Peter Singer On His New Yorker Interview


In a recent interview in The New Yorker, Daniel Gross asked philosopher Peter Singer (Princeton) a question about race and who he chooses to cite and engage with in his work.

Peter Singer

Here’s the exchange:

Gross: A lot of your works cite white male academics who, for lack of a better phrase, take up a lot of space in intellectual conversations: Joshua Greene, Steven Pinker, Timothy Garton Ash, Michael Sandel, Benedict Anderson, John Rawls, to name a few. Because so much of your work is fundamentally about equity, I wonder if that is something that’s on your radar. 

Singer: That’s the manner in which I was educated, I suppose, and which still is very influential in the ideas that I’m involved with. I’ve certainly worked with a lot of philosophers who are not male, but they have been white generally. I’ve got a project now about the issue of global population, with Alex Ezeh, a demographer of Nigerian origin at Drexel University. I worked with Pascal Kasimba when I was at Monash University, who is of African descent, on a project relating to in-vitro fertilization. I have also co-authored things with people of Asian descent, with Yew-Kwang Ng, for instance. But, I have to say, I want to work with people whose ideas are, you know, at a level of discussion that I’m interested in, and that I’m progressing. If you’re thinking of the work of Africans, for example, I don’t know the work of many of them that is really in the same sort of—I’m not quite sure how to put this—participating in the same discussion as the people you’ve just mentioned.

Gross: There’s a big difference between “I haven’t found them yet” and “They might not exist.” Do you think it’s for lack of searching? Or lack of representation, period, across philosophy and the fields that you work in?

Singer: There’s certainly an underrepresentation of philosophers of African or African-American backgrounds. No question about that, in the field of philosophy that I work in. And there is an underrepresentation of women, although I think that’s changing. I’ve tried to encourage women in philosophy all my career. But there’s still an underrepresentation. I was the founding president of the International Association of Bioethics, in the early eighties, and we did try very hard to get global representation. So I wouldn’t say that I’ve not searched, but it’s true that that’s not been one of my priorities, really.

Singer’s reply to Gross is being widely discussed on social media, where responses to it have ranged from highly critical to highly defensive. In the philosophy blogosphere, there have been a varied responses, too.

Over at Philosophers’ Cocoon, Helen de Cruz (SLU) interprets Singer as saying that

philosophers from the global south are not really worth engaging with, because their work would not be at the same level as the more prestigious, well-known (mostly white and male) philosophers from wealthy countries.

She says that this reflects a narrowness that favors the advantaged in academia’s “credit economy”:

I want to argue here that this view is mistaken, and also that not engaging with philosophers and philosophies from the global south presents a missed opportunity…

Let’s look more closely at Singer’s idea of “participating in the same discussion”. It is true that disproportionately many philosophers outside the anglophone west are not partaking in the most prestigious academic discussions, as is done in top peer-reviewed journals, monographs and edited volumes by presses such as Oxford University Press, Cambridge, Princeton etc. They do not participate in the prestigious conferences, they are not part of hiring networks and citation networks. As far as this goes, Singer is correct that there is little “participating in the same discussion”. 

A different way to look at this lack of participation is to shift perspective: anglophone, western departments are insular, mostly engaging with a narrow group of narrow peers. We are a bit like Mrs Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, who proudly declares that “we dine with four-and-twenty families”. Obviously, there are many more families, but these are not of the correct social standing, and deemed not worth engaging with. This gives the illusion of interconnectedness while one continues to engage only with a narrow subset of people…

We try to curry favor with prestigious individuals and departments. The credit economy of academic philosophy further amplifies existing inequities, given that research-focused American departments (who disproportionately benefit from the credit economy) already have so much structural advantage in terms of research funds and academic freedom. More engagement with philosophers outside of the credit economy would diversify the field. 

Meanwhile, over at Leiter Reports, Brian Leiter (Chicago) criticizes Gross’s question, and writes:

…citing more Black writers would not contribute to equity… it is pernicious ideological obfuscation to act like keeping a tally of the race of authors you engage contributes anything to equity or human well-being…. If past racism has resulted in neglect of scholars who can contribute to truth and knowledge in a particular domain, then the demand should be to name those scholars so that they can be studied. But equity-qua-demographic-diversity per se is not a scholarly value.

