Thursday, 17 July 2014

Peter Singer's drowns in his own shallow pond.


Peter Unger summarises the essential features of Singer's shallow pond gedanken thus-

'The path from the library at your university to the humanities lecture hall passes a shallow ornamental pond. On your way to give a lecture, you notice that a small child has fallen in and is in danger of drowning. If you wade in and pull the child out, it will mean getting your clothes muddy and either cancelling your lecture or delaying it until you can find something clean and dry to wear. If you pass by the child, then, while you'll give your lecture on time, the child will die straightaway. You pass by and, as expected, the child dies.'


Suppose the lecture you are about to give is not shite. Suppose, furthermore, that someone attending that lecture isn't just a Credential-seeking swine but someone with power to do some good in the world. If you are a Utilitarian, you should go give your lecture and after ensuring that you have convinced the one guy in the audience who isn't a Credential-seeking swine you should make an emotional confession of your crime and hand yourself over to the police. Suppose no Police or Judiciary exists. Then, if you believe yourself to be bound by some implicit or unstated Social Contract, you should administer to yourself the extreme penalty for culpa levis in concreto.
Alternatively, just fucking get your shoes dirty, save the kid and take him along with you to deliver your lecture. It will go over big. 
Singer in devising his gedanken, and Unger in quoting it, don't get that their lectures are shite. Not wearing dirty shoes while giving your lecture might matter to Credential-seeking swine and the sort of Rent-extracting Institutions that cater to them. But both are shite. So are you.

More generally getting paid to be a great big fucking gobshite aint Ethical, it aint part and parcel of 'Philosophy' or 'Public Justification Discourse' or any such thing.  The way Singer sets up his gedanken and the manner in which Unger comments on it shows that doing Ethics in the Academy turns your brains to shit and makes you a deeply unpleasant person.

Should we get our shoes dirty wading in to prevent Singer or Unger or whoever else has succumbed to this witless academic availability cascade from drowning in the ornamental pool of their own infrahuman stupidity?
Purvapaksha- Yes, but only to kick them in the teeth coz, heck, the pool is shallow, they're gonna drown anyway, so like the least inappropriate person to kick in the teeth is a Singer or Unger and, anyway it will give your pleasure, but them gobshites will scarcely even notice coz of the massive amounts of calcified faeces protecting their dentures.
Uttarapaksha- What's really important is starving babies. Clearly, kicking Singer or Unger in the teeth has an opportunity cost coz while you are doing so some one or other of the women you have kidnapped and forcibly impregnated could get loose and go get an abortion. But, at the margin, the loss of a single starving child might trigger the tipping point of your own salience in the Rent-seeking Charity racket which arises out of everybody else's obligation to send money to starving children. Look at what's happening in Kerala, a State which Unger mentions lovingly. 
You simply can't afford to take time off raping women and kidnapping kids to go kick Unger and Singer in the teeth.  If you aint holding a sufficiently large number of starving kids hostage, the Utilitarian calculus suggests that it is worthwhile to beat you and throw you in prison rather than let you carry on adding to the number of starving children, thus creating a corresponding fiduciary obligation on the part of those who haven't been raping and kidnapping like crazy and thus have no starving kids of their own.

Siddhanta Mahatma Gandhi said 'Health is the only Wealth- not Silver...or Goooooooold'.



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