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Cory Bernardi is right, in Peter Singer’s anti-human world

Senator Cory Bernardi has been reviled for associating homosexuality with something repugnant, bestiality. Yet Australia has just awarded its highest civilian honour to a philosopher who provides a moral…

Peter Singer is awarded for ideas for which we shun others. Joel Travis Sage

Senator Cory Bernardi has been reviled for associating homosexuality with something repugnant, bestiality. Yet Australia has just awarded its highest civilian honour to a philosopher who provides a moral defence of sex with animals.

Professor Peter Singer, the renowned Australian philosopher at Princeton University, believes that the taboo on bestiality is an anomaly, a prohibition that will crumble like all the others. But in the last Queen’s Birthday honours list he was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for “eminent service to philosophy and bioethics”. The award is equivalent to a knighthood in Britain.

In defending “consensual” sex between humans and animals Singer is concerned only with whether the sexual contact is “mutually satisfying”. What it means for an animal to give consent to sex with a human is unclear. Wag your tail three times for a yes, Fido?

And the same criterion of mutual satisfaction could be used to justify sex between adults and children. Indeed, paedophiles have been known to deploy just that argument.

If such a moral universe were to pertain, Bernardi would be quite right to claim that we are on a slippery slope to having sex with animals, a slope on which gay marriage is but a way station. Yet Bernardi is excommunicated for articulating a slippery slope argument while Singer is given its highest honour for celebrating it.

Singer’s advocacy of animal rights and charitable giving has won him a wide following, although most of his supporters seem to agree with his conclusions without grasping the implications of his arguments, which is perhaps why so many, including those who advise the Governor-General, seem willing to pass over his scandalous positions. For the defence of bestiality is not his only breach, nor the worst.

Singer is famous too for endorsing infanticide. He argues that newborn infants are not rational or self-conscious and therefore do not deserve the regard that more fully developed humans are owed. In his view, the life of a newborn is of less worth than the life of a self-conscious adult or a higher animal.

So in his book Practical Ethics he writes that “human babies are not born self-aware, or capable of grasping that they exist over time. They are not persons … [and] the life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee.”

Singer explicitly rejects all notions of the sanctity of human life. He has argued that the decision over whether an infant with even a mild disability should live or die can be left to the parents. If the parents believe that they will be blessed with a healthy baby next time around then they may kill the defective one because doing so will maximize the amount of happiness of all concerned.

Professor Singer’s defence of infanticide contradicts the inherent dignity and inalienable rights of all humans as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Forms of social engineering that disregard these rights have in the past been used to justify elimination of “defective” members of society.

The victims are first dehumanised, although usually not in such a clinical fashion as Singer does when he equates humans with great apes and replaces the sanctity of human life with an evaluation of the individual’s “rationality, autonomy, and self-consciousness”. The disturbing proximity of Singer’s defence of infanticide and eugenics explains why he is persona non grata in Germany.

The philosophy that leads Singer to these and other anti-human conclusions—a form of utilitarianism—is rooted in an autistic faith in rationality at the expense of feelings of empathy and compassion. In Singer’s utilitarianism there is nothing inherently good or bad; there are only decisions based on the assessment of preferences.

Singer’s philosophy is the same bloodless moral calculus that underpins free market economics. The same ultra-rationality that justifies the killing of defective infants also allows neoclassical economists to argue that it makes perfect sense for rich countries to dump their lethal toxic waste in poor countries where the value of life is lower, as former US Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers did when he was chief economist at the World Bank.

Professor Singer has a right to be heard and the fact that his views are contrary to the shared ethical sentiments of Australian society should not in itself disqualify him from official recognition. But the weird glossing over of his cold-blooded views is hard to comprehend when the same views expressed by others are met with widespread condemnation.

It is one thing to regard Singer’s defence of infanticide and bestiality as provocative contributions to public debate; yet if Cory Bernardi has been spurned by respectable society because he used the near-universal revulsion at bestiality to smear a social group, why has respectable society given legitimacy to Singer’s support for bestiality by bestowing on him its highest form of official esteem?

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    1. Brad Stringer

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Robert Nelson

      I don't know that i have the capacity to be philosophically sly but thanks for the compliment!

      Seriously though, I'm not quite sure I grasp your thread Robert. You seem to challenge the premise of my comment (which I reckon is just stating the bleeding obvious to be honest) while at the same time accepting it.

      Do you agree that there is a difference between Singer and Bernadi that permits respectable society's various responses to each?

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    2. Yuri Pannikin

      Director

      In reply to Robert Nelson

      Yes, context is not quite everything, but it is important. Mr Hamilton fails in not elucidating distinction between the imperatives of Singer and Bernadi.

      And the reference to free-market economics is somewhat misplaced, although a fine reductio ad absurdum.

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    3. Robert Nelson

      Associate Director Student Experience at Monash University

      In reply to Brad Stringer

      Nah, you're not sly; I'm agreeing with you. I meant that Hamilton's argument seems to manipulate contraries so as to imply an equivalence. Sorry for the moment of misunderstanding!

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    4. Brad Stringer

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Robert Nelson

      Damn; for a second there i thought i was walking along in life all philosophically sly without knowing it (but thanks for clarifying)

      Actually the rest of the intellect on display in the comments here was antidote to my delusions of secrete smarts!

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    5. Dan Smith

      Network Engineer

      In reply to Robert Nelson

      Robert Nelson's point about arguments made in "good faith" is important, I think. Expanding the vista of (sometimes questionable) ideas is a more worthy position than narrowing the possibilities of minorities, as Bernardi's illogical musings are specifically attempting.

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  1. Peter Quin-Conroy

    Accountant

    Yet again a commenter who totally misunderstands Singer's arguments.

    Singer is not *for* bestiality or infanticide, as a consequentialist, he is just raising the (valid) point that should only take into consideration the consequences of our actions. Singer does not say IF an animal can consent, but merely raises the logical (although ill-conceived) notion that if the animal could consent, then it would not be wrong.

    To be honest, I wish Singer would think about the impact of what he says - the average person will not read and understand Singer's position and the crazies will (deliberately) twist his meanings against him. But I am glad that there are people like Singer progressing society.

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  2. David Collett

    IT Application Developer at Web Generation

    A very thought provoking article. And at the time I read this, some very interesting comments too!

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    1. Neo Tesla

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to David Collett

      I tend to disagree. While some of the comments are well-thought out, I don't see the article as much more than Clive's snipe at Peter Singer for reasons probably unrelated to the topic.

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    2. Geoffrey Edwards

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Neo Tesla

      Well, if it is generating well-thought out comments, then you might be inclined to agree with David's assertion that is thought-provoking.

      Indeed, it is possibly the case that the ideas we disagree with provoke more thought than those we assent to. Just a thought - not unprovoked.

