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Practical Ethics Peter Singer s remarkably clear and comprehensive Practical Ethics has become a classic introduction to applied ethics since its publication inand has been translated into many languages For this second edition the author has revised all the existing chapters, added two new ones, and updated the bibliography He has also added an appendix describing some of the deep misunderstanding of, and consequent violent reaction to, the book in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland where the book has tested the limits of freedom of speech The focus of the book is the application of ethics to difficult and controversial social questions equality and discrimination by race, sex, ability, or species abortion, euthanasia, and embryo experimentation the moral status of animals political violence and civil disobedience overseas aid and the obligation to assist others responsibility for the environment the treatment of refugees Singer explains and assesses relevant arguments in a perspicuous, non doctrinaire way He structures the book to show how contemporary controversies often have deep philosophical roots and he presents an ethical theory of his own that can be applied consistently and convincingly to all the practical cases The book s primary readership remains teachers and students of ethics whether in philosophy or some other branch of the humanities or social sciences However, such is the clarity of the book s style and structure that it should interest any thinking person concerned with the most difficult social problems facing us as we approach the twenty first century

  • Paperback
  • 411 pages
  • Practical Ethics
  • Peter Singer
  • English
  • 03 March 2018
  • 052143971X

About the Author: Peter Singer

Peter Singer is sometimes called the world s most influential living philosopher although he thinks that if that is true, it doesn t say much for all the other living philosophers around today He has also been called the father or grandfather of the modern animal rights movement, even though he doesn t base his philosophical views on rights, either for humans or for animals In 2005 Time magazine named Singer one of the 100 most influential people in the world, and the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute ranked him 3rd among Global Thought Leaders for 2013 He has since slipped to 36th He is known especially for his work on the ethics of our treatment of animals, for his controversial critique of the sanctity of life doctrine in bioethics, and for his writings on the obligations of the affluent to aid those living in extreme poverty Singer first became well known internationally after the publication of Animal Liberation in 1975 In 2011 Time included Animal Liberation on its All TIME list of the 100 best nonfiction books published in English since the magazine began, in 1923 Singer has written, co authored, edited or co editedthan 50 books, including Practical Ethics The Expanding Circle How Are We to Live , Rethinking Life and Death, The Ethics of What We Eat with Jim Mason , The Point of View of the Universe with Katarzyna de Lazari Radek , The Most Good You Can Do, Ethics in the Real World and Utilitarianism A Very Short Introduction His works have appeared inthan 30 languages.Singer s book The Life You Can Save, first published in 2009, led him to found a non profit organization of the same name In 2019, Singer got back the rights to the book and granted them to the organization, enabling it to make the eBook and audiobook versions available free from its website, www.thelifeyoucansave.org Peter Singer was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1946, and educated at the University of Melbourne and the University of Oxford After teaching in England, the United States and Australia, he has, since 1999, been Ira W DeCamp Professor of Bioethics in the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University He is married, with three daughters and four grandchildren His recreations include hiking and surfing In 2012 he was made a Companion of the Order of Australia, the nation s highest civic honour.



10 thoughts on “Practical Ethics

  1. says:

