Friday, July 20, 2012
I recommend my friend Charles Camosy's new book, "Peter Singer and Christian Ethics: Beyond Polarization." The book is a creative and helpful reframing of the discourse surrounding Singer's work.
Camosy is, without doubt, going to take some criticism from those who believe that he is working (too) hard to rehabilitate Singer's reputation in the Christian community. He is trying to do that, make no mistake. And while making clear his disagreements with Singer, one will not find much moral outrage in Camosy's tone when confronting some of Singer's truly monstrous (in my view) positions. In Camosy's defense, though, moral outrage is not his motivation here. He is walking a very tricky line, urging the Christian community to step back from the categorical demonization of Singer and discern areas of common interest and shared premises without glossing over foundational and unbridgeable differences. I think he succeeds on that front. He does not hesitate to point out when Singer's arguments fall short on their own terms, though he writes with an optimism -- with some basis, given some of Singer's recent comments -- that Singer is still a work in progress, and that his thought is trending favorably.
Even putting the exploration of Singer's work to the side, the book provides an excellent and accessible analysis of current debates surrounding issues such as euthanasia and abortion. And his chapter on non-human animals makes -- at least for this factory-farm consuming Christian -- for some uncomfortable reading. It also provides a rather jarring experience, as Camosy seems angrier with his fellow Christians for our total disregard of non-human animals than with Singer for his views on infanticide. My guess is that this difference is attributable to two factors: 1) Camosy is angered by Christian hypocrisy, and Singer, for all his morally reprehensible views, is no hypocrite; and 2) there is no shortage of anger surrounding the issue of abortion and infanticide, while anger, at least among the Christian community, is virtually non-existent when it comes to our treatment of non-human animals.
It's a provocative book that should be widely read, and one that is worthy of sustained conversation.