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    1. Tony Simons
      Tony Simons is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Dodgy Director

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      Clive, you cannot compare an ignorant bigot like Bernardi to the world respected Singer. Bernardi, Abbott and the hard right of the Coalition are close to tyhe Tea Party, Santorum, Palin and other US neofascists and are very dangerous. And you can almost garantee that in an Abbott government Bernardi will be on the front bench.

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  3. Robert Moore

    Street Sweeper

    A read of the Wikipedia article on zoophilia could be instructive. Seems it is, mainly, not considered a serious habit or condition by psychiatrists and treatment is not advised in certain cases. Estimates of occurrence are hard to come by, and was quite high when we had more people involved with farming and animal husbandry.

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    1. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Geoffrey Edwards

      Geoffrey, I dont think you've addressed Bernadi's actual comments. Rather you've attascked him ad hominem and reserved your dispassionate analysis for Singer.

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    2. Clive Hamilton

      Vice Chancellor's Chair, Centre For Applied Philosophy & Public Ethics (CAPPE) at Charles Sturt University

      In reply to Geoffrey Edwards

      It’s remarkable how much faith many of the commentators below have in the ethic of consent. Any attempt to ground ethics in something other than consent is dismissed as “Christian”, and therefore out of order. For the record, I am not a Christian.

      So what’s wrong with the ethic of consent? In sexual ethics, consent is generally necessary but often not sufficient. Jonathan Haidt gives the example of the brother and sister who one night in a remote cabin decide to have sex out of curiosity. They…

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    3. Linus Bowden

      management consultant

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      Clive, are you being serious? The taboo against incest is highly temporally/culturally specific, and it most certainly is Christian. The Christians inherited and followed the Roman laws against consanguinity. However, in just about every other culture from ancient Egyptian to Greek and beyond, not only was incest not taboo, many marriages were incestuous. You need to read some Oedipus, let alone the biblical Book of Genesis. So no, there is no valid analogy between the ethics/morality of inter-species marriage versus incest. But weirdly, your line of reasoning is no different than Cory Bernadi's.

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    4. Geoffrey Watson

      Unemployed

      In reply to Linus Bowden

      Romans/Christians invented incest? Look up the laws of Babylonians, Aztecs etc. etc. Many tribal societies had moieties and taboos against inter-marriage which is similar.

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    5. Geoffrey Edwards

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      "The fact that it does exist is the only way to explain why all people in all cultures find necrophilia repugnant and those who engage in it are regarded as sick or evil."

      This is just affirming the consequent. You arrive at the existence of this non-rational principle by the existence of that which you seek to explain. Let me fix it for you.

      IF it does exist IT MAY explain why all people in all cultures find necrophilia repugnant and those who engage in it are regarded as sick or evil…

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  4. John Phillip
    John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Grumpy Old Man

    I am assuming from the comments above that because Singer is a 'philosopher' and Bernadi a 'right wing poitician' that a hierachy of respect applies - one opinion is to be respected and the other villified. I happen to find both views repugnant. I don't know either man so I find it impossible to judge them as people.

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    1. Brad Stringer

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to John Phillip

      In my case at least John, your assumption is incorrect. I don't know Bernadi from a bar of soap but while he may be a top bloke, the views he expressed in parliament are bigotted (his political allegiancies are not relevant).

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    2. Rob Crowther

      Architectural Draftsman

      In reply to John Phillip

      Firstly, Slippery Slope is a logical fallacy. My experience is people resort to logical fallacy either when their argument is weak or they do not know better.

      I have not seen that much of Singer but the bit I have seen I have noted people love to misrepresent his view by only taking the bits that suit them. On that I would be surprised if the author is correct. I would doubt that Singer would resort to a slippery slope argument.

      On the issue of Bernardi, he used slippery slope as a tool for…

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  5. Dan Nolan

    logged in via Twitter

    Really thinking you should have taken Graeme Bird's advice, Clive.

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  6. Comment removed by moderator.

    1. Fran Barlow

      teacher

      In reply to Jeff Poole

      Jeff Poole

      "No Clive, despite what the Pope tells you to believe we ARE animals all humans are great apes just like gorillas and bonobos. "

      Indeed that is so. Humans are inclined to go cognitive dissonant when reminded.

      It's important to note too that the term "animal" is

      a) a part of taxonomy (cf: "animal kingdom, plant kingdom")
      b) a term describing non-humans, especially sensate non-humans
      c) a term of derogation (implying fallen humans cf: "the animals that did this ...")

      Just…

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    2. Jeff Poole

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Fran Barlow

      Quite so Fran.

      I understand the power of rhetoric - and why good speeches or drama rarely stand up to detailed parsing.

      I merely choose to jump over the detail of why an insult is an insult and go for the throat... In a caring way, as Dame Edna might say.

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    3. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Fran Barlow

      It is only you that draws the comparison between gays and animals here, Fran. Are you seriously arguing that Bernardi, Clive Hamilton or anyone here disagreeing with your misrepresentation of facts are making this comparison?

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  7. Zvyozdochka

    logged in via Twitter

    False equivalence. Paging Conversation editors, hello?

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    1. Clive Hamilton

      Vice Chancellor's Chair, Centre For Applied Philosophy & Public Ethics (CAPPE) at Charles Sturt University

      In reply to Fran Barlow

      Fran, are you saying that sex between humans and animals is OK? Is support for bestiality a Greens position?

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    2. Tweeting Technology

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      Clive, you seem awfully fond of the straw man fallacy. You are imputing something neither said nor implied from Fran's position and then 'arguing' (and I use the term very loosely indeed) against it. I do believe I also detect a whiff of argumentum ad hominem there as well.

      And I hate to say this, but have you actually read the review of 'Dearest Pet', on which the misrepresentation of Singer as condoning bestiality is based?

      If you haven't, it's not intellectually respectable to write about it. If you have, might I suggest that you've read what you wanted to read, rather than the actual content.

      For what it's worth, and for those who are interested, here is the review in question. http://www.come-and-hear.com/editor/na-heavy-petting/index.html

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    3. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      I've replied to you already, answering your contested "philosophical position that can simultaneously support gay marriage and oppose bestiality"

      Its about Consent....are you pretending to be this obtuse in order to dodge the obvious dishonesty in your article or do you really not understand the role that consent plays in ethics?

      "are you saying that sex between humans and animals is OK?" - again what dont you understand regarding non-human animals and consent, you appear to be well qualified but your comments and article suggest otherwise.

      At least 3 times you have asked the same inane question but fail to respond when answered, how many more times are you going to pretend not to understand the difference between human relations and non-human relations and ask this question which has already been answered.