    Practical Ethics is one of those books that authors cite all the time, but which I had never actually read In terms of discussing personal ethics in a humanist framework, there s nothing better than this book Singer goes through the issues so clearly and yet conversationally, and also thoroughly addresses criticisms of and weaknesses in his arguments However I was unprepared for Singer appearing to be in favour of euthanizing babies with Down syndrome and Myelomeningocele spina bifida pp Practical Ethics is one of those books that authors cite all the time, but which I had never actually read In terms of discussing personal ethics in a humanist framework, there s nothing better than this book Singer goes through the issues so clearly and yet conversationally, and also thoroughly addresses criticisms of and weaknesses in his arguments However I was unprepared for Singer appearing to be in favour of euthanizing babies with Down syndrome and Myelomeningocele spina bifida pp 127 138 Singer refers to children with these conditions as defective WHAT THE EVERLOVING FUCK When people cite Singer they always seem to skip this bit Singer s reasoning here is the lack of mobility, lack of bladder control, and mental retardation makes a life with spina bifida not worth living, and that people with Down Syndrome are not capable of rational reasoning, rather, leading lives primarily driven by emotions, and are therefore not personsalthough their lives may be pleasant enough, as the lives of children are You ll be happy to know Singer excludes haemophilia haemophiliacsfind life worth livingAlso,it could be that a childless couple would be prepared to adopt a haemophiliacp 138 if the parent doesn t want them Singer states,killing a defective infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person Very often it is not wrong at allp 138 I acknowledge this is an incredibly complex situation, and one I have never been in and likely will never be People in this situation may make different decisions.I support abortion I believe a human s right to determine what happens to their body overrides the rights of the potential human This couple would have aborted their fetus had they known she would be disabled This is the mother s decision her right to decide, not mine But the implication here is that they would have preferred the right to kill the infant once born Ethically is there a difference This is the basis of Singer s argument Dr Henk Prins did just this he euthanized newborn Rianne Quirine Kunst at the parents request, because she had hydrocephaly, spina bifida and leg deformities This British ethicist argues that a post birth abortion is no different to a pre birth abortion But where do we draw the line Who gets to judge if a life is worth living The voices of those affected by euthanasia are often the least likely to be heard It s so complex, but I do know there is absolutely no way I could ever support the right of a parent to euthanise a infant with Down syndrome No way Nope It would mean we have the right to determine which kind of conscious, self aware life can have meaning A determination that difference disposable.So I think to myself, at the extreme end, what about an infant with no brain at all, would I be OK with euthanizing this hypothetical infant Then I find out that s not unheard of Nicholas Coke lived three years with no brain, but with a brain stem As Nicholas was from the US I cringe to think what medical costs the family was shouldering, as he needed 12 daily medications But this Kiwi kid needs to raise NZ 500,000 a year for his medical costs, and I couldn t possibly consider for a second that we have a right to euthanize him And Nicholas s family describe him laughing and finding things funny That doesn t sound like a life with no meaning.What I do know is I personally could never make the determination to euthanise anyone but myself and I do hope NZ has legalised euthanasia when I get to the end of my life, whenever that may be Anyway, I m rating the book a five Although I don t agree with Singer on everything, it s incredibly thought provoking And I m going to read some of hisrecent work, as I assume he has modified his stance on infant euthanasia in the last 30 years or maybe not, who knows Clearly I m not the only one While I was reading this on lunch breaks three different people said to me, Ohhh, you re reading Singer When I asked if they had read him, they all said no, but they d read of and on him frequently

  2. says:

    Practical Ethics was recommended to me by my ethics professor She claimed that the book was the reason she became a vegetarian Reading this book will be an eye opening experience for many The discussions tackle the biggest questions facing ethics At what point should we consider a fetus a human being What is the value of one human life compared to another Why worry about saving the environment A highlight of the text is that Singer starts with a simple question or example which you will i Practical Ethics was recommended to me by my ethics professor She claimed that the book was the reason she became a vegetarian Reading this book will be an eye opening experience for many The discussions tackle the biggest questions facing ethics At what point should we consider a fetus a human being What is the value of one human life compared to another Why worry about saving the environment A highlight of the text is that Singer starts with a simple question or example which you will intuitively answer He then follows the line of logic to a conclusion that may surprise or even shock you This will make you go back and analyze your own values and presumptions In that respect, Practical Ethics is an amazing and thought provoking work Because of this structure, Practical Ethics needs to be read in order Chapters build on arguments made and supposedly resolved, or at least presumed to be resolved in previous chapters So you can t just jump to the clickbait euthanasia section and come away with a clear understanding The conclusions can run counter to conventional wisdom, but he s not afraid to follow the logic It will be no surprise that Singer gets plenty of flak on his conclusions, some of which comes from people who didn t get the whole picture See the appendix of the 2nd edition to learn how he was unfairly treated in Germany for exactly this reason All that said, I did find the final chapter discussion of why we should act morally would have fit better at the beginning of the book Although the results of that discussion are probably the most eye opening of all, and I can understand why the author would hold that big reveal off till the end Regardless of whether I agreed or disagreed with Singer s conclusions, Practical Ethics helped me to clarify my own position on complicated and emotionally loaded issues like abortion, euthanasia, animal rights and environmental ethics It made meaware of critical aspects of what it means to be human in the first place And No, reading Practical Ethics did not turn me into a vegetarian Your mileage may vary Zero

  3. says:

    Of course this book is far from impartial But it offer good and scrupulous arguments for his choices The book is written in a very dry and unhelpfully, boring manner Yet the content of the book is far from boring.I m not going to writeon this review, my dog is barking at me to take him for a walk.

