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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Well-Written Must Read by Singer
I never would have thought that I would come across a work of non-fiction that I couldn't put down, but here it is!

Fascinating and thought provoking, in Rethinking Life and Death, Singer shows how and why the western world has already started moving away from the Judeo-Christian sanctity of human life ethic. He sites the emphasis on 'brain death' and the...
Published on August 15, 2005 by DLJ

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1 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Am I missing something- HUGE lapse in Logic!
I disagree with Mr. Singer on almost every point, but some of his premises are sound. I believe that all humans are persons. If you make an argument that personhood is earned through "performance" that is one thing that outsiders can measure. However, if personhood is achieved through what one EXPERIENCES, then how on earth is anyone in a position to judge those...
Published 15 months ago by KEO


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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Well-Written Must Read by Singer, August 15, 2005
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This review is from: Rethinking Life and Death: The Collapse of Our Traditional Ethics (Paperback)
I never would have thought that I would come across a work of non-fiction that I couldn't put down, but here it is!

Fascinating and thought provoking, in Rethinking Life and Death, Singer shows how and why the western world has already started moving away from the Judeo-Christian sanctity of human life ethic. He sites the emphasis on 'brain death' and the acceptance of Galileo's discovery that we (humans) are not the center of the universe as the beginnings of the break down of this ethical system.

Singer reports where many western nations currently fall both legally and in mainstream medical practice with regard to controversial topics including abortion, infanticide, stem cell research, euthanasia, and assisted suicide. Furthermore, Singer uses well-reasoned logical arguments to show why these current interpretations of the sanctity of human life ethic are unsustainable.

In the last section of this book, Singer presents a working model for a new quality of life ethic and effortlessly shows how they would apply to situations in which our traditional ethic yields unsatisfactory results. Additionally, Singer shows the practical and moral justification for his most controversial stance - acceptance of infanticide.

One thing I really thought was magnificent about this book is that, while Singer obviously supports a shift to whole-hearted acceptance of a quality of life ethic, he doesn't insist that as a reader you agree with him. Singer leaves perfectly open the door of maintaining a sanctity of (all) life ethic; he just makes sure the reader understands the consequences of such an ethic in its pure and unadulterated form.

Once again, I have to compliment Singer on his amazing writing style. This book really reads more like a novel than a work of non-fiction. At the end of each section I was left on the edge of my seat, wondering what Singer would bring up next! Needless to say, I was never disappointed. Singer has wonderful wit and is equally critical of all sides of the argument. He also includes many telling narratives that make Rethinking Life and Death both entertaining and truly enlightening.

It is in no way surprising that many religious types will condemn this book. After reading Rethinking Life and Death, there is only one reasonable conclusion that one can come to: the Judeo-Christian sanctity of human life ethic is logically and morally indefensible. As individuals we can certainly choose to put our heads in the sand and ignore the problem, but as Singer states, "The question is not whether [the Judeo-Christian sanctity of human life ethic] will be replaced, but what the shape of its successor will be."
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's refreshing to see an author tackle such topics, February 26, 2004
By 
Eric Lunt (Barrington, IL USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rethinking Life and Death: The Collapse of Our Traditional Ethics (Paperback)
Peter Singer is a modern philosopher that's not afraid to drive down some dark moral alleys. In this book, he tackles the topics of brain death, organ harvesting, abortion, infanticide, and animal rights. For the most part, he does a fantastic job of establishing a premise and then logically progressing to a conclusion that may leave our traditional ethics in shambles.
Dr. Singer's arguments related to quality of life, the rights of a fetus, and examining "brain death" for what it really is were persuasive and effective I thought. When he got to discussing the rights of animals as they relate to humans, though, I thought he got a little sloppy. Instead of leading you from A to B to C as he did earlier, he kind of goes from A to C to F, and ignores that there may be a G. His "consciousness equation" that he applies to infants born with only a brain stem, adults in a persistent vegetative state, and gorillas as a case against "speciesism" seems inappropriate and ignores the sum potential of each species. In my opinion, invalid generalizations lead to untenable conclusions.
This is not to say that I believe that animal testing is justifiable or that pro-life advocates that aren't vegans aren't hypocrites: my personal beliefs are beside the point. It just seems that Singer's past as a founder of the Australian Animal Rights Movement betray him a little bit here and reduces the effectiveness of the argument as a whole. It is, however, refreshing to see an author tackle such pregnant topics without fear.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great book by Peter Singer, July 21, 2004
By 
Chris Sandvig "Chris S." (Bellingham, WA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rethinking Life and Death: The Collapse of Our Traditional Ethics (Paperback)
I am a great fan of Peter Singer and this book has further strengthened my respect for him. The book starts by examining the inconsistencies and weak ethical foundations of the "sanctity of human life" ethic. He provides numerous examples of situations that have occurred since the invention of the respirator in the 1950's where the application of this ethic has led to disastrous outcomes. He describes the many inconsistent and arbitrary "patches" that we have applied to shore up this ethic, concluding that a new ethical standard is needed. He proposes a new ethical framework based upon factors such as quality of life and how the decision to end a life will affect the interests of the individual, family members and society as a whole.

