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POLITICS
Singer authors book on the role of ethics in Bush presidency
University peers give positive reviews of new book




    Peter Singer is best known as one of the most controversial philosophers of our time. He became the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics in the Center for Human Values at the University in 1999 amid heated debates.

    Singer has been recognized for his work in the fields of animal rights and social philosophy. However, he just came out with a new book that delves into politics, "The President of Good and Evil: The Ethics of George W. Bush."

    "Ethics is universal in its scope; it applies to all human behavior, even in war. If it's true of war, it's also true of politics," Singer said.

    According to Singer, there is a disparity between Bush's ethics and actions.

    "Bush thinks that ethics is very important in politics," Singer said, explaining that the question to be examined is, "To what extent does he live up to it?"

    Post-election polls found that, in the wake of Clinton-era scandals, the single most significant reason people voted for Bush was for his moral character. Singer, however, believes that they were "misled that he would be more moderate, more compassionate."

    Singer proposes that religious faith is a large part of Bush's ethics and that he has "a naïve attitude to religious faith."

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    Singer faulted Bush for "simplistically adhering to rules."

    Singer said he had no intimate or personal knowledge of Bush and his motives.

    The book is based to a large degree on the public record, he added.

    Singer said that when Bush talked about morals, "I felt provoked to scrutinize."

    Singer primarily criticizes Bush domestically for blurring the line between religion and state and exhibiting a disconnect between individual freedom and states' rights.

    Singer also said there is a disparity in how Bush values the human life of embryos but not of U.S. soldiers.

    In foreign policy, Singer points to what he sees as the failing of the United States as a good global citizen, in particular in a lack of response to global warming, not supporting the international criminal court and not working with the U.N. in several instances.

    Singer also acknowledged that other world leaders have problems with ethics and "credibility problems," but claimed they are more sophisticated thinkers who do not themselves emphasize ethics so much.

    "As I became more aware of this, at the time I wondered if anyone would publish a book criticizing Bush," he said, referring to the general public deference to Bush after Sept. 11.

    Singer said he has been giving talks in bookstores and that the book is selling well. He presented copies of his book to several of his colleagues, who received the book favorably.

    "It is provocative, clear and bristling with keen observations," politics professor and director of the Center for Human Values Stephen Macedo said in an email.

    "It's an extremely important book for people to read if they want to be responsible and informed democratic citizens," said Jeff McMahan, a visiting fellow in the University Center for Human Values, in an email.

    McMahan added that the book appealed to a wide audience.

    "The book is moderate in tone and completely devoid of polemic. It is well and clearly written and is entirely accessible to a general readership. It is a highly civil form of intervention in democratic politics by an influential philosopher," McMahan said.

    Singer is currently working on a book on the ethics of what we eat.


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