      I wish I could say this is willful ignorance but I have no idea what it is

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    4. Jeff Poole

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Michael Shand

      It's standard denialist procedure Michael.

      Sadly Clive seems to have learned too much when he studied the climate denialists. How many times do they bring up the 'false' Hockey Stick graph of CO2 and temperature after has been vindicated over and over and over again.

      This is exactly the same.

      When your position is based on dogma and refuted by the evidence all you can do is deny.

      It's sad to see a once-progressive force in Australian society become exactly what he used to so powerfully oppose.

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    5. Linus Bowden

      management consultant

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      Clive, I only studied a few undergrad Philosophy subjects at uni, but even I can tell you simply do not understand Singer. Have you even read him? Singer is engaging in the ancient debate of whether there is a difference between a biological 'human being' and a 'person', and if so what role does consciousness play in defining this difference. This debate is at least as old as Aristotle, down through Aquinas, Descartes, Locke, and still rages today. As someone who supports both legalised abortion…

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    6. Linus Bowden

      management consultant

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      Clive, presumably, you will be calling on most of the world's non-human animals to be arrested tomorrow, given how much sex in the animal world is non-consensual?

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    7. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Fran Barlow

      This is a terrible attack on an excellent piece of work. Clive's piece is the first one I have seen which calls a spade a spade, and the outcome is people like you Fran who have no idea what they're talking about yet mount contorted counterarguments that have little basis in facts, and even less in reason.
      The slippery slope argument stands, because there is evidence to show that gay marriage leads to it (e.g., polyamory demands follows gay marriage: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/three-in-marriage-bed-more-of-a-good-thing/story-e6frg6z6-1226218569577

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    8. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Sorry Michael, I missed your answer. Would you mind repeating it please? In your view, is sex between humans and animals Okay?

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    9. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Dania Ng

      "In your view, is sex between humans and animals Okay?" - not a problem, I have said the same thing a number of times here so I will eloborate a little bit more but the short storey is "If you can gain consent from all involved/affected parties - then have at it horse" - of course at this point in time we cannot gain consent from animals, so until that changes I dont see how it would be okay.

      For me right and wrong relate to the well being of sentient creatures.

      So if your actions do not affect…

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  8. Clive Hamilton

    Vice Chancellor's Chair, Centre For Applied Philosophy & Public Ethics (CAPPE) at Charles Sturt University

    It is true there is a lot going on in my article, which perhaps explains some of the confusion in the comments above. The two essential points I am making are as follows.
    1. What Singer and Bernardi share is that they begin from a worldview/ philosophy that leads them to treat homosexuality and bestiality as the same morally. Singer concludes that they are both acceptable; Bernardi that they are unacceptable. Their positions do not allow them to explain why homosexuality is acceptable but bestiality is not. Therefore, in my view, their worldviews have a flaw. I attempted to articulate why this is so in section 38 of my book "The Freedom Paradox". Has anyone else done it?
    2. The second point is about social hypocrisy. Bernardi is excoriated (quite rightly) for smearing homosexuals by linking them with bestiality. Yet Singer gets an AC for providing a moral defense of bestiality (and other socially repugnant conclusions). That requires some explanation, don't you think?

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    1. Graeme Macpherson

      health professional

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      But Singer did not get an AC for that.

      He got the AC for "eminent service to philosophy and bioethics as a leader of public debate and communicator of ideas in the areas of global poverty, animal welfare and the human condition."

      Besides, he merely philosophised about bestiality.

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    2. Geoffrey Edwards

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      "Bernardi is excoriated ... for smearing homosexuals by linking them with bestiality. Yet Singer gets an AC for providing a moral defense of bestiality (and other socially repugnant conclusions). That requires some explanation, don't you think?"

      But the explanation is there in your question.

      "Smear" versus "moral defense"

      One is an attempt to malign something by generally dishonest means.

      The other is an honest attempt to explore our moral evaluations.

      You are focused on outcomes…

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    3. Peter de Lissa

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      I didn't find the part in your article where you reference Singer's attitude towards homosexuality, am I missing something or was that just assumed?

      If you wanted to make a point about social hypocrisy why didn't you mention Singer's comparison of bestiality with the way in which animals are treated for the ends of providing us with food?

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    4. Dan Smith

      Network Engineer

      In reply to Geoffrey Edwards

      These are excellelnt points, as is Graeme Macpherson's for pointing out that the AC was _not_ received specifically for "services to bestiality" or some such rubbish.

      The author's arguments are greatly diminished by these disingenuous statements. Perhaps an article refuting Singer's arguments with some points of reason would get him on the way towards his own AC.

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    5. Geoffrey Edwards

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      "Their positions do not allow them to explain why homosexuality is acceptable but bestiality is not. Therefore, in my view, their worldviews have a flaw"

      I missed this earlier. It is such an odd statement.

      In effect - the logical conclusion of their position doesn't permit them to affirm a position you agree with so they are thereby flawed.

      (P&~Q) is the only acceptable conjunction.

      Any argument that results in either (~P&~Q) or, (P&Q) or, heaven forfend, (~P&Q) is flawed.

      This is called pre-judice.

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    6. Tom Janson

      Technician

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      Hamilton's position does not allow him to explain why heterosexuality is acceptable but homosexuality is not. Therefore, in my view, Hamilton's worldview has a flaw.

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    7. Stephen McCredie

      lawyer

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      I thought Bernardi was reviled because everyone saw that if homosexual marriage was a slippery slope to bestiality then by the same process of deductive reasoning hetrosexual marriage was on the same slippery slope and should likewise be condemned.

      More seriously the whole notion of "bestiality" is based on the conceit that there is something categorical about being "human" as opposed to say "dog". An understanding of evolutionary processes shows what a nonsense this is on both the individual…

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    8. In reply to Jeff Poole

      Comment removed by moderator.

    9. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Jeff Poole

      1. Reason is, like Christianity, a human construct - it doesn't exist outside human consciousness.
      2. Animals can't understand either Christianity or reason so therefore should not be used to gratify humans.
      So you're wrong on all counts.

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    1. Rod Lamberts

      Deputy Director, Australian National Centre for Public Awareness of Science at Australian National University

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Have to agree with you Patrick (and a purple elephant from me as well). Not Clive's shiniest work, and certainly not how I would choose to represent Singer either.

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    2. Clive Hamilton

      Vice Chancellor's Chair, Centre For Applied Philosophy & Public Ethics (CAPPE) at Charles Sturt University

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Thank goodness for Patrick’s considered response. I had not intended to provide an extended argument for rejecting bestiality on ethical grounds, because to do so requires the articulation of a philosophical standpoint that differs radically from Kantian duty ethics (Kant was famously dismissive of animal welfare) and utilitarianism. Yet the fact that among the Australian public a large majority accepts gay marriage and an even larger majority is repelled by bestiality does suggest that there is…

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    3. Geoffrey Edwards

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      As you have invoked Schopenhauer, I will invoke his student.

