Philosopher Peter Singer about discussing pedophilia

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[Interviewer:] Again I can anticipate someone saying: the logic of that might take you to places that you really ought to struggle with, philosophically or morally. For example one might say, just as inter-species sexuality has been fringed on in the past but there may not be a moral objection to it, inter-generational sexuality has been fringed on in the past, and indeed the present, but there perhaps should be no moral objection to pedophilia or to adults engaging in sexual contact with ten-year-olds, who appear to give some recognition and consent to what's going on.

[Peter Singer, Australian moral philosopher:] I think the issue here is whether this harms the 10-year-olds and will harm them in their sexual life later on.

[Interviewer:] And there are some pedophile campaign groups who say: there is no lasting harm.

[Peter Singer:] Well obviously you need to have a look at the evidence as to whether that's true.

[Interviewer:] If there was no lasting harm, psychologically, would that pedophilic encounter [difficult to hear] to be justified?

[Peter Singer:] Look, I am not going to answer that question, because I think you have to really consider that question more thoroughly and I don't think there is any kind of evidence about that. And I don't want to say things that some people will regard as justifying pedophilia when clearly there isn't...

[Interviewer:] Isn't that the logic of your position though? As long as the child is not in the long-term harmed, you can't rule out the moral permissibility of that behavior?

[Peter Singer:] Well I mean, the logic of my position is that as elsewhere I am a consequentialist. I am concerned about preventing harm of various kinds. I don't have kind of intrinsic moral taboos. If that's your point: yes, I don't have intrinsic moral taboos about that.

[Interviewer:] So you can't rule it out as a morally illegitimate act?

[Peter Singer:] If you think that whether actions are right or wrong depend on the consequences, you can not rule anything out until you know something about the consequences.

[Interviewer:] It's just wrong though, isn't it?

[Peter Singer:] No, I don't see that you can say that, that is not my view, right? My view is not that anything is just wrong full stop. You are trying to put words into my mouth. You might think that, but you know I would say: Why do you say that? You have evolved as a being that has certain deep intuitions. Your intuitions are given by evolution. Certain kinds of sexual relationships do not lead to reproduction. We have evolved to have negative attitudes to those kinds of sexual relations. And...

[Interviewer:] In a sense we're having a disagreement about what seems obvious. Someone would say to you: This is a moral failing on your part if you don't see that it is just wrong.

[Peter Singer:] You haven't let me finish what I was saying. We have these moral intuitions which we can explain in terms of evolution as to why we have them. And they would include a moral intuition against sexual relations between people of the same sex. And we know that there is a long history of persecution of people who have been homosexual. And we have now fortunately started to rethink our intuition. Where as a lot of people would have said - just as you said a moment ago: it's just wrong. Can't you just see that it is wrong? It is a moral failing on your part if you can't see that for two men to have sex is just wrong. Now, I don't think that it is. And as I said many people come to see that it isn't. So I just don't think this moral method of saying "it's just wrong" is a method that we should rely on. Neither in this case nor in the other.

source: 'William Crawley meets Peter Singer (part 3)'; Peter Singer interviewed by William Crawley;; BBC; 20 March 2007