BBVA has awarded Peter Singer, animal philosopher, the Frontiers of Knowledge Award. It has been awarded for his “contribution to moral progress” and for having marked “a turning point in understanding and founding ethics by applying it to the domain of animals, with notable consequences for international legislation on animal welfare.” Moral progress is obviating the most essential differences that exist between man and animal. Moral progress is to affirm that man and dog must receive the same treatment. Moral progress is to say – Singer does it! – that between saving a sick person and saving a healthy animal, the second option should be chosen. Moral progress consists, apparently, in reasoning like a child and that BBVA likes reasoning.
I would like to focus, however, on one aspect of Singer’s philosophy. After some years of careful observation I have concluded that animalists do not defend so much that animals are treated the same as men as that men are treated the same as animals. It is a reverse redemption, a downward equalization, similar to the one promoted by the Spanish educational system. It is less a humanization of animals than an animalization of man, less an elevation of the inferior than a degradation of the superior.
The Australian philosopher, who corroborates my thesis, affirms that man and animal are essentially the same because they both feel, they are sentient beings. Moral progress was to make man and worm equal! Dignity would no longer come from our similarity to God, not even from our rational condition and from our consequent openness to the infinite. It would come from feeling, from sensations, from the experience of pain and pleasure. From tickling. That’s why a human fetus can be removed without too much qualm: because, according to Singer, it doesn’t feel. Moral progress was to conclude that the centipede is worth more than the fetus! One imagines Singer investigating which beings are liked and which are not, and his philosophy suddenly acquires a comic dimension, like a cheesy gag.
The system has its complexity, however. To the distinction between being sentient and being non-sentient, we must add the distinction between being human and person. Not all human beings are people, and not all people are human beings. In Singer’s delusion, there are chimpanzees-people and human beings who, because they are not people, are worth less than according to which chimpanzees. Remember this to the perez-revertian sister-in-law that there are men less worthy than many dogs. But which human beings are less valuable than higher animals? Those who do not think ―have no conscience― and feel rather little: disabled babies, comatose gentlemen or the elderly suffering from some mental illness. To all these beings, even being human, it is legitimate, almost imperative, to kill them. Note that there is in Singer a pathological obsession with death, that his philosophy could be conceived as a philosophy of death: he does not ask what we have to live for or how we have to do it, like the rest of the philosophers, but who should die, as A butcher. He Is the philosopher-butcher! “Can you end the life of humans”?, the chapter of one of his books is titled. The answer can be imagined by the reader.
Singer’s theories straddle the very border between stupidity and farce.
Tips I sell…
The worst thing about Singer is that at the time he had a brilliant opportunity to lead by example, and yet he wasted it. Her mother fell ill with Alzheimer’s and the philosopher-butcher, far from euthanizing her to save her gratuitous suffering, hired three nurses to watch over her day and night. I praise the gesture ―how nice that a son takes care of his mother―, but the imposture can only make it ugly.
However, nothing would have happened if, having confirmed the practical impossibility of his philosophy, Singer had also recognized its theoretical falsehood. If he had recognized his mistake. But none of that. He has continued to sell us a merchandise that he knew was damaged -he wants euthanasia for our mothers!-, a vice that is relatively frequent among modern philosophers: skeptics who deny the possibility of knowing the truth never finish applying the story to their theory; the nihilists who proclaim the absurdity of life and the consequent expediency of suicide never finish putting the gun to their temple; and the utilitarians who, like Singer, sing of the benefits of euthanasia never finish “providing” it, ahem, to their loved ones.
It makes a lot of sense that the Frontiers of Knowledge Award they have granted it to Singer, whose theories are located, in effect, on the very border that stands between stupidity and farce.