  4. says:

    I picked up Peter Singer s book upon many describing it as a comprehensive introduction to applied ethics, and although I didn t agree with all of Peter Singer s moral judgments he has given me so many valuable tools to think about moral issues The book has 12 chapters, that touch into topics of equality, equality for animals, killing animals, abortion, Euthanasia, income inequality, climate change, the environment, civil disobedience, and violenceI don t understand why Singer chose preferen I picked up Peter Singer s book upon many describing it as a comprehensive introduction to applied ethics, and although I didn t agree with all of Peter Singer s moral judgments he has given me so many valuable tools to think about moral issues The book has 12 chapters, that touch into topics of equality, equality for animals, killing animals, abortion, Euthanasia, income inequality, climate change, the environment, civil disobedience, and violenceI don t understand why Singer chose preferential utilitarianism which values the fulfillment of the greatest amount of personal interests over hedonistic utilitarianism which values the fulfillment of the greatest amount of personal pleasure to argue for all the topics he addressed If we can agree that the role of morality is to advance the well being of humans than it makes sense that we take into account people s pleasure rather than their personal interests Besides that how do we calculate the value of opposing interests His choice was obviously a way to escape the problems with classical utilitarianism, which wasn t so convincing to me This, of course, leads him to some counter intuitive conclusions, he, for example, doesn t see infants as persons, and therefore doesn t consider their killing any worst than killing an animal, of course, he takes into account the fact that human infants have human parents that would have their interests being violated if the infant gets killed, making it worst than killing an animal, but if the parents agree then it isn t any worst Now he doesn t use that to justify killing infants but to argue for euthanasia for infants with severe disabilities, something that I am a little unsettled with At the end of the book Singer tried to make a case for Altruism and for acting morally, by urging us to seek a meaning to life that comes from being a part of an environment that cares for us, and we care for it But how can we be persuaded by such a plea, if we were asked several times to cast our moral instincts aside, and focus on the reasoning through wouldn t reason just lead us to egoism which he acknowledges being the rational thing to do That being said, I absolutely enjoyed it when Singer was being the devil s advocate, and showing the full scope of arguments that exist for and against a certain practice I find his arguments for abortion and euthanasia to be really well developed I also liked his arguments on the obligation of the rich countries to aid the poor ones The climate change chapter was the most challenging to read, because of population ethics that I don t seem to be able to wrap my head around it I, however, enjoyed the practical suggestion that was mentioned in this chapter like an international carbon trading scheme, and carbon taxation Overall I think it is pretty obvious that Peter Singer is an empathetic person, trying to do the best he can to convince people to help each other, animals, and the planet effectively

  5. says:

