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ES1531

ASSIGNMENT 1 CRITIQUE

SASIDHARAN RAVIKUMAR A0088818L GROUP: E28 TUTOR: HAPPY GOH WORDS: 826

A justification for the rise in morality over the years


In the article Human Beings are improving, despite fears of moral collapse (2012), Singer claimed that people have become morally responsible over time and this has led to a decrease in violence. He argued that the reasoning ability of the average human has risen over the years and this has helped us to extend our moral consideration to even non-human animals. He observed that the total death toll from the two World Wars was actually much less compared to the death count from violent actions from the tribal hunters. Lastly, he asserted that the increase in the ability to reason is not directly related to the improving education standards as the IQ tests concentrate on abstract reasoning rather than vocabulary or mathematical ability. I agree with Singers stand that morality has increased over time but he has committed various fallacies in his arguments. He has not clearly defined what kind of violence he is referring to in his arguments and also his claim that education has not affected IQ levels is not backed by substantial evidence. Singer has made the false assumption that immoral people tend to commits acts of violence which is not true. In his arguments Singer compared the ability to reason to an escalator in a way that both of them take us to places we never expected to reach. This is a false analogy because we always are aware of our destination before taking an elevator. While it is true that having an intellect to reason well helps us in solving problems it also has various negative effects. It may lead to a society where all actions are based on logic only and where all emotional and moral considerations are not taken into account which results in us excluding people from our circle of moral consideration. Singer has also not directly acknowledged what kind of violence he is referring to in his arguments. Violence may exist in different forms such as physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, verbal abuse and financial abuse (DeGrazia, Mappes & Zembaty, 2011). In his arguments, Singer only touched upon physical

violence which neglecting the other types completely. While it is true that directs physical confrontation has reduced over time verbal and emotional abuse are still plaguing the society today. Singer then claimed that the death rate due to violence has drastically decreased over the years. He noted that evidence from archaeological sites suggest that 15 percent of humans at prehistoric age had a violent death while only 3 percent died during the two world wars in the first half the 20th century. This evidence is immensely flawed because of the population difference between the prehistoric and modern times. There has been an exponential increase in population which may even suggest that the 3 percent of the population in the 20th century is actually larger than the 15 percent of that time. In the current age most of the first world countries have weapons of mass destruction like atomic bombs and are focusing on chemical and biological warfare. This is not a good indication of moral progress as it shows that the world is balanced on a thin edge and even a slight act of aggression by one nation may plunge the world into violence. Terrorism and corruption are also some of the major problems that are prevalent in most of the nations that Singer mentioned in the article but he just dismissed them carelessly without elaborating on their negative effects. Lastly, Singer argued that improved IQ scores should not be easily attributed to the improved education system as the IQ tests are more focussed on abstract reasoning rather than vocabulary or mathematical skills. This claim is not entirely justifiable because it begs the question of what abstract reasoning is, which he has not clearly answered in his arguments. Also, improved education does play a role in the increasing IQ scores because when people gain more knowledge the also gain then tendency to reason abstractly. Our moral commitments are derived from the fact that we are able to distance ourselves from our personal perspective through abstract reasoning (Pinker, 2011). Better reasoning does not always lead to a moral conclusion though. This has been seen throughout history during numerous wars which were caused due to different reasoning by both sides, but the end result of war is obviously not the right or moral thing. This negates Singers claim that there is moral progress through better reasoning. In conclusion, Singers claim that moral consideration has increased over time due to better reasoning is not aptly supported by proper arguments. He has failed to define what kind of violence he is referring to and this very important because most of his arguments are based on the reduction in violence. He should consider about the negative effects of reasoning before assuming that it always leads to better moral situations. He also underestimated the power of proper education in the advancement of ones reasoning skill.

References:
DeGrazia, D., Mappes, T., & Zembaty, J. (2011). Social Ethics: Morality and Social Policy (8th ed.). New York, NY. McGraw-Hill. Pinker, S. (2011). The Better Angels of Our Nature (1st ed.). New York, NY. Viking Adult. Singer, P. (2012, May 10). Human beings are improving, despite fears of moral collapse. Retrieved from the World Wide Web: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Opinion/Commentary/2012/May-10/172886-humanbeings-are-improving-despite-fears-of-moral-collapse.ashx#axzz272gN8XyE