Peter Singer and Utilitarian Ethics

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					11REL2B Sample Assessment 2                                                                     2011 Update

RESPONSE (ANALYSIS)                                                                2BREL ASSESSMENT 2

OUTCOMES:       Outcome 1: Investigating the interplay between religion and life
                Outcome 2: Search for meaning and purpose
                Outcome 3: Religion and society

CONTENT:        The nature of religion
                Religious practices and structures
                 guiding principles of religions and the role these play in the lives of people and society.

                The influence of religion
                Contemporary issues for religion
                 comparisons between a variety of societal and religious responses to issues in
                  contemporary society

                Religious inquiry and processes
                Interpreting, analysing and synthesising information
                Forms of communication that present findings and conclusions

LEARNING CONTEXT: Social responsibility

Question: What does it mean to be morally responsible? (20%)

Task: Complete each of the following steps:
   1. As a class identify and review different perspectives on a particular ethical issue in society
   2. During class analyse two articles that outline and discuss the response of a well known Australian
       secular humanist to world poverty
   3. Under test conditions and during separate lessons:
       a. Analyse another article that uses Catholic moral thinking to explain how people should respond to
          another contemporary ethical issue
       b. Using supporting evidence from the sources you have studied in class describe the essential and
          distinctive elements of the Catholic understanding of what it means to be morally responsible

How long will you need?
Two weeks to prepare and complete your response.

What you need to do
1. Define key words such as ethical, secular and perspective and then identify the distinctive features of
   Catholic ethics.

2. Have a clear understanding Catholic ethical thinking as outlined in the Student Resource (Student
   Resource 5.1 – 6.2).

3. Be aware that there are a range of non-Catholic ethical perspectives, eg. Utilitarianism, Subjectivism,
   Situation ethics, Relativism, Nihilism.

4. Using evidence from two articles:
    „Peter Singer and Utilitarian Ethics‟ and
    „Life Saving‟ (taken from The Big Issue No 323, 24 Feb – 9 Mar 2009) write responses to a series of

5. Using evidence from a source supplied to you by your teacher and under test conditions, write
   responses to a series of questions.

6. Under test conditions and using supporting evidence from the range of sources you have studied in class
   describe the essential and distinctive elements of the Catholic understanding of what means to be
   morally responsible.
What needs to be submitted                                                                  Due dates
□     An analysis of an article supplied by your teacher (30 marks)
□     An essay that uses relevant evidence to describe the essential and
      distinctive elements of the Catholic understanding of what it means to
      be morally responsible (40 marks)
11REL2B Sample Assessment 2                                                       2011 Update

Peter Singer and Utilitarian Ethics
In the article titled, Life Saving, which appeared in The Big Issue 24 Feb – 9 Mar 2009,
author Michael Green, reports on a conversation he had with Australian philosopher
Professor Peter Singer about his new book, The Life You Can Save.

Peter Singer has become a controversial figure because of his views on abortion and
sustainable population levels. He is also a champion of the animal rights movement.
Professor Singer has received a great deal of attention by recommending infanticide of
some disabled newborns. He suggested that: "...some infants with severe disabilities
should be killed" if the parents so choose. His reasoning is that they have diminished
likelihood of enjoying an adequate "quality of life."

His moral reasoning on this issue is different to many other pro-choice supporters. While
other proponents of abortion may argue that abortion is morally acceptable because the
foetus is not human, this is not Peter Singer‟s view. He admits that the foetus is human but
argues that abortion is permissible because the foetus (up to 18 weeks) does not suffer
pain or feel pleasure.

       “When a woman has an abortion, the fetus is alive, and it is undoubtedly human – in
   the sense that it is a member of the species homo sapiens. It isn't a dog or a
       But mere membership of our species doesn't settle the moral issue of whether it is
   wrong to end a life. As long as the abortion is carried out at less than 20 weeks of
   gestation – as almost all abortions are – the brain of the fetus has not developed to the
   point of making consciousness possible.
       In that respect, the fetus is less developed, and less aware of its circumstances,
   than the animals that we routinely kill and eat for dinner.
       That is why the fetus is "innocent". It doesn't have the capacity to do anything wrong
   – or anything right.
       Even when the fetus does develop a capacity to feel pain – probably in the last third
   of the pregnancy – it still does not have the self-awareness of a chimpanzee, or even a

Peter Singer‟s ethical stance is called „preference utilitarianism‟. Utilitarianism holds that
ethical choices should be made based on what will result in the greatest good. Effectively,
the end justifies the means.