      "5. That which causes philosophers to be regarded half-distrustfully and half-mockingly, is not the oft-repeated discovery how innocent they are—how often and easily they make mistakes and lose their way, in short, how childish and childlike they are,—but that there is not enough honest dealing with them, whereas they all raise a loud and virtuous outcry when the problem of truthfulness is even hinted at in the remotest manner.

      They…

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    4. Clive Hamilton

      Vice Chancellor's Chair, Centre For Applied Philosophy & Public Ethics (CAPPE) at Charles Sturt University

      In reply to Geoffrey Edwards

      Well, Nietzsche was referring to Kant, though the reference to "cold, pure, divinely indifferent dialectic" could (without the dialectic) apply to Singer. At least my reading of Schopenhauer has the virtue of not attempt to bury my "prejudice", that is, my explicit starting point that bestiality is immoral.

      So what's yours?

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    5. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      " a metaphysical reaction that is expressed as a visceral one" - Really your going to start talking about Metaphysics?

      Interesting, how does intercourse with non humans affect our Chakra Clive?

      Me thinks you use the word metaphysically loosely in the hopes of only reffering to emotional responses but also to imply some sort of spiritual nonsense.

      So let me ask, How does intercourse with non humans affect our chakra? Metaphysically of course? what measurements have you taken to show the metaphyscial effects of beastiality on our chakra?

      (I'm guessing you think Chakra's are nonsense but that metaphysics is absolutely a real thing because...uhhh....because.... - fill in the blank mate)

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    6. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      " a metaphysical reaction that is expressed as a visceral one" - Really your going to start talking about Metaphysics?

      Interesting, how does intercourse with non humans affect our Chakra Clive?

      Me thinks you use the word metaphysically loosely in the hopes of only reffering to emotional responses but also to imply some sort of spiritual nonsense.

      So let me ask, How does intercourse with non humans affect our chakra? Metaphysically of course? what measurements have you taken to show the metaphyscial effects of beastiality on our chakra?

      (I'm guessing you think Chakra's are nonsense but that metaphysics is absolutely a real thing because...uhhh....because.... - fill in the blank mate)

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    7. Geoffrey Edwards

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      "Nietzsche was referring to Kant"

      In that particular section of Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche was referring to "philosophers", everyone get's a shout out.

      "prejudice"

      You don't need the inverted commas. You are openly commited to a finding a Philosophy that agrees with your current position.

      "So what's yours?"

      Explicit starting points.

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    8. Tom Janson

      Technician

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      "That one feels disgust at something—as some still do with homosexual sex—does not make it morally wrong, but the enduring and universal social taboo relating to bestiality makes it reasonable to accept that it is wrong. "

      Why the double standard here? Why does disgust at bestiality make it wrong, but disgust at homosexuality not make it wrong?

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    9. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Tom Janson

      "Why the double standard here? Why does disgust at bestiality make it wrong, but disgust at homosexuality not make it wrong?" - There is no double standard, assuming you can get consent from your partner, what is wrong with beastiality or homosexuality?

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    10. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      Thanks for the detailed and considered reply, Clive.

      It looks like we agree that both utilitarianism and Kantian deontology don’t tell the whole story and don’t get to the heart of many of our strong intuitive moral responses. We also agree that those intuitions deserve to be taken very seriously, that a lot of our moral reasoning is post-facto, and that moral dumbfounding shouldn’t lead us to simply dismiss intuitive reactions as misguided or flawed. However, while I don’t think we can simply…

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    11. John Newton

      Author Journalist

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      'Put slightly differently, Schopenhauer argued that each species can be considered the representation of a Platonic Idea. If the world is the expression in phenomenal form of the noumenon, it is expressed in many grades or forms. Thus, in this terminology, each species of animal reflects a Platonic Idea that captures all that is universal to the species and not changed in its individual forms. These ‘species ideas’ are unique manifestations of the noumenon before they appear in the phenomenon. This…

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    12. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Thanks Patrick, thats a lot of reading but looks like a good resource, I am skeptical about people that study the "non-empirical character of the nature of existence".

      I am also a little skeptical of his use of language and its implications, I imagine when Clive used the term Metaphysical;

      "a metaphysical reaction that is expressed as a visceral one"

      All he is refferring to here is having an emotional reaction not governed by rationality, to exchange the word emotional with metaphysical…

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    13. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to John Newton

      I think you're right John, that such a framework - if we were to accept it, and as I say it involves some pretty big and controversial metaphysical commitments - could indeed be used to critique genetic engineering. I wonder where that leads us though: if gene splicing violates Platonic forms, doesn't old-fashioned cross-breeding of the sort farmers have done for millennia do so as well?

      That's related to a very old question as to just how specific Platonic forms get. Consider the Mallard (Anas…

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    14. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Michael Shand

      I can't speak for Clive's intentions obviously, but I'd say 'metaphysical' does add something important here. I have a visceral reaction to nails being scraped down a blackboard, for instance, but it's not a metaphysical reaction, that is, it doesn't relate to the fundamental nature of things or the conditions of their being.

      Now, consider the revulsion you might feel if someone blew up Uluru to make a huge quantity of gravel to sell, while replacing it with a visually identical fibreglass replica…

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    15. Tom Janson

      Technician

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Yes Clive does sounds like he is appealing to a spiritual/religious/noumenal reality. It sounds like he believes that homosexual relationships align with this supposed hidden reality, and thus are virtuous, and that bestiality and incest are violations of it, and thus are sins.

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  9. Dan Smith

    Network Engineer

    Bernardi wasn't "excommunicated". He was given the chance to step down because he didn't exercise political tact, not because his party, many of whose members may share his views, thought that his comments were morally untenable.

    As others have commented already, your comparison is bogus: Bernardi made a false equivalence between gay marriage and bestiality, using the latter to evoke feelings of revulsion towards the former. This tells us more about how his mind works, rather than making any serious…

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    1. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Dan Smith

      Yep, like the usual coterie of commentators here, Dan, you have misunderstood what Bernardi said. If you look carefully at the words, there is no comparison made between homosexuality and bestiality. Furthermore, Bernardi was simply asking about, what is then to follow? Would it be bestiality? In other words, it was a rhetorical question - a poor one, but nevertheless a rhetorical one. Of course the media and the invested minority sections in society would not see this as a possibility, but rather…

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  10. Peter Hindrup

    consultant

    If, as I understand homosexual applies to men or women who favour their own sex, how could the suggestion of bestiality be applied to Lesbians?

    To apply the term to male homosexuality, an assumption must be made as to the form of their sexual activities. To quote Michael Kirby from a Dangerous Ideas lecture: ‘ too many people worry far too much about who puts what where’.