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers To view it, click here I am presently homeless and can only use the public library s computers for a limited amount of time each day, so this review is probably going to be done piecemeally.One thing I had been wondering about Peter Singer for some time now is what his position is on meta ethics It is well know that he is a preference utilitarian, and he spends the bulk of his books discussing the application of that normative system What I hadn t remembered from my previous reading of this book is that Singer lays I am presently homeless and can only use the public library s computers for a limited amount of time each day, so this review is probably going to be done piecemeally.One thing I had been wondering about Peter Singer for some time now is what his position is on meta ethics It is well know that he is a preference utilitarian, and he spends the bulk of his books discussing the application of that normative system What I hadn t remembered from my previous reading of this book is that Singer lays out his stance on meta ethics in chapter 1 What is clear from that reading is that Singer does not hold to any particular meta ethical view, but maintains that several meta ethical positions are plausible Among these are the prescriptivism of his former instructor R.M Hare, J.L Mackie s error theory, and some form of ideal observer theory Singer goes on to discuss different conceptions of equality, ultimately arriving at the one that forms the basis of applicability for his system of ethics Basing ethical equality on a descriptive property shared by the bearers of ethical considerablility does not work because only some subset of said bearers may have that property, and not to the same degree For instance, using self awareness as the basis for equality would likely include only subsets of a handful of species, including humans If such a criterion were consistently applied, infants and some severely mentally handicapped persons would be excluded Such people would be but objects for us to use at our disposal Singer goes through a number of possible criteria of this kind, each time showing some critical flaw in what its logical consequences would have us do The system of equality that Singer ends up with is one that owes a great deal to R.M Hare, who in turn derives a major component of his ethics from Kant s categorical imperitive, which states act only according to that maxim that whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law Thus, for Hare as well as Singer, universalizabiltiy in ethics is a fundamental concept, to be applied across the board in all like cases For Singer, this means that the interests of all beings are to be weighted equally My interests don t count forsimply because they re MY interests, for example.From there Singer applies preference utilitarianism with the above mentioned conception of equality to what he considers to some of the biggest ethical problems of our time These include world hunger, euthanasia, abortion, speciesism, environmentalism, and refugee issues With that it is time for us to turn our attention to these issues.Speciesism In terms of the scale of the suffering involved, and the damage done to the environment thereby, speciesism and the manner in which humans treat non human animals is most probably the biggest ethical problem facing the world today Billions of animals are raised and killed for food per year in the United States alone, under horrendous conditions for the well being of the animals, and which contributesto global warming than automobiles What makes this possible is both a lack of transparency in agribuisness and a moral attitude called speciesism , which holds that species membership is a valid ethical distinction to make for purposes of the ethical considerability of the beings involved There is in fact a sharp distinction drawn in many societies between the moral worth of humans versus all other creatures The religious history of the world, for Western religions in particular, does not fair well in this regard For instance, Christian history is full of speciesism justified on the grounds that non human animals do not have souls Decartes monstrous proclamation that non human animals were like clocks meaning that they made noises but didn t have minds paved the way for much cruelty against those creatures More to come

  6. says:

    Read down in Savannah back in 2002 I picked up an archival copy back in 2004 Lots of good thinking here, but Singer s way too quick to consider something conclusively demonstrated I found his animal rights doctrine a particularly grotesque pill to swallow, and his arguments regarding abortion rather slipshod reasoning although not so much as the roe v wade decision itself I m staunchly pro choice, but certainly not due to Singer style arguments For that matter, the 700,000 Americans Read down in Savannah back in 2002 I picked up an archival copy back in 2004 Lots of good thinking here, but Singer s way too quick to consider something conclusively demonstrated I found his animal rights doctrine a particularly grotesque pill to swallow, and his arguments regarding abortion rather slipshod reasoning although not so much as the roe v wade decision itself I m staunchly pro choice, but certainly not due to Singer style arguments For that matter, the 700,000 Americans arrested each year for marijuana possession the major ethical failure of our times, and a barbarism that future generations will look upon with shudders are never mentioned Sorry Pete, but while billions of dollars are being spent to restrict basic pharmaceutical freedoms, the cows can wait.For a non scientist, though, his reasoning s not too bad and cut well above the typical jib surrounding such passionate topics Until my comrades in the neurological arts get off their duffers and solve this problem, armchair ethicists like Singer will lead the way Singer, featured on the cover, is far too thin and needs badly to eat some delicious animals It d probably leave him much less worried and flighty

  7. says:

    Peter Singer s Practical Ethics is a very considerate book Singer s writings about equality, the ethical treatment of animals, and ending world poverty are best, it seems to me I will reframe Singer s positions regarding these, not exactly as Singer put them, but being as charitable as possible as to what he was arguing for Singer argues that among the varieties of conceptions of equality, we should choose equality of interests of persons self conscious rational creatures and anything capab Peter Singer s Practical Ethics is a very considerate book Singer s writings about equality, the ethical treatment of animals, and ending world poverty are best, it seems to me I will reframe Singer s positions regarding these, not exactly as Singer put them, but being as charitable as possible as to what he was arguing for Singer argues that among the varieties of conceptions of equality, we should choose equality of interests of persons self conscious rational creatures and anything capable of experiencing pain or suffering When we take into account these interests, it becomes abundantly clear that among those who suffer are animals, and by not killing animals for food we could prevent their suffering Regarding ending world poverty, if we think it is always better, all things being equal, to help someone who is suffering so long as we don t sacrifice anything of comparable moral significance, we should Therefore, we should help those suffering and subsequently dying of poverty The ethical treatment of animals and the attempt to end world poverty read as two of the most powerful and convincing arguments I have ever read

