Professor David Simon Oderberg (born 1963) is an Australian philosopher of metaphysics and ethics 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 classical viewpoint to some controversial ethical issues: abortion, euthanasia, animal rights, capital punishment and the just war theory.[4] Oderberg provides a detailed defence of the view that abortion is morally wrong because the fetus is an innocent life, and intentionally taking an innocent life is always morally wrong.[5] He aims to refute views like those of Peter Singer, who suggests that we deny that it is always wrong to intentionally kill innocent human beings.[6] Oderberg compares legalised abortion to contract killing, arguing that the state has no more right to legalise and regulate abortion on the ground that this would take it out of the 'back street,' than it does to legalise and regulate contract killing on the same ground. On the subject of euthanasia, he argues that it too is immoral, because, like abortion, it involves the intentional killing of an innocent human being. Voluntary euthanasia is no more justifiable than 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 similar to that of Aquinas – rejecting in principle the idea that humans have duties to animals because they are not moral agents, he nonetheless believes that humans still have duties in respect of them to treat them kindly. 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. He also regards contraception as immoral, and exhorts 'pro-lifers' like himself to engage in 'campaigning, protesting, writing, or whatever it is that we do best in defending the pro-life cause.'[8]




  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ Oderberg, 2000 p.x (ISBN 978-0631219057)
  3. ^ See reviews on
  4. ^ Oderberg 2000 p. v
  5. ^ Oderberg 2000 p. 23
  6. ^ Peter Singer, Abortion entry in the Oxford Companion to Philosophy 1995, pp. 2–3. Accessible at
  7. ^ Ibid
  8. ^ 'Why Abortion Isn't Important', The Human Life Review 28.3, Summer 2002.