    Then too, literature on sexuality indicates that anal sex is common, or relatively common, in heterosexual relationships…

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  11. Comment removed by moderator.

    1. Tom Janson

      Technician

      In reply to Michael Shand

      " there is nothing wrong with consensual sex between 2 concious beings - full f**kn stop"

      What about consensual pedophilia?

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    2. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Tom Janson

      What about consensual pedophilia? - Thats a good question but I think the answer is fairly intuitive if you think about it.

      Can we trust a child to consent to something they dont understant? is that really consent?

      Why do we charge children differently under the law from adults for the same crime?

      Obviously it takes more time to thoroughly explain than I have the capacity for but the general idea is that you cannot gain informed consent from a minor whether it be taking out a home loan, smoking ciggerettes or having sex. Does that help at all?

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    3. Tom Janson

      Technician

      In reply to Michael Shand

      "Can we trust a child to consent to something they dont understant? is that really consent?"

      I consented to sexual activity as a minor (with other minors). It was really consent. You said all that matters is consiousness "end of story". Children have consiousness.

      If children cannot "really consent", I'm not sure how non human animals could consent (as you imagine they can), as all animals possess cognitive abilities below that of human children.

      "Why do we charge children differently under the law from adults for the same crime?"

      Because they're different to human adults, as are animals.

      "Does that help at all?"

      Not really, as you seem to be arguing that animals can consent, but that children can't, which strikes me as somewhat inconsistent.

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    4. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Tom Janson

      No no, you have gotten me wrong, just chill out for a bit because we actually agree.

      "Not really, as you seem to be arguing that animals can consent, but that children can't, which strikes me as somewhat inconsistent." - This is a mis-characterisation of what I said, this is the same mistake Clive fell into and it is commonly reffered to as straw-manning. Either diliberately mis-understanding or making up a position that your oppenent holds and then attacking it.

      What I have said several times…

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    5. Tom Janson

      Technician

      In reply to Michael Shand

      I'm not trying to mischaracterise your argument, however it appears that I did, and I apologise.

      I am still trying to understand your argument though. You say "if we can get consent from animals (or minors), which currently we cant, then I dont see any issue"

      What do you mean by "if we could get consent", and "currently we can't". Are you talking about the law?

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    6. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Michael Shand

      A nonsensical argument, exemplified by the oxymoron: "rattling on about something similar but different". The offensiveness of some of these people here reeks of gay advocacy. The hateful pose and demeanor is also telling of things to come - where these aggressive bigots will try to use rationalisations (because they have no clue what reason is) which are aimed at presenting anything that disagrees with their world view as fallacy. But you only need to ask awkward questions, and then sit back and…

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    7. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Tom Janson

      Thanks mate, I am refferring to my own understanding more than anything but yes, the current laws also reflect this.

      In the same way that a young child is not capable of fully understanding what they would be agreeing to nor how this would affect their emotional development or potentially their physical health - I have not seen anything that would demonstrate that a non human animal would be capable of making these decisions either, but I may be wrong, I jst havent read anything that would suggest…

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    8. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Dania Ng

      "The offensiveness of some of these people here reeks of gay advocacy. "

      Ummm, are you saying that advocating for the rights of our fellow australians is offensive?

      "The hateful pose and demeanor is also telling of things to come - where these aggressive bigots will try to use rationalisations (because they have no clue what reason is) which are aimed at presenting anything that disagrees with their world view as fallacy"

      Is this just pure projection on your part? I mean you first stated…

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  12. Clive Hamilton

    Vice Chancellor's Chair, Centre For Applied Philosophy & Public Ethics (CAPPE) at Charles Sturt University

    What I find striking about the bulk of the comments on my article is just how intellectually lazy much of the left has become. The syllogism that seems to drive much of the commentary runs like this:
    Cory Bernardi is loathsome and I reject everything he stands for.
    Cory Bernardi says bestiality is morally unacceptable.
    Therefore I think bestiality is morally acceptable (or at least I am unwilling to condemn it).
    This position is strengthened by another syllogism:
    Peter Singer provides high-profile…

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    1. Brad Stringer

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      Clive, being from neither left nor right (nor academia), I feel qualified to respond.

      The reason why Bernadi's comments were unanimously pilloried (and why he was ultimately sacked) because they were bigotted nonsense. I am unable to tell you why in eloquent philosophical speak (such as that above) but the fact is that you and I both know it to be true. Don't we?

      On the other hand Peter Singer [does not appear to be] a bigot (he is just a crazy but hyper intelligent guy with an AC who doesn't eat meat but can justify screwing it).

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    2. Geoffrey Edwards

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      Syllogism 1

      - This, Clive, is called a strawman. The objection to Bernardi is generally the attempt to link homosexuality with bestiality. ie just like you, they consider one acceptable and not the other. The outcry is over that linkage.

      Syllogism 2

      - Another strawman. Arguing that Peter Singer is rightly respected a s a Philosopher does not imply support for bestiality or even support for Singer's ideas. I think Nietzsche is a fantastic contributor to the Philosophy, but that does not mean…

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    3. Director Edupunk

      Education Analyst

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      Are you the real Clive Hamilton? Or are you some imposter who has hacked his Conversation account?

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    4. Yuri Pannikin

      Director

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      Clive, I thought your article was much too pejorative and you might have used a more reasoned approach for wider endorsement. Singer's an intellectual adventurer and I'll never criticise him for that. As Peter de Lissa pointed out, he seems to be merely juxtapositioning the ethics of killing and eating animals and copulating with them, and it certainly does expose some ethical hypocrisy it seems to me. I'm sure he's not 'advocating' either one.

      Even so, I can't disagree with most of what you say with regard to the '60s' left, which I call the 'loony left' and so do many others. They have become the conservatives of the modern era, with barely an original thought to pass around.

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    5. Tweeting Technology

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      This is quite an extraordinary statement. I've seldom seen so many rigorously thought-out comments on a Conversation thread, nor such a proportion demonstrating no obvious ideological bias. Yet attacking a poorly-constructed argument, long on rhetoric and short on substance now becomes indicative of 'how intellectually lazy much of the left has become'.

      Evidence, Dr Hamilton? Argument? Or merely the logic of assertion?

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    6. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      Im just a lonely software tester trying to make his way in the world but I will take you up on your challange;

      "philosophical position that can simultaneously support gay marriage and oppose bestiality" - Consent, it is all based on consent, if you are 2 consenting adults, and which of us isnt, then what you 2 do is none of our business. We do not yet know how we could get consent from an animal but if we could then there would be no justifiable argument against beastiality except for the yuck factor.

      What about this "Philisophical Position" do you disagree with?