Utilitarianism is sometimes called „the pleasure principle‟ because choices are made
according to what satisfies preferences, that is, what gives the greatest pleasure.
Happiness is of ultimate importance. The corollary of this is that pain should be minimised.
Hence, in the example above, abortion is justifiable if the pain caused by allowing the child
to be born is greater than the pain caused by terminating the pregnancy.

Another core tenet of Utilitarianism is that when making a decision, everybody‟s interests
should be considered equally. In the case of abortion, for example, the interests of the
unborn should be considered equally with, but not ahead of, the interests of the parent.
11REL2B Sample Assessment 2                                                                                      2011 Update

Life Saving

It‟s scorching hot. Peter Singer, philosopher, is sitting in a    The Life You Can Save is an extended reprise of an argument
jumbled café-cum-general store in Anglesea, on Victoria‟s         made in one of Singer‟s first published essays, „Famine,
Great Ocean Road. He‟s wearing red board shorts, a beach T-       Affluence and Morality‟, written in the early 70s when he
shirt and a cheap digital watch. “Diogenes the Cynic was          was just 25. In that essay, and again now, he argues that
supposed to have lived in a barrel, otherwise naked,” he          people should give money to aid agencies because, by doing
quips. “I‟m closer to that than a business suit, which is what    so, it is possible to prevent death and suffering without giving
some American philosophers wear.” The 62-year-old, one of         up anything nearly as important.
the world‟s most influential thinkers, took up long board                     This might not sound controversial. But Singer
surfing five years ago. He is relaxed and cordial, and speaks     maintains that when people choose not to donate, and instead
with unwavering logical control. “There‟s a lot of                spent their money on other items, they are implicitly valuing
unnecessary suffering in the world,” says Singer, leaning         those items more highly than the lives of the poor.
forward in his chair. “I‟d like to do something to reduce it.”                For Singer, the ethically justifiable action is to give
           That‟s the matter-of-fact motivation driving           money away to the point where, by giving any more, you
Singer‟s work. In a career spanning four decades and 25           would cause as much suffering to yourself as you would
books, the Australian-born philosopher, academic and author       relieve by your gift. At the least, spending money on luxury
has confronted issues ranging from animal liberation and          goods or exotic holidays is very wrong.
euthanasia to the ethics of day-to-day life. “I guess I enjoy a               In the new book, he softens this position by also
good argument,” he continues, wryly. “People always said,         offering readers a less demanding standard of giving: most
even when I was a kid, that I liked to argue.”                    people, he argues, should give 5% of annual income (more
           In his latest book, The Life You Can Save, he          for the very rich, on a sliding scale). “It‟s an attempt to get
argues that the rich – and, on a global scale, that means         away from the idea that you have to live so that everything
almost all Australians – are morally obliged to give more aid     you do is costed against what it could do to save a life of
to end extreme poverty overseas. Nearly 27,000 children die       another,” he explains. He maintains that this standard, if
everyday from preventable diseases and more than 1.4 billion      widely adopted, would be sufficient to end world poverty.
people are living on less than US$1.25 per day.                               Beachgoers come and go from the café; the cash
           Singer wants to change our understanding of what       register rattles. Against this backdrop, extreme poverty seems
it means for people in affluent countries to lead an ethical      a far-flung concern. And Singer is wary of the potential for
life. “Most of us are absolutely certain that we wouldn‟t         domestic economic worries to further undermine aid for the
hesitate to save a drowning child, and that we would do it at     world‟s poorest. But he is encouraged to see more discussion
considerable cost to ourselves,” he writes. “Yet while            of ethics in public life. With a rack of glossy magazines at his
thousands of children die each day, we spend money on             left shoulder, he says, “I think maybe the recession does
things we take for granted and would hardly miss if they were     make us take stock of where we are and what we really need,
not there. Is that wrong?” Singer‟s answer – set out in a clear   and [also] makes us think about values in a more fundamental
and compelling manner in his book – is an unequivocal „yes‟.      way.”
This is a book that deserves close attention: it has the                      Since 1999, he has split his time between Australia
potential to change lives, both of readers and the desperately    and the US, where he teaches at Princeton University, New
poor.                                                             Jersey. He gives a third of his income to charity and says he
                                                                  lives a very comfortable life. “I‟ve improved over the years,
                                                                  but I know there‟s still a lot more I could be giving.”
                                                                              He wants to create a public culture of charitable
                                                                  giving. Citing evidence that people are more willing to give if
                                                                  they know others are, he encourages his readers to tell friends
                                                                  and family about what they donate. The sweetener to his
                                                                  story is that, far from diminishing your wellbeing, giving
                                                                  money away can make you happier. Both age-old wisdom
                                                                  and recent neurological studies link giving with fulfilment.
                                                                  “You can make a difference and it will make your life better
                                                                  as well,” Singer says. “I really think that‟s true.”

