Features April 1993
The false philosophy of Peter Singer
On the bioethics of euthanasia.
I want to argue that false philosophy can be dangerous, and to suggest that, if circumstances prevent its being refuted in print, it is probably all right, in extreme cases, to try to silence it in other ways. I shall take as my example a philosophy that can be contrasted with humanism and that I shall call “personism.” But first a few remarks about the influence of philosophy in general.
In Book 1 of his Treatise on Human Nature, David Hume writes that “errors in religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous.” F. H. Bradley, on the other hand, says in Ethical Studies that “the man of mere theory is in the practical sphere an useless and dangerous pedant.” It is quite possible that Hume was being ironical. Leaving that aside, though, it seems to me that his thesis is wrong,...
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