Race, Intellect, & Genetics (was Re: Peter Singer &Vegetarian Dogs)

Ken Hanly khanly at mb.sympatico.ca
Tue Mar 7 21:30:07 PST 2000

So to refuse aid to a country that was racist, sexist, and channeled aid to its own elite rather than the poor would be paternalistic because it inflicts our own ideas about quality of life etc. upon another country or people? By the way he has nothing to say anywhere in this quote about the quality of life of blacks. He doesn't mention blacks at all.

Do you favor food handouts rather than agricultural aid, education, and contraceptive information? I don't think Singer is saying that food handouts are not appropriate in emergencies, just that aid will give better results if directed towards longer term solutions. Indeed the agricultural assistance he seems to have in mind is to make people self-sufficient in food production-so handouts are not necessary- rather than the sort of export development often suggested by neo-liberals.

I agree with your last point. But given that funds for development are limited, I guess Singer would say you should spend them where they will do the most good. Ironically this is a modified version of the same sort of triage principle suggested by Hardin that his whole argument is against. I don't see how it is paternalistic though. He is not forcing any country to accept aid.. I think of paternalism as acts that force values upon someone else for their own good supposedly. If you knew that your aid would never get to the poor because it would be siphoned off by elites would you give aid anyway rather than be paternalistic as you call it?

Cheers, Ken Hanly

Yoshie Furuhashi wrote:

> Hi Rob:
> >And I don't think Singer is being paternalistic.
> Well, I don't know if Singer is more paternalistic than other utilitarians,
> but utilitarians are often committed to the kind of paternalism that
> Kantians would reject. To sit in judgment of someone else's "quality of
> life" (or happiness), as Singer does, is a paternalistic act. I'm afraid
> Singer's attitude toward people of color & the absolutely poor is also
> paternalistic. For instance, in "Rich and Poor," _Practical Ethics_,
> Singer says:
> ***** Population growth is therefore not a reason against giving overseas
> aid, although it should make us think about the kind of aid to give.
> Instead of food handouts, it may be better to give aid that leads to a
> slowing of population growth. This may mean agricultural assistance for
> the rural poor, or assistance with education, or the provision of
> contraceptive services....
> One awkward question remains. What should we do about a poor and already
> overpopulated country that, for religious or nationalistic reasons,
> restricts the use of contraceptives and refuses to slow its population
> growth? Should we nevertheless offer development assistance? Or should we
> make our offer conditional on effective steps being taken to reduce the
> birth rate? To the latter course, some would object that putting
> conditions on aid is an attempt to impose our own ideas on independent
> sovereign nations. So it is -- but is this imposition unjustifiable? If
> the argument for an obligation to assist is sound, we have an obligation to
> reduce absolute poverty; but we have no obligation to make sacrifices that,
> to the best of our knowledge, have no prospect of reducing poverty in the
> long run. Hence we have no obligation to assist countries whose
> governments have policies that will make our aid ineffective. (240-1)
> *****
> While I, too, think that contraceptives should be widely available (for
> feminist reasons, not because of fear of "overpopulation"), the idea that
> it is justifiable to make aid conditional upon the acceptance of the rich
> nation's population control plan is objectionable.
> >He's just saying that the
> >category of 'intelligence' is not a morally interesting one.
> In the case of race, no, but in the cases of mental disability & "animal
> rights," "intelligence," for obvious reasons, becomes a morally interesting
> concept. The severely mentally retarded humans are "non-persons" whereas
> "self-conscious" animals are "persons," according to Singer.
> Yoshie

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