Peter Singer and Ayn Rand

Peter Singer, Princeton University Professor of Bioethics, speaks out.

Would you kill a disabled baby? [asked by] KAREN MEADE, Dublin

[Singer:] Yes, if that was in the best interests of the baby and of the family as a whole. Many people find this shocking, yet they support a woman’s right to have an abortion. One point on which I agree with opponents of abortion is that, from the point of view of ethics rather than the law, there is no sharp distinction between the foetus and the newborn baby.

Well, he’s right about one thing. The only remaining piece of the puzzle is whether the State has a responsibility to prevent murder.

This is the question upon which Objectivism founders. It purports to base its moral code on the intrinsic value of human life, but labels fetuses as “parasites.” The failure to assert an inherent human sanctity precludes a moral code built on valuing human life.

5 thoughts on “Peter Singer and Ayn Rand”

  1. Judge Was Right to Declare “Partial-Birth” Abortion Ban UnconstitutionalThursday, June 3, 2004By: Glenn Woiceshyn Copyright © 1995–2010 Ayn Rand® Institute (ARI)An excerpt:”Banning any type of abortion to “protect the fetus” necessarily grants rights to the fetus–an utter perversion of individual rights. If a woman has no right to her own body, then by what logic does a fetus (which, by definition, is a biological parasite) have a right to the woman's body? Properly, an infant's rights begin after the fetus is removed from the mother's body.”The whole thing is here, and is but one example.

  2. Objectivism does not argue that life has an intrinsic value. It argues that your own life is an end in itself for you if you choose to live, and that this is the foundation of ethics. It further holds that only rational individuals can have rights because only rational individuals are responsible agents. A foetus is not an individual, therefore it cannot have rights. A mentally disabled baby, if its rational capacity is significantly impaired, is not a responsible agent, and thus cannot have rights either.

  3. I am an admirer of Ayn Rand since the 60s. Her novels fascinate me still. I have bound copies of all the _Objectivist_ newsletters. I have recommended her works to my friends for over 40 years. That said, her thoughts are not perfect. Her bias against anything she rationally considered would interfere with _her_ life does not represent a moral imperative to every other human.You think she's given you permission to beg the question of what human life is, and set yourself up as a judge of the extremely fine variations in the meaning of “rational.” Ayn's suggestion to that effect I forgive for her other brilliance in defense of human liberty. Of you, Adam, I am less sure.But, let's assume your personal appreciation of “rational” were to be the norm: Please define, in detail – from your stock of absolute moral clarity about the value and meaning of human life – the incontestable boundaries of “significantly impaired.” And tell me whether, as Singer proposes, the State is allowed to decide.What if, as our President has asserted, it's not rational to refuse to sign up for his health insurance scam? Death penalty? I don't think any of us can claim absolute rationality, and newborns are as rational about their choices as Vlad Putin is about seizing Crimea. Perhaps you've never met a newborn?Instead of “rational,” you may prefer “conscious.” Perhaps you've never interacted with a newborn?As I said, this idea that homo sapiens are simultaneously disposable and exalted is a puzzle not yet solved by Objectivism. Rationality testing doesn’t, and can’t, solve it. It’s an ethical inconsistency, or maybe a blindness because Ayn didn't want a child. Her choice, not a universal ethical imperative.Valuing human life is necessary if, as you say, “your own life is an end in itself.” Arguing a being isn't human life because _you_ consider that being insufficiently rational is an argument for ending any human life whatsoever. Idiot savants may not be seen as rational from a “reasonable” view. Gays are not rational because they do not bring more rational beings into existence. Should all such 'defectives' die at birth based on a genetic test, or should they be given the chance to prove they “choose to live.”I reject your particular moral definition of fetus. It is not a premise. Asserting as a given that unborn homo sapiens do not represent human life is to ignore the moral question.If Objectivism is unopposed to killing homo sapiens based on the being's present rational capability, can it find some way to oppose killing homo sapiens for potential rationality? What if John Galt had been aborted, because he was inconvenient to his mother? Or, in real world terms, how could Steven Hawking have survived your moral code?