I have a dim recollection of Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarian philosophy from a course in college. Utilitarianism appealed to me at a time when I was more certain of myself intellectually and more academically confident that I have been since. It had something to do with being a sophomore, I believe. For utilitarians, moral behavior is that which increases happiness and reduces human suffering.
You could make the case that Peter Singer has done more good than anyone else alive. A professor of ethics at Princeton University, Singer is the author of Animal Liberation (1975), which instigated the modern animal rights movement. Singer didn’t give us cruelty-free cosmetic production or vegetarian restaurants, but he has done more than anyone else to popularize such ideas.
As we hurtled toward Shakespeare, Ontario, I felt a familiar cold visceral tightness and fear. “Shakespeare,” I brooded. “I hope the name isn’t an omen. ‘Shakespeare’ suggests tragedy. Or worse, comedy.”
When Kentucky was considering a ban on all cloning of human embryos this year, the debate struck close to home for legislator Jim Reynolds. His father suffers from Parkinson’s disease and dementia—the sort of diseases scientists hope to cure through the use of the versatile stem cells that can be extracted from cloned embryos.
A judging scandal at the Olympic ice-skating rink may have seemed to many little more than an entertaining diversion in a season of terrorism and recession. But there was an important moral issue behind the story of alleged collusion.