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Matt to speak on Singer and Infanticide at 2012 Evangelical Philosophical Society Meeting in Milwaukee

June 18th, 2012 by Madeleine

Every November there is about a two week period in America where a number of professional academic conferences are held where the best of the best in the field gather. For the last two years Matt has been either accepted or invited to speak at them (I was accepted to speak at them last year too but had a visa problem at the last minute so Matt went without me). Anyway, this year they are all being held in Milwaukee and I am happy to announce that Matt received this email last week:

Evangelical Philosophical SocietyCongratulations!  Your paper proposal for the 2012 Evangelical Philosophical Society meeting in Milwaukee (14-16 November) has been accepted for presentation.

Since there were nearly twice as many proposals as spaces, many fine papers had to be rejected.  If for any reason you will not be able to present your paper after all, please inform the EPS program committee as soon as possible so that we can allow one of the alternates to fill the vacated slot.

Again, congratulations, and we look forward to hearing your paper in Milwaukee!

Sincerely in Christ,

The EPS program committee

Yay – so proud of him! The abstract he submitted for blind review was as follows:

Peter Singer, Human Dignity, and Infanticide

Christian theism has traditionally taught that human beings have equal dignity and worth, a moral status that separates them from other non-human animals. Peter Singer has famously argued that this teaching is problematic; human beings are not any more special than animals and doctrines of human dignity are indefensible.  He contend that killing a new-born infant is, in and of itself, no more problematic than killing a non-human animal such as a cow or a pig, and he defends the permissibility of infanticide.

This paper will critically assess one important part of Singer’s position: his understanding of why it is wrong to kill.  In part 1 I will sketch Singer’s “desire account” of killing and its relationship to his own preference utilitarianism and project of animal equality. Following Don Marquis, I will argue that this “desire account” is subject to important counter examples. In part 2, I will note Singer’s attempts to modify his position so as to avoid these counter examples and suggest that these modifications undercut his arguments for animal equality. In part 3, I will suggest that, despite this, there is an important truth in Singer’s critique, one that Christian thinkers can appropriate in developing moral arguments for Christian theism.

Matt did not apply for any other of the conferences this year, although he was invited to give a paper at the Society for Biblical Literature but the session got cancelled. He and I are contemplating applying to Notre Dame’s annual conference on the week before, it’s theme this year is Justice so both of us could, and I still have enough time on my US Visa to go, but I am not sure if I have time to write a paper as my case-load is insane, so it might be just Matt. Anyway – yay Matt!

Update
Wow, already in receipt of donation offers to help get him there! We love you guys :-) We have just over $1.5k left over from blog donations and fundraising last time which constitutes the refunds from my aborted-lack-of-visa trip. I will price Auckland to Milwaukee and put up a fundraising widget in the sidebar soon – as with previous years accommodation options will be needed so Milwaukee readers if you have a couch talk to me :-)

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13 responses so far ↓

  • Congratulations on the hat-trick! I’d say this cements you as one of New Zealand’s best in your field, and one of the world’s best.
    When will you know if you have an EPS Apologetics Conference invitation?
    Where do I donate to help get you there?

  • Yay! Way to go! God willing I will see you both there this year.

    God Bless,
    Lisa

  • How can there be anything in Singer’s argument that Christians can use for good?
    I’m intrigued to hear your answer.

  • Jarrod, Singer actually develops several lines of argument which parallel the arguments made by theists in the debate over God and Morality:

    1. Singer argues that naturalism cannot ground an adequate account of equal human dignity.
    2. Singer argues that the existence of objective moral properties, such as wrongness, do not fit with a naturalistic world view. To maintain objectivity he argues (a) moral language expresses commands; (b) a correct moral judgement is one that would be made by a fully impartial person who was fully informed. That’s not far from a divine command theory.
    3. Singer argues that if evolution and naturalism are true, then our moral judgments are unreliable and cannot be trusteed.
    4. Singer argues that there is no reason to be moral; given the truth of naturalism we can have self-interested reasons to do X and moral reasons to do not X, and there is no reason for preferring moral over the non-moral perspective.
    5. I think Singer’s distinction from Hare between the intuitive level and the critical level of moral thinking can do a lot of work in the discussion of the problem of evil.

