The President of Good and Evil by Peter Singer
In Philosophy Now
Scott O’Reilly reviews Peter Singer‘s review of George W. Bush‘s statements on ethics.
Singer takes the Bush administration to task for allowing ideology to trump empiricism and sound reasoning. In a particularly effective passage Singer cites a story by the 19th century English mathematician and philosopher William Clifford, which illustrates the perils of basing ones ethics or actions on belief. Clifford asks us to imagine a shipowner who knows his ship could do with a costly inspection and repairs, but sincerely believes that Providence will see the ship and its passengers through on a difficult voyage. Clifford argues that the shipowner's belief was not acquired “by honestly earning it in patient investigation, but by stifling his doubts.” When the ship sinks its owner's guilt is not absolved by the sincerity of his faith; indeed he is culpable precisely for substituting belief in place of practical measures.
posted by Cyndy
...) Singer speculates that Bush's sometimes-rigid adherence to the ‘letter of the law' (but not its spirit) indicates that the president is stuck at what Harvard psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg termed the Conventional Stage of morality, which he describes as, “an orientation toward authority, fixed rules, and the maintenance of social order.” Kohlberg describes this as the level of moral development most often associated with 13 year olds. [ read more ]