Peter Singer: How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically

MON, APR 13, 2015 (53:58)

Harvard Book Store and Oxfam America presented acclaimed ethicist Peter Singer for a discussion of his latest book, The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically. Peter Singer’s books and ideas have been disturbing our complacency ever since the appearance of Animal Liberation. Now he directs our attention to a new movement in which his own ideas have played a crucial role: effective altruism. This movement is built upon the simple but profound idea that living a fully ethical life involves doing the “most good you can do.” Such a life requires an unsentimental view of charitable giving: to be a worthy recipient of our support, an organization must be able to demonstrate that it will do more good with our money or our time than other options open to us. Singer introduces us to an array of remarkable people who are restructuring their lives in accordance with these ideas, and shows how living altruistically often leads to greater personal fulfillment than living for oneself.

+ BIO: Peter Singer

Peter Singer is an Australian philosopher widely regarded as one of the most influential living philosophers, particularly for his contributions to the animal liberation movement. Born in Melbourne to parents who fled the German annexation of Austria, Singer was educated at Preshil and Scotch College. He studied law, history, and philosophy at the University of Melbourne, and earned his B.Phil. from Oxford in 1971. Singer’s master’s thesis was entitled, “Why Should I Be Good?” In his touchstone work, Animal Liberation, Singer expanded on the question, arguing that the only measure of morality is the greatest good for the greatest number, popularizing the term “speciesism” as the practice of preferring humans over other animals. Other works, such as Practice Ethics, develop his ethical standpoint, the preference utilitarian perspective.

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