                                                                  By Michael Green

                                                                  The Life You Can Save is out now.

                                                                  [The article by Michael Green first appeared in The Big Issue
                                                                  magazine No 323, 24 Feb – 9 Mar 2009. It is reproduced with
                                                                  the kind permission of the editors.]
     Peter Singer: “I guess I enjoy a good argument”.
Worksheet for Assessment 2 (part 2)

            Peter Singer and Utilitarian Ethics & Life Saving
Read and analyse the above documents and then complete each of the following questions.
For each question, use suitable evidence to support your answer.

1.    Using evidence from the first article, Peter Singer and Utilitarian Ethics, identify and list the
      ethical principles of Utilitarianism

2.    With reference to the second article, Life Saving, record any statements that serve to illustrate
      the ethical principles of the philosopher Peter Singer. Be prepared to justify your selections.

3.   Author Michael Green observes, „Singer wants to change our understanding of what it means
     for people in affluent countries to lead an ethical life.‟ In one or two paragraphs comment on
     Singer‟s perception of Australian society.

4.   Explain, in one or two paragraphs, why Peter Singer argues that, “…almost all Australians –
     are morally obliged to give more aid to end extreme poverty overseas.”
5.   Discuss the key similarities and differences between the ethical principles of Peter Singer and
     Catholic ethical teaching.
                       Student Assessment Booklet for Assessment 2 (part 3)

                         Surrogacy: in whose best interest?
Read and analyse the above document and then complete each of the following questions.
For each question, use suitable evidence to support your answer.

2.   Identify who the author of this article is and outline what role he has in regard to the issue.

3.   Identify suitable evidence from this article that indicates the involvement of religion in this issue
                                                                                               ( marks)

4.   The New Zealand Nathaniel Centre for Bioethics is quoted extensively in this article.
      a. Outline how this organisation defines this issue                               ( marks)

      b. Discuss the advantage and disadvantage of using such a source for the author ( marks)

5.   This article focuses on the rights and role of parenting in the life of a child. Identify the author‟s
     point of view on this matter (surrogacy) and how he sees the State governments Surrogacy Bill
     affecting this issue.                                                                       ( marks)
6.   Based on the arguments presented in this article, outline the similarities and differences between
     adoption and surrogacy.

7.   Define the Catholic understanding of natural law                                     ( marks)

8.   Discuss the extent to which natural law is used by the author to present his argument. ( marks)
Teacher Resource Notes

                         Surrogacy: in whose best interest?
The following notes outline an article written by Rev Dr Joseph Parkinson in Abundant Life,
Surrogacy: in whose best interest? (December 2008) p. 5

Parenthood is a deeply cherished hope of many couples wishing to experience the full range of joys
and challenges associated with raising their own family.

To found or start a family is a fundamental human right that all parents have.

All societies, both out of a concern for this human right and out of compassion should use all
legitimate means to assist couples who desire a family.

The state (government) has a duty to protect this right but this duty does not extend to intervening or
interfering in the exercise of this natural right

Children have a natural right to be raised by their own parents, yet we also know that this is not
always the case (e.g. through accident, human frailty or unavoidable circumstances). When this
occurs, to protect the human dignity of a child adoption or fostering occurs. This remedial action is
done in the best interest of the child.

Like adoption, surrogacy also separates a child from their birth mother. However, this action, which is
planned, is done in the interests of the parents and is designed to meet their need, through the use of
technology, to have a child.

Surrogacy presents a number of issues that in the end sees this practice and its support through
legislation as unjust.

Surrogacy redefines or distorts the traditional meaning of parent and undermines human dignity. It
risks confusing children as well as depriving them of an essential aspect of healthy human growth and
an important human right to form a relationship with their genetic parents.

Surrogacy introduces at least two mothers, if not three, and more than one set of parents.

Surrogacy fractures what is called the continuum of relationship: conception, gestation, birth and
nurture. A child and their parents grow into a relationship together across this continuum.

This relationship is lifelong: it is genetic, gestational and nurturing, with all facets of the relationship
interacting to produce the child-parent bond.

Rupturing or interfering with this process is not good for the child or the parent. Sometimes out of
necessity or circumstance this occurs, but to design and legislate for this to occur is unjust.

Description: The people have recognises the anguish experienced by involuntarily childless couples.For such couples, surrogacy would provide an opportunity solution.Surrogacy have several forms. Surrogacy also risks the exploitation of some in order to meet the needs of other people.The evolution of legal procedures to implement and ratify the intent of the parties to surrogacy contracts across the United States has been patchwork, at best.What documentation style does she use when citing sources?