Yet another weird SF fan

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Yet another weird SF fan

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Peter Singer Plays the Race Card

In “Animal Liberation at 30,” Peter Singer said:

The view that species is in itself a reason for treating some beings as morally more significant than others is often assumed but rarely defended. Some who write as if they are defending speciesism are in fact defending an affirmative answer to the second question, arguing that there are morally relevant differences between human beings and other animals that entitle us to give more weight to the interests of humans. The only argument I've come across that looks like a defense of speciesism itself is the claim that just as parents have a special obligation to care for their own children in preference to the children of strangers, so we have a special obligation to other members of our species in preference to members of other species.

Advocates of this position usually pass in silence over the obvious case that lies between the family and the species. Lewis Petrinovich, professor emeritus at the University of California, Riverside, and an authority on ornithology and evolution, says that our biology turns certain boundaries into moral imperatives—and then lists “children, kin, neighbors, and species.” If the argument works for both the narrower circle of family and friends and the wider sphere of the species, it should also work for the middle case: race. But an argument that supported our preferring the interests of members of our own race over those of members of other races would be less persuasive than one that allowed priority only for kin, neighbors, and members of our species. Conversely, if the argument doesn't show race to be a morally relevant boundary, how can it show that species is?

I thought the obvious middle category was nation, not race. We benefit from the existence of families and sometimes benefit from the existence of nations (which preserve order and sometimes keep the not-so-nice nations away). We do not usually benefit from the existence of races. The most racist part of the U.S. was the poorest, even for members of the dominant minority.

Digression: Our Race Is Our Nation?

Some racists have tried claiming that races are nations and vice versa. They have adopted the slogan ORION: “Our Race Is Our Nation.” This slogan faces the problem that currently races have no legal authority, no actual power, and most people are not loyal to the races they belong to. It is not a descriptive slogan but a prescriptive slogan. It is a matter of plans instead of reality. If racists insist on retaining this idea, I recommend that the slogan be replaced by the slogan: “Make Our Race Our Nation.”

Devising a suitable acronym will be left as an exercise for the reader.


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