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On Humans and Animals

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This Debate

Pythagoras' Dream - technology brought to you by BT/Polycom

Mary Midgley, Peter Singer. Roger Bolton hosts.

Almost forty years after these two philosophers helped create the idea of animal rights, what do they believe would constitute further progress in our attitudes to other forms of life?

The Panel

Live from Melbourne, Australian philosopher, Princeton professor and author of Animal Liberation, Peter Singer joins the "UK's foremost scourge of scientific pretention" (Guardian) Mary Midgley to consider the future of bioethics. Roger Bolton makes sure the tough questions get answered.

Jump to what you want to see in the debate
  • Peter Singer
    The Pitch
    Founder of animal rights dissects human attitudes towards animals
  • Mary Midgley
    The Pitch
    Moral philosopher is worried about the rise of humanism
  • THE CONVERSATION
    Theme One
    The ethics of evolution
  • THE CONVERSATION
    Theme Two
    Pain and suffering
  • THE CONVERSATION
    Theme Three
    The species barrier
  • THE CONVERSATION
    Theme Four
    The sanctity of life?
Join the conversation

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MTGandP on 28/07/2013 5:08pm

I feel as though the moderator did a rather poor job. Not only did he repeatedly interrupt the speakers (especially Midgley), but he kept trying (and failing) to bait the speakers against each other. Midgley's response to the moderator's question about bestiality--"I think it's a bloody trivial point which only the media would have made so much of"--is just perfect.

QuiteContrary on 20/03/2013 7:02pm

Some contraversial moments here discussing human rights at the end of this talk. Treating a baby who's life 'is not going to be worth living' in the way you would treat a puppy is surely more than just a "problem" for those caring for the baby. I don't quite agree in the treatment here of human life in the same way as animals although I do agree that looking at things in that way may be helpful for people faced with those decisions. I don't know as I've never been in that situation and faced with such a decision. Surely, it would depend on the individual and whether they would be ridden with guilt afterwards...and could live with themselves for making such a decision. In this sense it would depend on your attachment (or detachment) to the sanctity of human life, a highly subjective and deeply personal matter.

It is such a difficult issue - Mary Midgley's comments on the fuss made of our freedom(s) and lack thereof regarding freedom(s) to die are certainly poignant. I'm glad this issue is being discussed and the details and complexities of the matter are being addressed, we should probably do more to engage with this if only for the sake of those in deep intolerable suffering having to travel to Switzerland in order to die with dignity and by their own choosing when life has left little options for them.

MikeB on 28/01/2013 11:23am

I have to object to something Midgley says, that the way humans "exalt" their rational capacity, "the glorification of the cognitive part of ourselves," is the "conceit" that has led us to "trash the environment." This is false on its face: It is the simple fact of natural population increase that has "trashed the environment," the fact that there are now over 7 billion of us in every corner of the planet. It is the cornerstone of evolutionary theory: "a ratio of increase so high as to lead to a struggle for life." The problem is a natural one, not merely a "human" one, but that makes it no less tragic.

Grumpos on 10/01/2013 12:20pm

Animal rights, like human rights, have only been partially successful. Certain acts of cruelty have been criminalsed but only where convenient. We are still quite able to treat livestock with total disregard.

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