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    7. Dan Smith

      Network Engineer

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      What nonsense. The bulk of the comments here take you to task on the actual shortcomings of your article (did you read Patrick Stokes's comment, for example?)

      Your syllogisms here are unwarranted strawmen. Many commenters (myself included) have pointed out that we disagree with Singer's conclusions; this is hardly an interspecies love-in chatfest. As Geoffrey mentions above, the chief issues are (1) the false equivalence between comparisons of Bernardi and Singer based on a superficial topical link and (2) the implication that Singer received his AC explicitly for contribution to zoophilia/infanticide, or at least ought to be revoked because some of his more controversial ideas disgust you.

      Not responding to these charges, and inventing others, is almost childish.

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    8. Clive Hamilton

      Vice Chancellor's Chair, Centre For Applied Philosophy & Public Ethics (CAPPE) at Charles Sturt University

      In reply to Brad Stringer

      Brad. Yes, I agree with all of that. But why, I want to know, do so many people gloss over Singer's obnoxious positions? Why is it left to conservatives whose moral sense is rooted in Biblical injunctions, which have no widespread support, to be the critics of bestiality. They are allowed to appear (and I stress appear) to represent the sentiments of "ordinary Australians". It seems to me that the left makes a serious error in ceding this ground to the Australian Christian Lobby and the like.

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    9. Peter de Lissa

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      Intellectual laziness indeed! Why not throw in a few more keywords to prick the ears of the religious right? Maybe then you can sell more copies of the book you keep spruiking. Talk about going to the dogs.

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    10. Clive Hamilton

      Vice Chancellor's Chair, Centre For Applied Philosophy & Public Ethics (CAPPE) at Charles Sturt University

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Well, what I try to do in the longer piece I posted above is precisely to try to explain the "yuck factor". That seems to me to be at the heart of the matter, and it is the whiting out of the yuck factor that bothers me about Singer's position.

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    11. Jeff Poole

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      Because Bernardi wasn't 'criticising' bestiality Clive.

      He was using it as a stick to beat up queers.

      You know that as well as I do.
      Why are you using such ridiculous sophistries - you used to be better than that.

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    12. Tweeting Technology

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      Oh dear. The 'yuck factor'. Allow me to employ a reductio. Pawpaw is immoral, because I feel a visceral disgust at the sight and smell of it. Sadly, arguments based on the yuck factor seldom - if ever - rise above this level to give any insight more compelling than (in Pauline Hanson's words) 'I don't like it'.

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    13. tim brennan

      mostly harmless

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      Clive it is actually the social hypocrisy element of your argument that is the weakest. I personally share some of your concerns with Singers utilitarianism and if your first comment (the one when you discussed Schopenhauer) had been the main basis of your article this would have been entirely reasonable (if a little high brow for the conversation).

      However you contend not just that Singer's arguments are invalid but also that it is hypocrisy for Singer to be celebrated whilst Bernardi is criticisised…

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    14. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      Sorry Clive but how did we go from;

      "Instead of taking up my challenge to think through a philosophical position that can simultaneously support gay marriage and oppose bestiality, I am accused of a "moral panic", "Christian moralising"......The left is often criticised for running out of ideas and having no coherent alternative"

      all the way to;

      "Well, what I try to do in the longer piece I posted above is precisely to try to explain the "yuck factor"

      How did we get from "The Left have…

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    15. Graeme Macpherson

      health professional

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      Those syllogisms are formal fallacies, Clive.

      The first draws an affirmative conclusion from negative premises and the second contains an undistributed middle fallacy and an illicit minor fallacy.

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    16. Brad Stringer

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      I guess if you wanted to attack Singer for his alleged moral repugnancy you should have just come out swinging, rather than trying to sneak through the back door via a flimsy comparison with Bernadi (they are after all different...errr...animals).

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    17. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Jeff Poole

      No he wasn't. You're making things up - it's a style. It is you who above here has used others' comments as a stick to beat up Christians. Stop making things up.

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    18. In reply to Dania Ng

      Comment removed by moderator.

    19. Tom Janson

      Technician

      In reply to Brad Stringer

      Singer and bernardi are saying much the same thing - that taboos fall away one by one.

      -Bernardi is a conservative, and of course wants to stop taboos falling further.
      -Singer on the other hand doesn't care.

      Yet that's not what people attack bernardi over, they attack him for saying exactly what Singer has said. People dont' say "you're only saying this because you hate gays" they say in effect "how dare you compare homosexuality to filthy disgusting bestiality!

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    20. In reply to Tom Janson

      Comment removed by moderator.

    21. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Dania Ng

      You sound like you have a loose grasp of reality, I dont know who Michael Barnett is and your accusation that I am him is an outrages conclusion to jump to

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  13. Malcolm Lithgow

    Grad Student

    I might be wrong about this, but it seems to me that the bias against Bernardi (not to mention Hamilton), and perhaps his views, is getting in the way of many commenter's thinking. How many of us have checked what Bernardi actually said, to determine whether he was making a fallacious, emotional slippery slope argument, rather than a logical slippery slope one (which can be a legitimate form of argument -- note the second description in Wikipedia)?

    Let's try to fix that, by shining a little light…

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    1. Clive Hamilton

      Vice Chancellor's Chair, Centre For Applied Philosophy & Public Ethics (CAPPE) at Charles Sturt University

      In reply to Malcolm Lithgow

      Malcolm. Thank you for this contribution. It helps a great deal. The thing is that Singer too, in criticizing sexual taboos as such, shares Bernardi's view that there is a kind of natural progression in which the knocking down of one barrier to a sexual practice opens the way to knock down the next; it's just that Bernardi hates the idea and Singer is relaxed about it. My challenge--and I admit it's a hard one-- is to say where and why the "slippery slope" should stop.

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    2. Geoffrey Edwards

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      "My challenge -- and I admit it's a hard one -- is to say where and why the "slippery slope" should stop."

      Which seems to be the challenge of all ethical "philosophy." How do I permit the things I want without giving support to the things I oppose and at the same time avoid looking ridiculous. Divine command has a lot going for it.

      I recommend moral anti-realism and expansive view of self-interest.

      http://beyondmorality.com/abolishing-morality-b/

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    3. Tom Janson

      Technician

      In reply to Geoffrey Edwards

      "I recommend moral anti-realism"

      The problem is that it can make you less "moral". I fluctuate between moral realism and moral anti-realism. I find I can cheat and steal* a lot more easily when I believe morals are flexible inventions than when I believe morality is a genuinely binding thing.

      * The usual stuff - pirated movies, music, office stationery, etc

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    4. In reply to Jeff Poole

      Comment removed by moderator.

