophy in general, which are basically involved with the application of theoretical concepts in terms of predicting and justifying consequences and comparisons.

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So equality of opportunity is not an attractive ideal. It rewards the lucky, who inherit those abilities that allow them to pursue interesting and lucrative careers. It penalizes the unlucky, whose genes make it very hard for them to achieve similar success” (Singer, 1989). When the author is talking about humans, he makes some cogent points. Singer uses utilitarianism as a theory of justification of society and equality of people and animals, but I would also propose that the author looks a little further into utilitarianism and sees that it is really more about proven reasonability as a standard measuring the worth of the end result or consequential result of the concept: happiness, not equality. In terms of institutional application in a historical sense, this has also included a reckoning of the main points of justification theory utilitarianism as a way of grading or categorizing institutions or policy ramifications in terms of testing and proving the efficiency or utility of the institution through a utilitarian viewpoint. This involves justification in that it uses proof and rationalization rather than deliberation theories of intention and determination. This also increases the value of objectivity as a vaunted standard within utilitarianism, seen from this justification perspective. Singer also examines some inequalities that plague society. “The important point is that affirmative action, whether by quotas or some other method, is not contrary to any sound principle of equality and does not violate any rights of those excluded by it”

From this point, Singer’s theories view inequality as being passed on from one generation to another in terms of wealth and privilege within a family structure that is seen as a space of economic restriction that also works to keep disadvantaged families in the same place from generation to generation. The social class of the parents, from this perspective, will play a large role in the development of their children in terms of advantages or disadvantages that are inherited in the family structure. From this view, society is not seen as the large organism or field of struggle that functional theorists and conflict theorists see it as, but rather is seen more limited in terms of individual and everyday relations. When Singer is proclaiming the equality of animals and humans, this is a controversial subject on which some of his arguments appear less logical. “It has been suggested that autonomous, self-conscious beings are in some way much more valuable morally significant, than beings who live from moment to moment, without the capacity to see themselves as distinct beings with a past and a future” (Singer, 1989).

Everyone has their own ethics. Socially positive behaviour may be influenced by moral behaviour, which has a more religious semantic connotation, but ethics should not be confused with moral behaviour. Ethics is not the same as morality or presupposing moral censorship, as some would have it; morality is more of an externalized and often conditioned response, whereas ethics could perhaps be more readily likened to the basic conscience mechanism of social responsibility. Ethics is something that begins with the individual and acts effectively to represent society in terms of fair and balanced information being presented. Animals do have rights. Those who abuse or are cruel to animals can be brought before the law. But there is also a double standard, because the cows supplying McDonald’s hamburgers are mistreated and abused every day in a cruel manner, and no one takes a second thought. Animals do have rights, but they are rights that are determined by humans, not animals. When Singer is talking about the equality of humans who are disabled, or minorities, it is a conventional, status quo argument. But when he suggests the equality of animals and humans, he takes a step towards more controversial polemics. (Singer, 1989)


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