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ETHICS LESSON
Re: "Saving Terri Schiavo, Killing America: Behind the Right-to-Life Pitch is a Culture of Death" by John Sugg (Nov. 19-25)
The provocative headline for John Sugg's article caught my attention. A writer who begins a discussion of euthanasia or the ethics of life and death with a quotation from Adolf Hitler on the permissibility of mercy killing, sets for himself a substantial task: to produce an essay of such argumentative rigor and insight that the quotation is given a respectable and responsible intellectual context.

Unfortunately, Sugg's essay, written in a snappy, user-friendly style, does not deliver the careful analysis or well-informed commentary that such serious ethical and social issues require. I will address only one of the many problems with Sugg's essay — his irresponsible and superficial discussion of Peter Singer, whom he refers to as "Doctor Death."

After a cursory and dismissive introduction to Princeton philosopher Singer, whose application of utilitarian ethical theory to a number of social issues has earned him both widespread respect as a moral philosopher and influence beyond the reaches of academe, Sugg asks, "Where did this appalling thinking hatch?"

In fact, utilitarianism does not have its origins in the eugenics movement, as Sugg offers. Utilitarianism is a redoubtable moral philosophy with origins dating back to the 17th century. It came to prominence in England in the 19th century through the writings of social visionaries Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, who applied utilitarian principles to a number of social ills, in the hopes of creating a more egalitarian society. Utilitarianism is still a contender among contemporary moral philosophies.

Singer recognizes that advances in social policy and in ethics do not come without subjecting common attitudes and assumptions to careful philosophical scrutiny. Whatever one may make of his sometimes startling conclusions, his reasoning is not easy to defeat and deserves to be assessed with care and respect.

For readers impressed by Sugg's casual style and rhetorical dash, the dismissive and scoffing tone of his essay may mask his ill-considered views, uninformed argument and shallow analysis. But even my students in an introductory course in philosophical ethics are better-informed, more careful reasoners: ready to weigh the positions with due respect.

As I tell my students, opinions are cheap; careful, valuable arguments are not. It is disappointing to see the Weekly Planet offer such drivel under the guise of responsible public discourse.

—Brook J. Sadler, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
University of South Florida
Tampa

WE LOVE SUSAN
Re: "Eyes Wide Shut" and "It Takes a Village" by Susan Edwards (Oct. 22-28 and Dec. 10-16)
Kudos on two more pearls. Your article on Cuba was right on the money. I have been there myself — legally — and agree that Fidel would probably be long gone by now were it not for the United States' asinine "embargo."

Regarding Ulmerton Road, after living at the west end of it for over a decade, I couldn't take any more of it and moved. Glad to hear I'm not the only one who felt that way about Pinellas' prime boulevard.

It's refreshing to read your thoughtful articles. Intelligent journalism is still alive somewhere.

—Frank Campbell
Indian Rocks Beach

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