  8. says:

    Practical Ethics is the one book I know that can, without fail start a heated argument in any company You just open to any page read a paragraph out loud Instant debate.Peter Singer makes a habit of bait and switching the reader Starting with what usually sound like simple, easy to agree with axioms he builds up easy to follow example Then proceeds to explain why, if you agree with the example, which most people do, you have agreed to something that most people would find unacceptable.Usin Practical Ethics is the one book I know that can, without fail start a heated argument in any company You just open to any page read a paragraph out loud Instant debate.Peter Singer makes a habit of bait and switching the reader Starting with what usually sound like simple, easy to agree with axioms he builds up easy to follow example Then proceeds to explain why, if you agree with the example, which most people do, you have agreed to something that most people would find unacceptable.Using this process Singer explores the consequences of applying a Utilitarian ethical system to many of the toughest questions abortion, euthanasia, animal rights, the environment Even if you have a utilitarian ethic when you start reading Practical Ethics, you may find yourself, apparently, agreeing to statements you would reject normally.The one issue with this book is that Singer moves quickly Maybe to avoid overly verbose and academic discussions, trying to belayman , but the book does sometimes jump to a conclusion that leaves you feeling that you needto really swallow the pill.I m a naturally liberal and logical person and Practical Ethics is probably the single most influential book I have read I think having, and understanding, a ethical system is a good thing Too many people never think about their ethics and why they make the decisions they do They just repeat decisions they don t really understand.I was a utilitarian before I read Practical Ethics, but it forced me to examine what that means in the extreme Taking all the basic utilitarian axioms and pushing them to their logical limits

  9. says:

    A little tip when reading Singer, surrender your mind and your whole self to Singer A lot of what he says will sit uncomfortably with your basic instinct and gut feeling no matter how broad minded you thought yourself to be , yet his arguments are compelling I ve spent tremendous time try to rebut his arguments in my head Unfortunately I was unsuccessful in coming with any, let alone good ones Not many books leave you with this conflicted feeling I feel what you are saying is mistaken, A little tip when reading Singer, surrender your mind and your whole self to Singer A lot of what he says will sit uncomfortably with your basic instinct and gut feeling no matter how broad minded you thought yourself to be , yet his arguments are compelling I ve spent tremendous time try to rebut his arguments in my head Unfortunately I was unsuccessful in coming with any, let alone good ones Not many books leave you with this conflicted feeling I feel what you are saying is mistaken, yet it makes perfect sense.You are definitely left wanting to exploreAnd that s always good.This book is exactly as titled practical ethics I don t think I ve read a book that tackles such intricate topics with considerable clarity and simplicity Literally anyone can pick this book and have no doubt at any given page as to what Singer actually meant After all, Singer has no time for the theoretical

  10. says:

    Interesting, not that I agree with all of it Pretty easy to read, thankfully, and clear.Edit on reread I can understand why this book gets some pretty extreme reactions, now I ve read it straight through like this His view of ethics builds up throughout the book, too, so if you don t read all of it, if you read some of it out of context, then he sounds pretty awful.It also should, if you re properly thinking about it, make you wonder why our society globally is the way it is, if we clai Interesting, not that I agree with all of it Pretty easy to read, thankfully, and clear.Edit on reread I can understand why this book gets some pretty extreme reactions, now I ve read it straight through like this His view of ethics builds up throughout the book, too, so if you don t read all of it, if you read some of it out of context, then he sounds pretty awful.It also should, if you re properly thinking about it, make you wonder why our society globally is the way it is, if we claim to be so concerned with morality Even Christian ethics points the same way as Singer s ethics, despite his intent to make a new, practical system Why do we let things go on the way we do I do agree with a lot of his conclusions, but not because I ve necessarily gone through the same thought process He points out some discomforting truths

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