The unspeakable of the human condition. Against Peter Singer's thesis

  • Valentina Voce | Dottoranda, Corso di Dottorato in Scienze della Persona e della Formazione, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milano, Italy.


The present work is based on Unspeakable Conversations, an article by Harriet McBryde Johnson in which the author recounts – as a person with an important physical disability – her encounter with Peter Singer, the Australian philosopher also known for having proposed as ethically legitimate the practice of infanticide for infants born with more or less serious disease. In this essay the conceptual elements with which Singer supports his thesis about selective euthanasia are discussed: preference utilitarianism as normative theory, the principle of minimizing suffering, the use of “quality of life” criteria and the notion of “person”, reformulated in functionalist terms. After a brief exposition of these assumptions, we proceeded to evaluate their theoretical consistency and to highlight their aporias. In short, Singerian ethics is incapable of giving an account of the complexity of human experience because it is characterized by a strongly reductionist anthropology, vitiated by prejudice against disability and incapable of understanding the human condition: an approach that introduces significant ethical and social consequences.



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Original Articles
infanticide, selective euthanasia, disability, quality of life, Peter Singer, Harriet McBryde Johnson
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How to Cite
Voce, V. (2020). The unspeakable of the human condition. Against Peter Singer’s thesis. Medicina E Morale, 69(1), 49-69.