Camosy and Singer at Rutgers

I’ve written previously on this blog about my admiration for the work of Fordham’s Charlie Camosy, in particular his book Peter Singer and Christian Ethics: Beyond Polarization, which systematically compares and contrasts the views of “Singerites” and Christians/Catholics across several controversial areas of moral inquiry. As Chris noted on our Twitter a couple of weeks ago – you should follow us on Twitter, by the way – Camosy has a new book out entitled For Love of Animals: Christian Ethics, Consistent Action about the status of non-human animals in the Christian ethical tradition, which we have purchased and hope to dissect here at RM in the near future.

Camosy and Singer seem to have struck up an intellectual and pedagogical partnership akin to the partnership-that-never-was between Singer and fellow Princeton professor Robert P. George. The two held a public forum at Rutgers University last month that Chris and I had hoped to go to but were ultimately unable to attend. Fortunately, a recording is now available online! It’s quite long, but well worth watching. (Warning: it’s even longer than those Blankenhorn videos I’ve been plugging.)

One of the most important points that Camosy makes is that one should always aim to engage his opponents in a spirit of “intellectual solidarity,” trusting that their arguments are made in good faith and that both parties share a genuine interest in discovering the truth. He explains that he originally studied Singer’s work in an attempt to refute it, but over time found that, despite still disagreeing strongly with various conclusions of Singer’s philosophy, the differences between them were smaller than he had imagined. He came to realize that each could nudge the other to consider ethical questions that he might previously have ignored.

The discussion offers a model for how people with sharply different worldviews can come to engage one another productively. The moderator, Rutgers philosophy professor Jeff McMahan, not only does a great job steering the conversation but is also literally a moderating influence, stepping in at one point to defuse an awkward exchange with an outraged audience member and to reiterate a rule against ad hominems.

There’s a lot more to be said about Singer, Camosy, and the surprising areas of overlap in their ostensibly divergent worldviews, but for now we’ll just let you digest this video while we finish reading For Love of Animals. Hopefully it’ll get you amped for whatever we might drop when we’re done.

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