Peter Singer doesn’t want to do abstractions. At the same time, he wants to base ethics on the notion of equality. Thus, it is against considering that all men are equal, because some have a higher IQ than others, and some are more aggressive than others. Of all the qualities in the world, Singer chose these two – IQ and aggression – as major moral obstacles to equality between men. Because? IQ is not surprising, as the Western tradition, long before Christianity, considered the rational soul to be the distinguishing characteristic of man. A difference in the sophistication of rationality can be striking for anyone who finds rationality distinctive. However, neither the Greeks nor the Christians undertook a categorization of levels of humanity, in which some men were inherently more human than others. “Human” was used by the Romans as a compliment to those whose conduct departed most from animal savagery, not as an intrinsic superiority. When pagans wanted to attribute this kind of superiority to someone (a hero, for example), they attributed to him a share of divinity – being a demigod son of Zeus, for example. With Christianity, every baptized man became a child of God. In any case, it is worth noting that this pagan hierarchy thought of the superhuman, not the infrahuman. The infra-human – along with “eugenics” (forced sterilization) and “euthanasia” (massive execution) – is an invention of scientism. It is in the valorization of aggressiveness, therefore, that the novelty lies. He values aggression because this is the cause of higher wages. Just as the lower wages of blacks in the US could be explained by genes that transmit low IQs, the lower wages of women would be explained by sexual characteristics that decrease female aggression. In the end, the human equality that matters is equal pay. Well, here, too, it could be argued that salaries vary – and that they even vary much more than IQ and aggression. But the fact remains that, according to Singer’s belief, the IQ of populations and the aggressiveness of women is an unalterable fact of nature (in the most recent edition of the book, however, he may consider testosterone applied to females of the species as a solution to the “problem” of lack of aggression. In any case, this would make females “trans men” or “non-binary people”, different categories from “woman.” The problem of women would therefore remain). Singer recognizes that aggression is both good and bad. Men would have higher wages thanks to aggression, but it is also what explains the predominance of men among violent criminals. In the end, salary is really what matters.
What is this equality anyway?
He won’t say which is equality of salary, but it is equality of salary, or, at the very least, of possessions. In his words, “in making an ethical judgment, I must go beyond a personal or group point of view, and take into account the interests of all those affected by it. This means that we reflect on interests, considered simply as interests, not my interests, or the interests of Australians or people of European origin. This provides a basic principle of equality: the principle of equal consideration of interests. The essence of the principle of equal consideration means that, in our moral deliberations, we give equal weight to the similar interests of all who are affected by our actions” (p. ). As the interests of people with low IQ and low aggression must be considered as much as those of high IQ and high aggression, we need, as we saw in the penultimate text, to give them quotas. And as we saw in the previous text on Singer, he assumes that the black race has an especially low IQ.
The very natural objection is: if the right continues to be formulated in individualistic terms, the white who loses a place in college to a black man because of his color could say that both have equal interest in getting into the course. Hence Singer takes the leap of the cat: “As I have already said, greater intelligence does not bring with it any correct or justifiable claim to a greater enjoyment of the good things that our society has to offer. If a university admits students of greater intelligence, it does so not in consideration of the greater interest they have in being admitted, nor in recognition of their right to be admitted, but because, in so doing, it favors objectives which, it believes, will be promoted by this new admission process” (p. 58). Suddenly, the university has individual rights too, and choosing something that privileges intelligence is arbitrary. Candidates “had no special claim to admission; they were the happy beneficiaries of the old university policy. Now that this policy has changed, others benefit, not them. If this seems unfair, it’s only because we were used to the old politics” (p. 58). In this case, Singer has in mind the US Supreme Court ruling that allowed “affirmative action,” that is, racial quotas in universities. It is not a mere change of criteria, but the adoption of a racial criterion. The US has always allowed candidates with meeiras grades on the SAT (their Enem) to enter elite courses. Such students either excel at sports or have made large donations to the institution. The problem is the racial criterion – which even violates human rights.
With Singer, there are no human rights. An institution can choose to violate human rights, which are individual, for the sake of the most arbitrary criteria. Defending animals is just one of their ways to end human rights. Finally, let us note that Singer casts humanity into agency. He is the one who knows which interests are legitimate and which are not.
