Peter Singer and Christian Ethics

Peter Singer and Christian Ethics : Beyond Polarization

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Interaction between Peter Singer and Christian ethics, to the extent that it has happened at all, has been unproductive and often antagonistic. Singer sees himself as leading a 'Copernican Revolution' against a sanctity of life ethic, while many Christians associate his work with a 'culture of death'. Charles Camosy shows that this polarized understanding of the two positions is a mistake. While their conclusions about abortion and euthanasia may differ, there is surprising overlap in Christian and Singerite arguments, and disagreements are interesting and fruitful. Furthermore, it turns out that Christians and Singerites can even make common cause, for instance in matters such as global poverty and the dignity of non-human animals. Peter Singer and Christian ethics are far closer than almost anyone has imagined, and this book is valuable to those who are interested in fresh thinking about the relationship between religious and secular ethics.
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'Here is a first - an attempt to find common ground between the world champion of preference utilitarianism, [Professor] Peter Singer and the global bastion of natural law ethics, the Catholic church, which is both scholarly and yet full of surprises and of interest to ethicists in general and not just those in the camps at the heart of the analysis.' Dr Trevor Stammers, BioCentre ( 'Philosophy makes progress through criticism that is based on a sound grasp of the position under scrutiny, acknowledging its strengths as well as seeking to expose its weaknesses. Charles Camosy does exactly that, which is why, despite the deep disagreements between us, I regard Peter Singer and Christian Ethics as a valuable contribution to philosophy in general, and to applied ethics in particular.' Peter Singer, Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics, Princeton University, and Laureate Professor, University of Melbourne 'Both critics and supporters of the views of Peter Singer will find Camosy's book a valuable read. His comparison of the views of Singer and the Catholic Church covers a wide range of topics including abortion, euthanasia, treatment of the poor, and ethical theorizing itself. Camosy's writing is clear; he is thoroughly familiar with the writings of Singer and related texts, and his analysis is provocative.' Robert Baird, Baylor University, Texas 'This important work by one of the most intriguing voices in a new generation of moral theologians, while defending the profound and prophetic truth of a Christian theological vision, shows the radical potential of Catholic moral teaching by pushing it toward greater specificity and consistency.' Julie Hanlon Rubio, Saint Louis University 'Remarkable ... deserves to be widely read and discussed.' The Tablet 'In this wide-ranging work, Camosy shows himself to be vigorous, lucid, and deeply compelling, compared to Don Quixote only because his ethical sallies are bold, laudable, and inspiring. Trying to draw Catholics and Singerites into productive cooperation might strike some as tilting at windmills, but with the lance in Charles Camosy's hand, I'd stand clear of the mill.' Christopher M. Hays, The Marginalia Review of Books 'This book has much to recommend it as the counterweight to that sizeable literature of anti-Singer polemic by Christians, and it would be useful for students who should be encouraged to move beyond simple polarities in ethical theory.' David Albert Jones, Studies in Christian Ethics '... a very good book. It is well written and clearly argued, and it is about an important question, namely whether Peter Singer's ethical work can be reconciled with Christian ethics.' Scottish Journal of Theology '... a great deal of worthwhile discussion [on] a variety of critical moral issues.' The Linacre Quarterly 'Camosy's work demonstrates how Christians in general and Catholics in particular might engage in moral discourse in an increasingly pluralistic world.' The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 'Charles Camosy's lucid new book on the controversial philosopher and ethicist Peter Singer delivers on its promise to chart a path for Singer and Christians to move 'beyond polarization' ... The book is accessible to nonspecialists and is well suited for undergraduate teaching ... Readers interested only in Singer's changing views, or only in an exposition of official Catholic teachings on the four major areas of ethical concern, will find the book valuable. For readers interested in a dialogue between these two positions, Camosy's book could not be more essential.' Horizons 'Camosy is a good thinker and clear writer and has new and interesting things to say about a number of practical and theoretical issues. The book taught me a great deal about the grounding and nuances of Catholic moral theology.' Teaching Philosophy '... a valuable resource for clergy and chaplains who would like to develop their understanding of ethical principles in relation to a variety of present day practical dilemmas ... I found it informative and refreshing and a very useful resource.' Health and Social Care Chaplaincy 'Is this book work a read? If you don't know much about either Singer or Christian ethics then the book neatly summarises and educates ... I would give it a try.' The Philosopher's Magazine
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Table of contents

Acknowledgements; Introduction; 1. Abortion; 2. Euthanasia and the end of life; 3. Non-human animals; 4. Duties to the poor; 5. Ethical theory; 6. Singer's shift?; Conclusion; Bibliography; Appendices.
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About Charles C. Camosy

Charles C. Camosy is Assistant Professor of Theology at Fordham University, New York. He is author of Too Expensive to Treat?: Finitude, Tragedy and the Neonatal ICU (2010).
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