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Peter Singer and Ethics
Peter Singer’s views on ethics were revolutionary when published, particularly the added interest in the
experiences of non-human animals. There is a popular adage that can perfectly capture this
controversial take on ethics: Do not unto others what you would not want done unto thee. The only
difference between this idea and the ones presented by Singer, is that Singer would include other
lifeforms within the ‘others’. Though this choice is often contested, it works on the same premise that
deters us from causing harms to other human beings: the thought of suffering. With animals, it is
possible to distance oneself from the suffering they face, as they have been crafted into the collective
imaginary under a different category. The idea that animals are capable of feeling pain is consistent with
the thinker’s four axioms for ethical behavior.
The ability to feel pain is amongst the axioms proposed by Singer through which to determine if an
action is ethical. The first axiom requires the recognition that all pain is bad, regardless of the sufferer.
The second axiom, relating directly to the animal activist proposition previously discussed, determines
that not only human beings are capable of feeling pain. The third axiom calls for ...