‘Last Generation?’: A Response

Peter Singer in The New York Times:

The role of philosophers — and I take it, of The Stone — is to stimulate people to think about questions that they might not think about otherwise.  That so many people were roused to comment on my piece, “Should This Be the Last Generation?” — despite comments being closed at one point — suggests that it achieved this aim.  That said, it would have been good if some of those commenting had read the piece with a little more care, and all the way through.

The comments show two common misunderstandings of what I was trying to do.  As an example of the first, Rob Cook of New York writes that “this piece frames overpopulation and environmental destruction in the wrong terms. It assumes that developed countries cannot cut down on consumption.”  But “Last Generation?” isn’t a piece about overpopulation or environmental destruction, and it makes no assumptions about whether developed countries can cut down on consumption.  It just isn’t about that question at all.  It asks a deeper question, one not dependent on the environmental constraints on our planet, nor on the number of people now on Earth.  Even if there were only 1 million humans on this planet, all living at the level of an average citizen of, say, Switzerland, we could still ask whether it would be a good thing to have children in order to continue the species.

Read on

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