Peter Singer rears his utilitarian head yet again
In the new issue of Foreign Policy magazine there is a series of 16 short articles in which 16 different authors each chose something--an institution (political parties), a concept (anonymity), or even a currency (the Euro) and proclaimed its passing. The theme was something like "16 things we take for granted that actually will not be around much longer."
I was struck by the naivete, or, phrased a different way, the lack of any sense of history, of most of them, but especially of two: Peter Singer's farewell to "the sanctity of life," and Jacques something-or-other's dismissal of "monogamy." (I'm also struck by how many commas I used in that sentence: 6.)
Whether or not Peter Singer is correct about any of the things he thinks, to make the claim that "most people in the past held to some sort of belief in the sanctity of life, and in the future they will not" is either unprovable or false. For much of history, most people didn't have the luxury of having well-thought-out beliefs on hot-button issues that they would rigorously argue with each other over dinner. Another problem is that beliefs are not a good guide to actions: a poll of Germans in 1942 about belief in the sanctity of life yielding a high result is pretty much irrelevant, as would be one done among Romans exposing their children and then decrying the barbarian hordes. (One suggestion for comments: is my dilemma, bolded above in this paragraph, exhaustive, or are there other options?)
Most of the same criticisms apply to Jacques's treatment of monogamy. I would argue that since widespread monogamy for life is not something the human race has ever really had, it can't go away. We've had polygamy, serial monogamy, divorce, cohabitation, homosexuality, and Bill Clinton: it's pretty much been relationship chaos since the dawn of civilization. On the other hand, Jacques's related point that in the future, children will be raised by groups of adults in consenting sexual relationships, is 1) a bad idea and 2) up for debate.
Thoughts, good blogspeople?