    5. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Jeff Poole

      eff, correct me if I am wrong, but you have your own agenda, as is clearly evident in the nonsensical and hateful diatribe against anyone that doesn't hold to your particular view of reality you contribute here. Whatever anyone says that contradicts your world view is automatically wrong and, very predictably, you present rhetorical and decontextualised one liners designed for propagandist slurring of those whom you hate - i.e., Christians. How do you think you came to be here, living a life that affords you access to the internet and the time to hound people in fora like these with your biased view of the world? I guess those nutty Christians traditions have nothing to do with it?

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    6. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Dania Ng

      And by the way, I can report comments that are clearly hateful and discriminatory as well. If you think that it's okay to denigrate those who hold religious beliefs but at the same get offended at questions and observations regarding your obvious agenda, think again. My opinion is just as important as yours.

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  14. Jeff Poole

    logged in via Facebook

    Clive said

    "when so many have parked their brains in a 1960s world of unthinking libertarianism"

    Infinitely better than parking your brain in a 14th Century world of unthinking human exceptionalism.

    Far superior to parking your psyche in the world of non-existent skygods and demanding that others take their reason off the hook. Just. Because.

    Less comforting perhaps....

    And you are letting your psychological and political slip show there sweetie. By berating 'the left' in that unthinkingly Barnardi-esque way you've already shown how far behind you've left Green principles.

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  15. Andy Semple

    logged in via Twitter

    I suggest the Bernardi haters read the following article published in the UK's Telegraph by Dr Tim Stanley on OCT11 titled, “The dark side of sexual freedom: American 'zoophiles' take on the language of equality.” Read it all and you’ll understand where Senator Bernardi is coming from and maybe you Bernardi haters might cut him some slack for what he said.

    Ref: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/timstanley/100108943/the-gay-rights-movement-has-emboldened-americas-bestiality-advocates/

    Referenced from: http://www.andysrant.com/2012/09/dark-forces-liberal-party-progressives-strike.html

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    1. Geoffrey Edwards

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Andy Semple

      Sexual freedom is different to the right to marry another person.

      Homosexuals in most western nations already have sexual freedom.

      Extending them the same right that already exists for hetero-sexual couples ie, the right to marry another person of their choice doesn't actually do anything for the case of bestiality on the grounds of equality.

      Zoophiles are not being denied the right to marry another person of their choice.

      They are being denied the right to engage in sexual activities with animals. All people will be denied this right equally - no issue with inequality there.

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    2. Jeff Poole

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Andy Semple

      I'd love to cut Cory some slack.

      The same slack that his fellow queer-hating religionist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad uses in the ropes his government hangs queer children with...

      Oh, but that makes me a 'hater'.

      No, it makes me angry. Angry that the apologists for religion, like Cory, like you, refuse to look at the reality of their bigotry and hide it behind lies.

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    3. Peter de Lissa

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Andy Semple

      Marriage as recognised by the Australian government is a contract, and is about assets. It won't ever extend to animals in Australia because they can't enter into legal contracts.

      End of story.

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    4. Malcolm Lithgow

      Grad Student

      In reply to Geoffrey Edwards

      Geoffrey,

      You said, "Extending them the same right that already exists for hetero-sexual couples ie, the right to marry another person of their choice..."

      If you are claiming that the current marriage act allows heterosexuals the right to marry another person of their own choice, you are partly correct. However, that choice must be an unmarried person of the opposite sex of an appropriate age.

      Last I checked, that was the only right heterosexuals had. And homosexuals have that same right. So do people of any other sexual orientation. If heterosexuals or anyone else chooses someone outside these requirements (for example, someone who is already married) then their choice is denied.

      It seems, then, that you are claiming that homosexuals should be extended additional rights, to marry people outside these requirements. I'm interested to know why you think that these rights should be granted.

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    5. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Malcolm Lithgow

      "Last I checked, that was the only right heterosexuals had. And homosexuals have that same right." - They have the right to be straight basically

      this argument seems way too much like;

      "Black people have their own fountain and white people are not allowed to drink from that one, so we all have the same rights, the right to drink from the white fountain or the black water fountain...." yeah no bigotry here.

      Your argument that homosexuals have the right to marry heterosexuals means they have…

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    6. Malcolm Lithgow

      Grad Student

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Michael,

      Of course heterosexuals have the right to marry homosexuals! So long as they are a member of the opposite sex, not married, and of an appropriate age.

      The marriage act doesn't address the sexual orientation of the two members of a marriage.

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    7. Fran Barlow

      teacher

      In reply to Malcolm Lithgow

      Malcolm Lithgow said:

      "It seems, then, that you are claiming that homosexuals should be extended additional rights, to marry people outside these requirements. I'm interested to know why you think that these rights should be granted."

      Cheeky! You moved the goalposts -- I'm keeping this as an example of equivocation fallacy for my students.

      One the one hand, you rely on the distinction between homosexual unions and homosexual identity to say that homsexuals have the same marriage rights as…

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    8. Malcolm Lithgow

      Grad Student

      In reply to Fran Barlow

      Fran,

      You are correct that changing the law would give everyone the same rights, not just homosexuals. However, my statement is not, in fact, inaccurate, since homosexuals would receive these additional rights (I didn't say "only homosexuals") and would be the only ones to benefit directly from them (I'm open to correction on this point).

      Moreover, you seem to admit, when you say, "The reform is intended in practice to allow heterosexuals and homosexuals to marry the consenting unmarried person of their choice," that the reform is extending the rights available to people who wish to marry. Thus it is not merely allowing homosexuals the same rights that heterosexuals have now (since they are already available), but rather extending the rights of all parties. So my point stands.

      Now, the question is, once again, what is the justification for extending these rights?

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    9. Fran Barlow

      teacher

      In reply to Malcolm Lithgow

      "my statement is not, in fact, inaccurate, since homosexuals would receive these additional rights (I didn't say "only homosexuals") and would be the only ones to benefit directly from them (I'm open to correction on this point)."

      OK ... so, just to be clear, the beneficiaries of the law will be the entire human community who hold open the possibility of one day marrying the unmarried consenting person of their choice. The reference to "homosexuals" was misleading in context as it was a tiny subset…

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    10. Malcolm Lithgow

      Grad Student

      In reply to Fran Barlow

      Fran,

      To be clear, my reference wasn't misleading in context since I was referring to the entirety of the beneficiary group, not to a tiny subset. (Unless you can show me how extending marriage to same-sex partners benefits heterosexuals.) To assume that everyone benefits from this with no evidence presented is rather bold, don't you think?

      Now to your justifications. Thank you so much for providing these, I appreciate your courtesy.

      Your first justification assumes that we should not restrict…

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    11. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Jeff Poole

      Cristophobic and heterophobic much? Bernardi represents a good proportion of society who believe that marriage ought to describe formal unions between two persons of opposite sex, so get over it. Stop your gay propaganda and lies, please.