Knowing that sometimes during an interview one may be confronted with a question one is not quite prepared to answer, and that sometimes, when speaking extemporaneously, one might not end up saying exactly what one means, I thought it would be worthwhile to ask Professor Singer to follow-up on his reply to Gross. Here’s what he wrote back:

My response to Daniel Gross’s question seems to have sparked a Twitterstorm that isn’t likely to produce anything positive. In retrospect, it would have been better if I had asked Gross whether he had in mind any works by non-white philosophers that he thinks I should have cited, but did not—works on the issues of most concern to me, including ethical issues like the obligations of the rich to people in extreme poverty, our treatment of animals, climate change, life and death issues in bioethics, as well as issues related to utilitarianism and the objectivity of ethics. 

Among non-white philosophers who have contributed to these debates, I cited Kwame Anthony Appiah’s work on cosmopolitanism in The Life You Can Save, and in the interview I mentioned Yew-Kwang Ng, with whom I have co-authored an article, and Amartya Sen. I could also have referred to the Venerable Chao-hwei, a Taiwanese Buddhist nun with whom I am having a dialogue that we hope to publish as a book, in both Chinese and English. Utilitarianism: A Very Short Introduction, which I co-authored with Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek begins its historical account of the theory with Mozi.

What am I missing? I was educated in Western philosophy, and have worked all my life within that tradition, so it would not be surprising if I missed some important contributions from thinkers in other traditions. If I did, then others are likely to have missed them too, and we could all benefit from knowing about them. Perhaps now that this issue is being discussed on Daily Nous, we can draw on your readers’ wide range of knowledge, and invite them to suggest the most important works we have missed.

I think Professor Singer’s request for suggestions of important works from non-Western philosophical traditions relevant to the topics in moral philosophy he writes on is a good idea. In light of Gross’s question, we could also add to the request suggestions for overlooked but relevant works in the Western tradition by non-white authors.

I know that one likely reply to this request is to complain that Singer is asking others to “do his homework” for him, and that many of those best positioned to fulfill this request are already overburdened with other tasks related to combatting—or simply dealing with—various forms of disadvantage. I understand and appreciate this response. That said, I’d urge readers to consider that this is an opportunity to reach not just Peter Singer, but thousands of other philosophers, with suggestions of important works currently negelected in mainstream anglo-analytic moral philosophy. It could do a lot of good.


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Alan Nelson
2 months ago

It was a good idea to ask Singer for a follow up.Report

Alec Fraher
Alec Fraher
2 months ago

“…. this is the pregnant void, full of potential of those excluded and ignored….” pgs187-188, ChV, Complex Society: In the Middle of the Middle World by Bojan Radej and Mojca Golobič

Is it as EP Thompson said in reply to Althusser, so many years ago that there exists a Poverty of Theory: An Orrery of Errors which continues today…..Report

Javier Hidalgo
2 months ago

I think that Peter Singer may be interested in connections between utilitarianism and Buddhist ethical thought. He mentioned that he is co-authoring with a Buddhist nun and so he may already know what I’m about to say. But I’d recommend Śāntideva to him in particular, and contemporary philosophers who work on Buddhist ethics like Mark Siderits and Charles Goodman. It’s controversial whether Śāntideva is actually a utilitarian in any meaningful sense, but there are strong affinities between Śāntideva’s ethical commentary and consequentialist thought (the same goes for many other Buddhist thinkers). For starters, I’d recommend Charles Goodman’s book The Consequences of Compassion and Mark Siderits’s Personal Identity and Buddhist Philosophy, along with Śāntideva’s Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra. A shorter and excellent introduction can also be found here: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/shantideva/Report

Kaila Draper
2 months ago

One can be uncharitable if one likes, but I think what Singer was trying to say is that he has been educated and worked most of his life in a field dominated by white people and, to a lesser extent, men, and so it is hardly surprising that he would be citing and discussing the works of white men more than people from other demographic groups. He wasn’t being racist or Eurocentric or elitist, as many on twitter and other social media have suggested.Report

Alexander Guerrero
2 months ago

It is, of course, hard to know where to begin. I don’t really just want to limit focus on “what Peter Singer is interested in” as that’s a pretty weird framing. But many of us are in a similar position, or have been, and it’s good to get the discussion going. So, a few quick examples.

