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Whereas Singer's theories on practical ethics are still massively exposed to criticism even 40 years after the publication of his Practical Ethics, until now no study has focused in detail on his answer to the question why one should behave ethically in the first place. This is surprising, considering that Singer focuses on the topic on multiple occasions and that his views are based on a "high" understanding of ethics that necessarily raises the question whether there are rational grounds for behaving ethically. According to him, one who behaves ethically must respect the interests of all living beings that can experience pain and that can think in terms of present and future as much as one's own. How can such ethics be in the self-interest of each person?
After an introduction to Singer's life and work, Sören Swoboda demonstrates by means of central problems connected with the question "Why behave ethically?" the impossibility of an adequate response. Subsequently, he describes Singer's answer and subjects it to a comprehensive critique: Singer's position fascinates, but shows itself to be unsustainable with regard to both the line of argumentation and the result. Instead, it reveals the paradoxes of every exaggerated understanding of ethics. The "universal standpoint", which according to him everyone striving for ethics is obliged to take, sounds attractive but in the final analysis opens the door wide for inhumanity and becomes the fertile soil for those practical ethical propositions of Singer’s that have been – more or less rightly – rejected as "inhuman". In this respect Swoboda's critical examination of Singer's answer to the question “Why behave ethically?” makes a not insignificant contribution to the deconstruction of his Practical Ethics.
In addition, the book points a way forward by introducing its own perspective: For ethics to remain justifiable and 'human', it must be neither conceived from a "universal standpoint" nor oriented only to the wellbeing of one's neighbor. Rather, one must free oneself from idealistic attitudes to ethics, without falling for the deception of the pseudo-religion of egoism, which is just as difficult to provide rational grounds for. Promising approaches to answering the question "Why behave ethically?" will rather arise where one does not seek after the one answer; where human thought and behavior are understood as complex processes within complex, individual situations; where it is accepted that a reason for behaving ethically can never be given for everyone and in every situation; and where one demonstrates the readiness to change the nature of the question: "Why should one tend towards behaving ethically?"
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