David Oderberg

Professor David S. Oderberg (born 1963) is an Australian philosopher and ethicist based in Britain since 1987. He is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading.[1] He describes himself as a non-consequentialist or a traditionalist in his works.[2] Broadly speaking, Oderberg places himself in opposition to Peter Singer and other utilitarian or consequentialist thinkers. He has published over thirty academic papers and has authored four books, Real Essentialism, Applied Ethics, Moral Theory, and The Metaphysics of Identity over Time. Professor Oderberg is an alumnus of the Universities of Melbourne, where he completed his first degrees, and Oxford where he gained his D.Phil.[1]

He was appointed editor of Ratio, the philosophical quarterly, in late 2012.

Applied Ethics

Applied Ethics, which was first published in 2000, has become one of the most important of Oderberg's works.[3] Oderberg applies his traditionalist viewpoint to some controversial ethical issues: abortion, euthanasia, animal rights, capital punishment and the Just War.[4] In Oderberg's opinion, abortion is morally wrong because the fetus is an innocent life, and taking an innocent life is morally wrong.[5] This is in contrast to Peter Singer's view that, as a fetus essentially does not merit being called a person, the termination of a pregnancy cannot be compared to the killing of an innocent human being.[6] More controversially, Oderberg compares backstreet abortion to contract killing, arguing that the state has no more right to legalize and regulate abortion on the ground that this would take it out of the 'back street' than it does to legalize and regulate contract killing on the same ground. On the subject of euthanasia, he argues that the practise is immoral, because, like abortion, it involves the intentional killing of an innocent human being. Voluntary euthanasia is no more justifiable that involuntary, since a person has no absolute right to do whatever they want with their body. Furthermore, he believes the current scientific definition of brain death is unsatisfactory both on metaphysical grounds and from an ethical point of view.[7] Oderberg's position on Animal Rights is essentially that of Aquinas – animals do not have rights because they are not moral agents. On the death penalty, Oderberg supports the state's right to enforce capital punishment, because justice must be retributive and death, being the worst punishment, is the suitable punishment for the worst crime – e.g. murder. Oderberg supports just war theory, and believes that civilians who do not contribute to the war effort should not be targeted. In virtue of this, he regards the use of atomic warfare in World War II to have been a seriously immoral act.


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