Singer’s line on global justice for decades now has focused on individuals giving money to things like UNICEF and OXFAM, and now, with better “charity” evaluators, things like AMF. One worry with that view is that it lacks an adequate political or institutional critique, leading him to get important moral questions wrong. Even just from an “effective altruism” perspective, he arguably might have done much better over the last 30 years if he’d read Frantz Fanon (The Wretched of the Earth) and Kwame Gyekye (particularly Tradition and Modernity), for example, and brought much more of a critical eye toward institutions like UNICEF and OXFAM and how they would actually displace local political institutions, reinforce colonial-era dynamics, and result in authoritarian local rule in problematic ways. Of course, Angus Deaton and others have now provided empirical support for worries in this vein. But none of it would have been surprising, I contend, if the academics pushing these ideas had read more Fanon.

There have been many important philosophical discussions of the rights and ethics of interactions with non-human animals (and the broader environment in which we live) from Indigenous philosophical traditions. One of the best and most accessible recent examples is Brian Burkhart’s new book, Indigenizing Philosophy through the Land (particularly Part 2), but there is also excellent work by Kyle Whyte, Gregory Cajete, and many others cited by Burkhart and Whyte. I would also recommend Wub-e-ke-niew’s book, We Have the Right to Exist, which engages with these issues.

In all of these cases, one might have to do a little more work than is required if one just picks up the latest issue of Ethics or PPA or whatever. They aren’t writing explicitly or just to Peter Singer and people with a similar educational and professional background. As with any philosophical work, one might have to learn background ideas and concepts, and consider what else about one’s picture of things one might have to question to really get the point. But this work is immensely valuable and important, and worth doing, I’d say.

Toward that end, I’ve been running a reading group over Zoom on African, Latin American/Latinx, and Indigenous/Native American Philosophy. If you are interested in joining, please just email me. The readings and schedule is posted here: http://www.alexguerrero.org/aln-spring-21/

One can also find many other related readings from past courses and reading groups that I’ve run on these topics on my website.

I’m far from an expert on these topics, but so many of us trained in the way that Singer has been are in a similar position, and I think it’s worth starting somewhere, rather than forever remaining nowhere.Report

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
Reply to  Alexander Guerrero
2 months ago

Thanks, Alex. This is very helpful and, at last, a meaningful engagement with Singer’s positions.Report

Last edited 2 months ago by Nicolas Delon
Peter Singer
Reply to  Alexander Guerrero
2 months ago

Thanks for your comments, Alex. Just for the record, it is more than twenty years since I last recommended donating to UNICEF. My current recommended organizations assisting people in extreme poverty can be found at http://www.thelifeyoucansave.org. You can also download, free an eBook of the 2019 revised edition of The Life You Can Save, which discusses the objection that instead of donating to effective charities, we should focus on changing institutions.
Incidentally, Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth was obligatory reading among leftist students in the 1960s. For those who have not read it, I agree that it is worth doing so, though I’m less sure of its relevance today.Report

Alexander Guerrero
Reply to  Peter Singer
2 months ago

Thanks for your response, Peter. For what it’s worth, I think the question of whether to focus on donating to effective charities or to focus on changing institutions (of course, also something of a false dichotomy) is a very hard one, in large part because it is very hard to know whether institutional change will be in a good direction and it is very very hard to bring it about. Obviously, the payoff would be huge if positive changes could be brought about, making the expected value calculation (if that is the thing to use) closer than it would otherwise be.

I have taken one path in response to that question–partly because so many working on this topic have taken the other, partly because it seems that change happens one way or the other and we might want to have more input as to the direction it takes–leading me into the strange and exciting world of lottocracy and institutional design. I’m sure the value of this path will be evident to all once they read my book! (The credit will also be partly yours, as your “Famine, Affluence, and Morality” was the first non-Ayn Rand philosophy that I ever read, and it is that article that got me hooked on philosophy and made me consider it as a worthwhile path…)

More seriously, on Fanon, many argue that much of the “post-colonial” world has significant elements of the pre-colonial world, so that there is still much to learn from his work. Indeed, that is a theme of much of so-called decolonial studies.

