Better Socrates Dissatisfied (was Re: Peter Singer & Vegetarian Dogs)

Tue Mar 7 01:09:14 PST 2000

>Singer in fact quotes this passage in _Practical Ethics_ (p. 108) and
>discusses its implications for his argument against speciesism when
>considering who is to have personhood:

>***** Mill's argument for preferring the life of a human being to that
>an animal (with which most modern readers would be quite comfortable) is
>exactly paralleled by his argument for preferring the life of an
>intelligent human being to that of a fool. Given the context and the way
>in which the term "fool" was commonly used in his day, it seems likely
>by this he means what we would now refer to as a person with an
>intellectual disability.

I dispute that the context shows this at all, and on the basis of my limited knowledge of contemporary literature, would suggest that Singer is bluffing when he implies that "fool" preserved its medieval sense into the nineteenth century. Mill is quite clearly saying here that it's better to be a person like him, who speaks Greek and reads poetry than to drink gin, eat oysters and shag, no matter how enjoyable that might be.


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