More lame justifications
Singer says the university could not have KKK values and leaving black people out, for the sake of interests and such. It’s not fair to discriminate against someone for having a lower IQ. But it is fair to discriminate by race – as in the case of quotas – as long as the university’s interests are ethical. It is ethical to give places to blacks in tests that demand a high IQ; likewise, it is fair to give jobs and raises to women, who lack aggression. If none of this is done, a social collapse could come, as affirmative action “mitigates the feeling of hopelessness inferiority that can exist when members of one race or one sex are always in a position of inferiority to members of another race or sex, and because extreme inequality between races means a divided community, with consequent racial tension” ( P. 59). How is a black man going to feel good about himself if he learns he needs quotas to get in? To make matters worse, Singer says that effort must be rewarded at the expense of intelligence, because intelligence is innate (which is a half-truth) and therefore depends on luck. It would be ethical to reward a hardworking donkey. But now, giving quotas encourages a lack of effort, since identity activists – whether black, female or gay – often feel entitled to earn things based on their skin color or biological sex. Now, you can improve your own performance in a test, but not your own “race” or your own sex (in Brazil you can pick a color. In the US, you’re either black or you’re not).
Since at least the years 80 Sowell has been critical of affirmative action. Sowell is ignored in the book. Singer makes a lot of claims that he doesn’t prove – the most dubious, in my view, being that racial quotas are good for national unity. But one of Sowell’s objections is that racial quotas are bad for blacks, who are made the dumbest of the bunch. The assumption that blacks are dumber than whites ends up being artificially true. It goes like this: the SAT is a test designed to measure IQ and admit the smartest students. Elite universities select by quota the blacks who would not be able to enter there – therefore, they are the worst in the class. These would be level at a good university that is not elite. Instead of them going in, the blacks who needed quotas enter – and they will be, once again, the dumbest of the bunch. With racial quotas, the Negro is never the best student in his class, unless he is the best student at the best university of all. This, yes, negatively affects the morale of black people. And it doesn’t hurt to stress that this view of the black person as socially and academically inferior is provincial; in imperial Brazil we had a mulatto intellectual elite.
IQ obsession in the USA is such that rich parents corrupting testing applications. Students could enter as donors, but parents would rather cheat than expose their children’s non-genius. The scandal motivated progressive philosopher Michael Sandel to write The Tyranny of Merit, which I reviewed here. In fact, as much as we disagree with his solutions, the criticism he offers is revealing: US parents raise children like competition foals and they live high on licit or illicit drugs, full of mental illness.
Singer assumes that people want a lot of money, that it is their interest to be provided by institutions – which may have the most arbitrary and human rights violating interests. But a typical case – which Sowell dealt with exhaustively for decades – is that of women who work less, or stop working, after motherhood. The difference between wages is largely explained by this: women do less demanding and well-paid work because they want to take care of their children. It’s not just about the aggressiveness needed to negotiate a raise; it is the very sensible interest in caring for children. Singer has no right to say he knows women’s interests. He is objectively wrong in reducing everything to salary.
They are also deterministic about IQ. Orientals have a higher average IQ than whites. Even so, modern science did not emerge in China, nor in Japan: it emerged among the “donkeys”. That’s how important culture and values are.
Roger Moreira, from Ultraje a Rigor, has a colossal IQ. If life were as simple as Singer says, he would be a billionaire, a great scientist, or a great philosopher. But no one asked Roger if he wanted to be anything other than a rocker. If he had been born in the US to wealthy parents, he might have found being a musician humiliating. Maybe he got drunk on psychiatric medication and maybe he was a mediocre academic dead from an overdose. Who said that IQ is a guarantee of success?
People are different and have different life projects. A man of average intelligence can be a doorman, a family man and a good friend in a group of friends. His life is not measured by a salary, and he doesn’t have to look with resentment at the doctor himself thinking about his salary.
Singer’s vision foments the war of all against all. Thus, there is no society that lasts.
Before Haddad introduced the Enem, Brazil had vestibular “decoreba” . Enem’s idea was for any intelligent and well-literate person to get in. It’s the SAT and it rewards IQ, therefore. With the old memorandum, the student was required to have traditional knowledge of the place. Vestibulandos from Bahia studied Bahian history and read literature related to the state. In the other states of Brazil, ditto. With the replacement of the entrance exam for the Enem, the valorization of abstract thinking at the expense of experience was consecrated. Sign of the times.