    Numerous theists have offered the same lines of argument; arguably in many instances Singer’s version is more robust.

  • Matt, you may be aware, Shelly Kagan seems to have a similar view to Marquis concerning death and he’s published on it recently (though perhaps in semi-popular form) – http://chronicle.com/article/article-content/131818/

  • Thanks Zach, that’s an interesting albeit frustrating article.

    I have a lot of sympathy for Marquis view, it seems on the right track. One worry with it is that unless its supplemented with something it seems to undercut notions of human equality, people of different ages have longer and shorter futures and even people with of the same age differ in their futures significantly so it seems to entail that peoples right to life is stronger or weaker given there age and future happiness, and that seems problematic.

  • Matt’s talk at the EPS Apologetics conference last year was one of my highlights – lurve the kiwi accent! I’m please to hear he is coming to Milwaukee and I hope to see him at the EPS Apologetics conference too.

    Madeleine you have to come this year. My wife really wants to meet you and hear you speak, she works as a law clerk.

  • Glen I would love to come but Matt and I have just gone out on a limb and raised extra money on our mortgage so we can purchase a contract for services from my law firm so that I can keep more of the revenue I bring in.
    It is a scary prospect given it means handing over the security of a fixed and regular income each week but it gives me the potential to earn more – assuming the new fixed fees for Family Legal Aid is viable, yet to be seen. Given this, I need to focus on billing and put some time on this new venture to see how it pans out. At this stage, I am not sure that financially we could cope with me heading overseas for two weeks.
    Also, the nature of my profession is such that one day out creates a massive backload so I am not even sure I could manage it even if we were not about to go out on this limb.
    So I want to but it depends on how things are going! I also do not feel right about not paying my own way if I am not speaking and we have just used all our funds on this opportunity.

    UPDATE: I have been invited to speak, I will find a way to get there :-)

  • My wife and I live in Fox Point – which is about 10 miles north of Milwaukee.
    I work in downtown Milwaukee.

  • [...] was already going anyway as his paper on Singer and Infanticide got through the blind review process and was [...]

  • Not to be a stick in the mud but if you need money why don’t you go to your local church?

  • Jane well first of all we have and they are helping us and we are very grateful for their support so I am not sure why you have assumed we are not trying this route.

    I would like to address the deeper issues in what you have said because I can detect an implied criticism of our asking on our blog for help yet you appear to think it is appropriate we ask our church.

    I do not see what the difference is. In asking our church we are acknowledging that what we do and what we will be doing and gaining from our proposed trip serves the church and someone who gives a service that is valued should be able to expect some remuneration or at least their costs to be covered.

    The reality is that what we will be doing and what we will gain will serve the church because most of the benefit will be accessible via our blog. It is true that we engage in direct ministry within the church, on the university campuses, in schools, to home schooling groups and to the public via other mediums such as radio, print and TV media but our primary ministry is through our blog. Therefore on the same basis it is justifiable, appropriate and understandable that we approach the church for support, surely the same is true, even more so, that we approach the blogosphere.

    At the end of the day, people choose whether they click the links to offer us support. They do not have to. We have no expectations of anyone, we just put the option there (and we put it there because so many people have emailed us and spoken to us in person asking us to so that they could support us).

    At the end of the day God provides. Matt has enough funds to go and he will depart on Tuesday. I do not have enough funds to go as of yet but the ticket prices remain low, my visa is valid and ready to go, my court calendar remains clear, I have locum support at hand if need be, we have the support with our children on standby so that if the funds for me to go appear in time I can go. If they do not then it wasn’t meant to be.

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