His arguments are clear and well supported and his writing style is lively and easy to read. This book is informative and provocative. I highly recommend it.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars an eye opener, May 15, 1999
By 
J. Mackenzie (Toronto, Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rethinking Life and Death: The Collapse of Our Traditional Ethics (Paperback)
This book adresses some serious questions about human acceptance to the the putting to sleep of brain dead and other humans that have no capacity for life. The ethical considerations and implications are discussed and argued well. The extension to the abortion issue and where to draw the line (if any) between abortion and murder is discussed. as well as with regards to malformed foetus'. Well written
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking volume on what makes a being human., September 14, 1996
By A Customer
This review is from: Rethinking Life and Death: The Collapse of Our Traditional Ethics (Paperback)
The author gives many examples of situations which make one think about when a being is actually human or deserves the rights we commonly associate with humans. Singer discusses both ends of the question: when should medical personnel be allowed to terminate the life of a patient without hope of recovery, and when should a woman be allowed to abort her pregnancy. He also argues that non-human animals deserve more thought as to whether are subject to the same ethics as we apply to humans. In all the book is quite fascinating and well worth reading
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A coherent theory of ethics to think about life and death, October 27, 2011
By 
Boris Yakubchik "professional" (Manalapan, NJ United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rethinking Life and Death: The Collapse of Our Traditional Ethics (Paperback)
Peter Singer is arguably the sharpest thinker about these issues. In this book he illustrates the irrationality and inconsistency of our current laws and most people's thinking about issues of life and death through varied medical examples across the world. Ethics of abortion, euthanasia, and treatment of people in comas all get a rigorous treatment within the book. The author argues that medical decisions and laws as well as the religious and political positions of the past have been incoherent - a hodgepodge of patches that more quickly demonstrate the crumbling of the framework still in use, rather than a nuanced view of life and death.

Through lucid arguments, the author shows a more coherent ethic that answers the pressing concerns of our ever-growing medical capabilities, responds in a humane way to the thousands of people who wish to end their life rather than suffer (and pull their families and doctors through suffering), and a multitude of other issues that affect millions of lives.

In the end he shares a coherent set of five mutually-compatible positions that are a worthy, and a much-needed replacement to what is currently in use.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Collapse Through Dismantling, August 29, 2011
By 
JWinters (Central Arkansas) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rethinking Life and Death: The Collapse of Our Traditional Ethics (Paperback)
Dr. Singer's work is quite helpful in the statistics he cites, the anecdotal stories he tells, and his articulation of his views. The most startling aspect of this work is the fact that based on a few stories concerning individual situations, he draws conclusions and expects his readers to follow him in them which have sweeping implications for how society should view the sanctity of human life. When the reader comes to the conclusion of the book, she will find that the conclusion is far more implied than overtly stated. If this is how one prefers a philosophical book to end, then this will be delightful. The book is worth reading, but beware to two opposite schools of thought: To the physicalist, you will find an implied conclusion and a lack of syllogistic argumentation for your presuppositions. To the personalist, you will find that the conclusion can be quite slippery to refute, because of its implied nature as opposed to an outright assertion.
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6 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read, January 25, 2001
By 
Vegyrex (Illinois USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Rethinking Life and Death: The Collapse of Our Traditional Ethics (Paperback)
This book is both stunning and disturbing. It asks questions regarding our ethical stand on abortion, euthanasia, and the line we draw between life & death. Singer, as he did in Animal Liberation, forces us to ponder these thought provoking issues.
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1 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Am I missing something- HUGE lapse in Logic!, April 14, 2013
I disagree with Mr. Singer on almost every point, but some of his premises are sound. I believe that all humans are persons. If you make an argument that personhood is earned through "performance" that is one thing that outsiders can measure. However, if personhood is achieved through what one EXPERIENCES, then how on earth is anyone in a position to judge those experiences?

Unless Peter Singer remembers his lack of goals, aims and consciousness from when he was a fetus or a newborn, and unless he remembers his previous life as a comatose patient, or a child with down syndrome, or a gorilla, his logical arguments have no grounds.

None of us have ever experienced being another. We cannot know what that experience is. Sure, we can measure performance and we can measure physical signals. But is absurd to say that is is "known" what a newborn infant or anyone else perceives or understands of their world.

Although I totally disagree with it and find it shocking, abhorrent, evil and immoral, an argument could be made that those who cannot contribute to society or those who are a burden to society should be killed. However, in no way can an argument ever be made that those who do not have certain feelings or preferences should be killed. NO ONE CAN KNOW IF OTHERS HAVE CERTAIN PERCEPTIONS, FEELINGS, OR PREFERENCES!
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4 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars So-so book with some critical thought, otherwise a re-hash of old ideas from the 70's, September 11, 2009
This review is from: Rethinking Life and Death: The Collapse of Our Traditional Ethics (Paperback)
Singer proposes to redefine death based on quality of life rather than (the current) sanctity of all human life. Basically a might-is-right attitude, with those who possess full abilities and consciousness being considered fully human, but those who lack full ability and/or consciousness considered something less. Dangerous thinking, but then again, this is nothing new.

Singer even goes as far as saying some animals should be considered "persons" because of their high level of consciousness and thought. Makes me think of my pug, who under Singer's proposal would have full human rights, such as the right to free speech, bear arms, due process, representation, vote, etc. It's laughable, but what else would you expect from a pantheist? Whereas a fetus, down syndrome baby, a person in vegetative states, elderly with dementia/Alzheimer's, etc. would not be considered "persons" and should not be expected to have full rights, or any rights. With that said, he advocates infanticide up to 30 days after birth to give parents the choice of exterminating their child if he/she has some undesirable defect. It would actually be funny, if only a few believed as he does, but more and more are signing on to this way of thought.

In summary, it's well thought out book with interesting examples. Singer's no slouch, but is very misguided IMHO, especially on the infanticide and "animal rights" front. If you support a culture/sanctity of life ethic, it's a good way of seeing how the enemy thinks.
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Rethinking Life and Death: The Collapse of Our Traditional Ethics
Rethinking Life and Death: The Collapse of Our Traditional Ethics by Peter Singer (Paperback - April 15, 1996)
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