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    12. Fran Barlow

      teacher

      In reply to Malcolm Lithgow

      Malcolm:

      "my reference wasn't misleading in context since I was referring to the entirety of the beneficiary group, not to a tiny subset."

      That inference isn't plain. The narrow specifcation you used ("It seems then that you are claiming that homosexuals should be extended additional rights, to marry people outside these requirements") discourages the inference. It leads plainly to a focus on that tiny subset rather than the group as a whole. The phrasing seems contrived to logic chop…

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    13. Geoffrey Edwards

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Malcolm Lithgow

      "It seems, then, that you are claiming that homosexuals should be extended additional rights, to marry people outside these requirements."

      No. I am making an argument that a change to legislation in favour of same sex partnerships on the basis of equality does not have any bearing on the case for bestiality.

      "I'm interested to know why you think that these rights should be granted."

      Because I want it to be the case.

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    14. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Malcolm Lithgow

      Really, your argueing that sex is only between a man and a women and that marrige doesnt address the sexual orientation of the individuals....and you dont see any contradiction here?

      Read that back again,

      ".....So long as they are a member of the opposite sex, not married, and of an appropriate age. - The marriage act doesn't address the sexual orientation of the two members of a marriage."

      and you dont see any contradiction in what your saying?

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  16. Brad Stringer

    logged in via Twitter

    Nietzsche at 50 paces - Thanks for the entertainment today!

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  17. Fran Barlow

    teacher

    Reflecting further on your article Clive it's hard to escape the impression that had you not sought to leverage the Bernardi remarks in making your attack on Singer, you'd probably have written a less palpably specious piece.

    This article is really not about the similarity between SInger and Bernardi as there is no comparison to be made -- your reference to the latter was really just a marketing hook. Your principal gripe is with Singer and his paradigm. You might have used Bernardi as a segue…

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  18. Peter Hindrup

    consultant

    Repeatedly commentators raise two points: 1: consent.

    Some (male) dogs get extremely excited around some women at particular times in their period cycle.
    Anybody doubting that it is sexual hasn’t seen the phenomena!

    I grew up in an extremely conservative society yet photos of animals, principally dogs, ‘mating’ with women turned up periodically.

    2: Accepting changes to accepted mores will/may alter society even further, sometime in the future.

    Were I to tell a group of young people the way things were where I was their age, they would imagine that I was talking of an extremist Moslem society, and they would (justifiably) fall about laughing.

    The emphasis that was put on virginity that I know existed and believed in, is today incomprehensible to me.

    Arguing the issues as an abstract disregards the reality that change in society is constant, and that what some are calling so elegantly Zoophiles currently exist, and it is reasonable to assume, always have.

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  19. Glenn Tamblyn

    Mechanical Engineer, Director

    Clive.

    I usually agree with your stance on most things, but not with this. Not that I am advocating any particular position, but I find equating Singer and Bernardi really objectionable. Why? Bernardi used his comments to appeal to deep prejudices and attack some people by invoking other prejudices. Essentially a use of emotional biases to undermine reasoned thought

    Singer on the other hand does something utterly different. He challenges us to justify the views we hold as being based on well…

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  20. Russ Davidson

    retired engineer manager

    Why must we tolerate and publicise such discusting morally bankrupt comments as this tripe from people who are on the public payroll and who teach our kids.
    To lable Singer as a renowned Australian scientist denegrates all who are employed in academia. Such renown is odious and for his views is a waste of space.

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    1. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Russ Davidson

      "To lable Singer as a renowned Australian scientist denegrates all who are employed in academia" - seeing as he's not actually a scientist, if he was routinely labeled that it would certainly say something unflattering about the education system, yes.

      Singer is a moral philosopher, i.e. he belongs to the scholarly discipline that is uniquely concerned with determining the nature, meaning and scope of morality. I'd be very interested to hear, then, on what basis you deem his work 'morally bankrupt.'

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    2. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Dear Patrick

      I admit that Singer's no scientist, but I want to contest his claims to being a good moral philosopher by contrasting some of his views and methods with your's. To do this, I cite, I hope not too digressively, a fine opinion piece on the flaws in Archbishop Jensen's proposition about what constitutes the best in marriage in The Conversation that you wrote a few weeks ago.

      From memory (I summarise inadequately, but its on the public record) you showed how your own secular, non-religious…

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  21. Chris Watkins

    logged in via Facebook

    Hamilton appears to confuse his distaste and horror for the immorality of others.

    There may be problems with ultra-rationality - in which case it's appropriate to point out what they are, rather than swinging to the other extreme and presenting one's own beliefs as moral absolutes without any attempt at rational explanation.

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  22. Michael Leonard Furtado

    Doctor at University of Queensland

    Clive, profuse congratulations for your courage in nailing this. From the reaction its evoked, its clear to me that you've hit the mark. Bernardi's at best a fool and, at worst, a homophobe. His argument about a slippery slope from gay marriage to bestiality has properly exposed his cant and the disrespect he showed in his address to parliament, his party, the Australian people and, above all, to gay persons. You properly denounced him, and while I cannot speak for Abbott, he did at least disenfranchise…

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  23. Dania Ng

    Retired factory worker

    This is an excellent article, thanks Prof Clive Hamilton.
    I must also congratulate The Conversation for finally allowing a more balanced, which doesn't slavishly bows to the ideological agendas generally aired here; it is refreshing to see, and gives me hope.
    A high impact piece as well, judging by the discomfort expressed by the majority of comments here. Pity that there are so many hateful people patronising these threads.

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  24. Sandra Kwa

    Grad Cert Ethics and Legal Studies, CSU

    Animals give signals to each other if they are sexually receptive. If they did that to a human, that would be consent. If the human then chose to take the animal up on its offer, then that would be mutual consent, and if no one else is affected in the process, then there simply is no moral issue. Sex, per se, is not a moral issue and any 'yuck factor', in the minds of those whose business it isn't, doesn't don't make it one.

    Peter Goldsworthy - another fearless Peter - explored the idea in his…

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  25. Mick Mac Andrew

    Rev Father

    I asked myself the very same questions about Bernardi and Singer, Clive. I put it down to a trend in the Australian media towards encouraging political and cultural progressivism and other proponents in the ilk of Singer are retired High Court judge Michael Kirby, former Greens leader Bob Brown, ABC Q&A anchor man Tony Jones and aspiring Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull.

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  26. Tom Janson

    Technician

    I wish people like Clive would just admit that they hate bestiality the same way conservative christians hate homosexuality.

    We all hate stuff for no good reason! It's what humans do. No need to pretend god, the platonic realm, or the noumanal order is somehow informing our prejudices, lol...

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