The Moral Instinct By Steven Pinker

Decent Essays

The Moral Themes of Peter Singer In The Moral Instinct, Steven Pinker cites Haidt’s “primary colors” of the moral sense (329). Pinker believes that all moral decisions can be categorized with these primary colors and, though everyone can see these colors, they are prioritized differently by different people. Haidt identifies five primaries—harm, fairness, community, authority, and purity—all of which make up the moral spectrum. These recurring moral themes can be found everywhere from cultural norms to the decisions and beliefs of individuals. Though the themes can be identified in works regarding ethics and morality, they—if applied correctly—can also give insight into the way the author prioritizes the moral colors.

Singer’s Ethical Argument Peter Singer, a prominent moral philosopher and public intellectual, has written at length about many ethical issues. He subscribes to utilitarianism, which is the position that the best moral action is that which maximizes the well-being of conscious entities; this view is made apparent through his writings. In his essay What Should a Billionaire Give—and What Should You? Singer presents the idea that although the rich are capable of mitigating extreme poverty, there has been little improvement for the poorest 10 percent of the world’s population. He maintains that all life is equal and, therefore, saving the lives of the poor is a moral imperative for those who can afford to. “We are far from acting in accordance to that belief,”

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