Singer and Salter

I’m not sure how to think about this:

The genetic distance between English and Bantu is so great that, on the face of it, competition between them would make within-group altruism among random English (or among random Bantu) almost as adaptive as parent-child altruism, if the altruism were in the service of that competition. Thus it would appear to be more adaptive for an Englishman to risk life or property resisting the immigration of two Bantu immigrants to England than his taking the same risk to rescue one of his own children from drowning, unless the immigrants were bringing qualities of such economic value that they would permanently raise the Island’s carrying capacity. The same ap plies in the reverse direction, two Englishmen migrating to Bantu Africa constitute a greater loss of long-term genetic interest than does a random Bantu losing a child.

Salter, 2002. Ethnic Genetic Interests: Is It Adaptive to Resist Replacement Migration?

….but it sounds a lot more reasonable than Peter Singer’s statement:

We saw in the previous chapter that when I make an ethical judgment I must go beyond a personal or sectional point of view and take into account the interests of all those affected. This means that we weigh up interests, considered simply as interests and not as my interests, or the interests of Australians, or of people of European descent. This provides us with a basic prin­ ciple of equality: the principle of equal consideration of interests. The essence of the principle of equal consideration of interests is that we give equal weight in our moral deliberations to the like interests of all those affected by our actions. This means that if only X and Y would be affected by a possible act, and if X stands to lose more than Y stands to gain, it is better not to do the act. We cannot, if we accept the principle of equal con­sideration of interests, say that doing the act is better, despite the facts described, because we are more concerned about Y than we are about X. What the principle really amounts to is this: an interest is an interest, whoever’ s interest it may be.

Singer, 1993. Practical Ethics, page 21.

Both follow logically from the first principles. Salter sees (horizontal and vertical) genetic continuation as a good; this implies kin, ethnic, and species altruism in expanding circles of value. Singer sees defending preferences as a good; this implies valuing all interest holders equally across the plane of interest quantum. Both principles lead to rather counter-intuitive conclusions when applied consistently.

Singer’s principle is particularly interesting, because of how it’s interpreted. A whole swath of Left-Liberals see it as an egalitarian theory. Replace quantum of “interest” with quantum of “power” and you will see why it’s not. In his work, Singer argues that a chimp is more valuable than a human infant, because it has a higher capacity for desire. This implies that a super chimp would be more valuable than an adult human. A super chimp? If we, replaced “interest” with “power” that would be a Nietzschean ubermensch. If we replaced “interest” with “intelligence” instead, that would be something akin to an Aristotelian man of excellence. If we just left “interest,” that would be a neurotic par excellence. The result would be the same. Hierarchy not equality.

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One Response to Singer and Salter

  1. chris says:

    “Salter sees (horizontal and vertical) genetic continuation as a good; this implies kin, ethnic, and species altruism in expanding circles of value.”

    Lol, a couple of weeks ago, I was trying to define my concept of morality in my head, and I came up with a system which defines a moral good as pretty much what you stated above, the only difference being I threw in the term concentric in “expanding circles of value”.

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