The Influence of Jean-Paul Sartre’s Philosophy on Peter Singer’s Ethics
Peter Singer is one of the best known contemporary thinkers, and his work has been stirring vivid debates, being carefully researched by philosophers, ethicists and theologians. Although it is generally known that Peter Singer has been concerned with the field of practical ethics, and he has been a promoter of animal rights, however the present article aims at evincing an interesting aspect, i.e. the extent to which Sartre’s philosophy made a real impact on Peter Singer’s ethics, and the effects of this impact. The present article starts from the premise that there are numerous common points between the opinions of these two authors. In any case, in his work Peter Singer repeatedly mentions the French existentialist philosopher, sharing the latter’s passion for man’s freedom to choose and follow his own path in life, beyond any traditional axiological points of reference of Judeo-Christian extraction. To Peter Singer freedom means choice, ethics is natural and not supernatural, and man does not dispose of an essential nature able to condition his future and thus the repertory of his personal moral options. In other words, Peter Singer agrees with Sartre’s statement in Existentialism is a Humanism, according to whom our existence precedes our essence. Just like Sartre, Peter Singer does not believe in absolute, immutable truths, and so his ethics and anthropology have a specific secular profile confirming in fact a certain reality, viz. the postmodern dissolution of the sacred.
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