Given my initial philosophical background and training (which is in many ways very much like yours), I have been wary of labels like “coloniality” and “decolonization” and other terms that used the colonizer/colonial/coloniality framework to analyze moral, social, and political problems. I saw it as something of a sign that I should dismiss what was going to be said as postmodern nonsense, likely unintelligible, not worth engaging with seriously. Those terms never appeared in the journals or books I read. This was very much a part of my philosophical education, never fully explicit—a combination of cultivated derision and intentional but unstated omission. I think most people in analytic moral and political philosophy are still brought up to have an aversion to that way of framing things, or to reading philosophers who use those terms in a central way–or at least they are not brought up to think in those terms. And I do think that framework might sometimes be overused as jargon on the so-called critical theory or continental side. (Like “justice” or “reason” or “justification” or “reasonable” or “liberalism” or “welfare” or “utility” on the analytic side.) But after reading Fanon and other more recent work in African, Latin American/Latinx, and Indigenous philosophy, and seeing the way that framing is brought to bear (for example) on international law, global justice, climate change, and, closer to home, white/Black relations, policing and incarceration, and education in the United States, I think these ideas should be much more prominent in so-called analytic philosophy discussions. It seems to me a mere kind of prejudice against these ideas (or implicit racism, even), combined perhaps with the way in which they have been presented, that has kept things otherwise.

Indeed, I find that is true for much of the work I’ve read from these traditions: really interesting, powerful ideas that I was indifferent or hostile toward (initially) just because of ignorance and prejudice, and which I was ignorant of and/or prejudiced toward simply because of a history of racism and colonialism. It is good that we seem to agree on that, in broad outlines. It strikes me that this should have implications for how we approach philosophical education, curriculum design, hiring, and research–among other things. I’d be curious as to whether you agree about that, too, although of course the details matter.Report

Alexander Guerrero
Reply to  Alexander Guerrero
2 months ago

Sorry, that should be “the “post-colonial” world has significant elements of the *colonial* world.” Report

Louis F. Cooper
Reply to  Alexander Guerrero
2 months ago

A few minutes of searching reminded me that Angus Deaton’s book The Great Escape was critical of aid, but I suspect, admittedly without having read the book, that the main focus of his criticism was government-to-government aid (“official development assistance” in the jargon), rather than the sort of work Oxfam does.

My impression is that Oxfam, though doubtless far from perfect, since no organization is, and while it had a scandal a while back involving the hiring of prostitutes by certain of its employees (a scandal from which it seems to have recovered), is generally not guilty of “reinforc[ing] colonial-era dynamics” or “displac[ing] local political institutions.”

It’s not easy for an ordinary citizen of a rich country to further global institutional change in a direct way, but it is easy, for those who can afford it, to give a small amount of money to Oxfam (or a comparable organization) every month. There is no contradiction between favoring and working for global institutional change on one hand and, on the other, supporting on-the-ground local development projects, which, as far as I’m aware, is a significant part of what Oxfam does.Report

Animal
2 months ago

we here at the lawn chair philosophy foundation invite singer to donate a “back talk” library expansion pack to a homeless shelter, and another to his own department. we have the authors and pricing all lined up:

https://lcpfoundation.org/home/library-packages/Report

Eric Schliesser
2 months ago

I want to second everything Alexander Guerrero said, and I continue to learn from his example and the works, themes, and authors. he calls our attention to. But it is worth adding three methodological features. First, when one aims to legislate for others — as policy ethicists are wont to do –, it is simply the right thing to do to seek out those principally affected by a policy, and (although not quite the same) those experts knowledgeable about those those principally affected by a policy. Even though it is rhetorically inviting, it seems a bit rich to shift the burden of evidence onto others to provide one with the work/information one should have done oneself. (Yes, it adds search costs and friction to one’s research.)
Second, this is not just a problem in Singer’s public policy ethical work. (And to be sure, there is much to admire in Singer’s public philosophy.) There is a whole infrastructure of international conventions/conferences, think-tanks, lawyers, NGOs, (and some philosophers) etc. who are primarily talking to each other, while deciding/legislating the lives of more voiceless and less powerful others.
Third, in some social sciences (but not economics) these two facts are being presupposed in research design and ethical approval thereof. It is a peculiar fact of professional philosophy, that we tend to assume our research is self-justifying and not subject to best ethical practices.

Finally, almost a decade ago I blogged about similar challenges again Peter Singer’s work, and I called attention to the Pakistani mathematical economist-philosopher, M.A. Khan, who articulated some of the pertinent issues that are still relevant today:
https://www.newappsblog.com/2013/03/weekly-philo-of-economics-the-limitations-of-ones-model.html (That was part of a series of blog posts.)

The reference is: M. Ali Khan, 2004. “Regional (East-West/North-South) Cooperation and Peter Singer’s Ethics of Globalisation,” The Pakistan Development Review, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, vol. 43(4), pages 353-396. (If I remember correctly, in context, the issue involves Singer’s advocacy of emission trading.)Report

Ian Heckman
2 months ago

It seems to me that this post escapes the main issue that the criticism targets.

