02 January 2005

Singer on Posner on Catastrophe

Peter Singer and Richard Posner are two of our most prominent public intellectuals. Posner has a real job (federal appellate judge) that keeps him grounded, whereas Singer, a philosopher, takes flights of intellectual fancy. Posner is a pragmatist. Singer is a consequentialist. Both can (and do) claim John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) as a forebear: Posner for Mill's classical liberalism (see On Liberty [1859]) and Singer for Mill's utilitarianism (see Utilitarianism [1861]). (This, better than anything, shows the tension in Mill's thought.) Here is Singer's review of Posner's latest book: Catastrophe: Risk and Response. (Thanks to Bob Hessen for letting me know that the review was going to appear, or else I might not have found it.) By the way, if you're interested in the moral status of animals, as you should be, you will enjoy this dialogue between Singer and Posner.

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