In a way, the criticism is saying, “Singer isn’t interested in the philosophy written by minorities, and he should be.”

Singer is interested in issues x, y, and z, and those issues just happen to be contributed to by mainly white men. But if Singer is truly interested in global justice, as he seems to be, there are other issues written about by minorities that he should be interested in writing about, and citing.Report

Nicole Wyatt
2 months ago

The comments section here is very valuable, and I appreciate all the reading suggestions people have made.

As to the main subject of the post, I’m not sure why Singer thinks it is other people’s responsibility to tell him what he should be reading. Surely it is precisely the responsibility of people in positions of privilege — which to be clear includes me as well as Singer — to do the work of diversifying their interlocutors, rather than waiting for other people to plead to be read and listened to.Report

Mike O'Brien
Mike O'Brien
Reply to  Nicole Wyatt
2 months ago

I think this is unfair to Singer. He is presumably working hard, in good faith, to advance scholarship on matters he believes to be important. That alone can fill every hour of every day. If people insist that, in addition to the due diligence he already does in choosing his research material, he also goes out of his way to include marginalized perspectives as such, they are imposing an exogenous demand on his resources, and it is perfectly appropriate for Singer to ask for outside assistance in meeting this demand.

Supposing that people in privileged positions do have a special responsibility to diversify their interlocutors, such a responsibility is one among many, and should not subordinate more strictly epistemic responsibilities for scholars qua scholars.Report

Nicole Wyatt
Reply to  Mike O'Brien
2 months ago

I don’t think that diversifying your intellectual engagement is doing something on top of “the due diligence he already does in choosing his research material”, or should be placed above epistemic responsibilities. I think it is one your epistemic responsibilities, and is part of your due diligence. There is decades of work in the philosophy of science establishing this.Report

Travis Figg
2 months ago

I agree that there is a value in including people from diverse backgrounds in philosophy.

If I want to do research on a topic, I’ll probably go to Philosopher’s Index through my institution library website, and I’ll do a search. Or maybe I’ll go to philpapers. I have no particular intention to find or avoid works by philosophers of any particular group. I simply get the results I get.

The available databases don’t really make it easy to make sure your search results do or not include philosopher from diverse backgrounds.Report

Erick Ramirez
Reply to  David Chalmers
2 months ago

Thank you David for introducing me to this function of Philpeople (entirely my own fault not to have seen it before). It’s very helpful to narrow searches by AOS and demographics.Report

Patrick S. O'Donnell
2 months ago

Perhaps this discussion, and Singer in particular, would benefit from this compilation: https://www.academia.edu/46923618/Thinking_about_Comparative_Philosophy_a_short_bibliographic_introductionReport

Bharath Vallabha
2 months ago

There are three ways to interpret Gross’ question:

1) Would your work be better if it engaged more with non-white philosophers?
2) Would the fields you work in be better if it engaged more with non-white philosophers?
3) Would the philosophy departments you move in be better if they engaged more with non-white philosophers?

It’s interesting Singer took the question mainly as (1). If (1) is the issue, Singer’s response seems fair. Not amazing or inspiring, but not bad. Of course, there is only so much a person can read.

It’s interesting that Singer didn’t see Gross’ question – or Justin’s follow up – as an opening for discussing (2) or (3).

A focus on (1) seems like a person being defensive of his work. A failure to open up to (2) or (3) seems like a person being defensive on behalf of the institutional structures one moves in and within which one has prestige. Given that Singer has been a great light for people questioning institutional structures, it is amazing he seems so cavalier about philosophical institutional structures.

If he is being cavalier, it could be for a couple of reasons. Maybe he is focused on doing good out in the world, and so doesn’t have to think about issues at “home” (in his profession). But if this is ok, then presumably that would be also a response to any of Singer’s arguments out in the world. Everyone is focused on some good somewhere in the world and so they can’t focus on factory farming, etc.

Or maybe he thinks institutional issues in academic phil are not as pressing as issues he focuses on in the world. While he thinks factory farming is an urgent problem, diversifying the phil profession is…well, not as urgent. I might agree! Then again, I think more about diversity and I eat meat, so perhaps I don’t agree. But this is an interesting debate of weighing values, one which he could have pointed to as a philosophical disagreement as opposed to focusing on (1).

Or maybe he thinks the philosophy profession isn’t that bad. After all, it helped him focus on the issues and thinkers he finds important, and which are making a difference in the world. If so, Gross’ question could have been a chance at raising a deep question: if famous philosophers are publicly critical of their own profession, would they risk losing their standing in the public?

The issue of who Singer missed to read strikes me as the least interesting issue. More illuminating is how someone in Singer’s position could model being more self-critical of his field and his role in it without being apologetic.Report

Peter Singer
Reply to  Bharath Vallabha
2 months ago

Bharath,
Reading Daniel Gross’s questions now, it seems obvious that your (ii) and (iii) are possible ways of answering his questions, especially the follow-up one, and that they raise issues that, even if not as urgent as ending factory farming, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, or eliminating extreme poverty, ought to be discussed. But as Justin says in his introduction, in a live oral interview there are constraints that make it more difficult to see all the possible ways of interpreting a question and explain one’s views as clearly as one would like.Report

Bharath Vallabha
Reply to  Peter Singer
2 months ago

Peter, Thank you for your reply. It seems like Gross didn’t distinguish (i)-(iii), so that could add to the live interview dynamics.

Do you have a take on (ii) and (iii)? If you addressed either systematically somewhere, would love to read it.

Your life work and achievements are so clearly important that even if you haven’t thought about (ii) and (iii) as much as feminists, critical race theorists or comparative philosophers, I would feel silly making a judgment about that. You are tackling existential topics of a different magnitude than most professors, for which, even where I disagree, I feel gratitude.

But I also feel a worry. Majority of philosophers who don’t think about (ii) and (iii) aren’t doing it because they are addressing factory farming and global warming, but because of institutional inertia. They just want to hold on to old structures and not think about if they are unjust. So it is important to distinguish why you with your projects perhaps haven’t had a chance to think about (ii) and (iii) – which I can agree with – versus why many in the profession actively choose not to think about (ii) and (iii) – which I can’t agree with. The worry is that whatever your reasons for how you allocate your cognitive resources, if you don’t actively address (ii) and (iii) to some extent, you would be giving cover to those who care neither about factory farming nor improving the profession.Report

Michelle Ciurria
2 months ago

I don’t understand how Brian Leiter can say that ‘equity-qua-demographic-diversity per se is not a scholarly value.’
Diversity quite obviously has epistemic/scholarly value, as Sandra Harding has argued in ‘Objectivity & Diversity’ (and I have argued in FPQ: doi:10.5206/fpq/2017.3.3.). It’s not an accident that classic western philosophy was racist, sexist, ableist, classist (etc.), and contributed very negatively to global human wellbeing. Indeed, the most enduring contributions of classic western philosophy – much more than any lofty moral ideals – are cisheteripatriarchy, white supremacy, & structural ableism. Kant, for example, contributed far more to the realization of white supremacy than a kingdom of ends. When privileged (rich, cisheteromasculine, nondisabled) white men adhere to the insular traditions of their forefathers, they’re participating in the same epistemic practices that gave us colonialism & patriarchy, and which will only lead to more obfuscation, ignorance, oppression, and human misery.Report

Mike O'Brien
Mike O'Brien
Reply to  Michelle Ciurria
2 months ago

Leiter is carefully choosing his words to make a very narrow point there. He is only talking about the status of equity as a scholarly value. “Global human well-being” and similar considerations are entirely beside the point. More precisely, he is only talking about equity as manifested by demographic (not theoretic, or methodological, or disciplinary) diversity. More precisely still, he is only talking about equity-as-demographic-diversity per se, and not as a proxy indicator of diversity in thinking and education (which would be scholarly values). He is not ignorant of the issues you raise, he is simply bracketing them to focus on what he believes to be the crux of the matter. Such a move should be easily recognized and understood in any philosophical discussion.Report

Sheena Ramkumar
2 months ago

I would love to offer a suggestion, if possible, please see the work of both Prof. Ravi M Gupta and Dr Kenneth Valpey, which may broaden the current narrow scope of what is considered and cited as ethical and moral philosophy.Report

Erin Geddes
2 months ago

It’s remarkable that Professor Singer begins his answer this way:
“That’s the manner in which I was educated, I suppose,”

Probably the singular hallmark of being “educated” (particularly as a philosophical thinker) is recognizing the defects of your own education so as to attempt to improve upon the limitations of the perspectives through which you are raised. Otherwise the entire enterprise is practically nonsensical. That the line above — that the near omission may be owing to “the manner” in which he was “educated” — was the first thought that came to Professor Singer’s mind, by way of explanation for his work, should be the most troubling thing in discussion.Report