We present evidence from a pre-registered experiment indicating that a philosophical argument––a type of rational appeal––can persuade people to make charitable donations. The rational appeal we used follows Singer’s well-known “shallow pond” argument (1972), while incorporating an evolutionary debunking argument (Paxton, Ungar, & Greene 2012) against favoring nearby victims over distant ones. The effectiveness of this rational appeal did not differ significantly from that of a well-tested emotional appeal involving an image of a single child in need (Small, Loewenstein, and (...) Slovic 2007). This is a surprising result, given evidence that emotions are the primary drivers of moral action, a view that has been very influential in the work of development organizations. We did not find support for our pre-registered hypothesis that combining our rational and emotional appeals would have a significantly stronger effect than either appeal in isolation. However, our finding that both kinds of appeal can increase charitable donations is cause for optimism, especially concerning the potential efficacy of well-designed rational appeals. We consider the significance of these findings for moral psychology, ethics, and the work of organizations aiming to alleviate severe poverty. (shrink)
For millennia, philosophers have speculated about the origins of ethics. Recent research in evolutionary psychology and the neurosciences has shed light on that question. But this research also has normative significance. A standard way of arguing against a normative ethical theory is to show that in some circumstances the theory leads to judgments that are contrary to our common moral intuitions. If, however, these moral intuitions are the biological residue of our evolutionary history, it is not clear why we should (...) regard them as having any normative force. Research in the neurosciences should therefore lead us to reconsider the role of intuitions in normative ethics. (shrink)
As I write this, in November 1971, people are dying in East Bengal from lack of food, shelter, and medical caxc. The suffering and death that are occurring there now axe not inevitable, 1101; unavoidable in any fatalistic sense of the term. Constant poverty, a cyclone, and a civil war have turned at least nine million people into destitute refugees; nevertheless, it is not beyond Lhe capacity of the richer nations to give enough assistance to reduce any further suffering to (...) very small proportions. The decisions arid actions of human beings can prevent this kind of suffering. Unfortunately, human beings have not made the necessary decisions. At the individual level, people have, with very few exceptions, not responded to the situation in any signihczmt way. Generally speaking, people have not given large sums to relief funds; they have not written t0 their parliamentaxy representatives demanding increased government assistance; they have not demonstrated in the streets, held symbolic fasts, or done anything else directed toward providing thc refugees with the means to satisfy their essential needs. At thc government level, no govcrmmcnt has given the sort of massive aid that would enable the refugees to survive fm: more than a few days. Britain, for instance, has given rather more than most countries. It has, to date, given £14,750,000. For comparative purposes, B1~itain’s share of thc nonreccverabla development costs of the Anglo-French Concorde project is already in excess of £275,000,000, and on present estimates will reach £440,000,¤00. The implication is that the British government values a supersonic transport more than thirty times as.. (shrink)
For thirty years, Peter Singer's Practical Ethics has been the classic introduction to applied ethics. For this third edition, the author has revised and updated all the chapters and added a new chapter addressing climate change, one of the most important ethical challenges of our generation. Some of the questions discussed in this book concern our daily lives. Is it ethical to buy luxuries when others do not have enough to eat? Should we buy meat from intensively reared animals? Am (...) I doing something wrong if my carbon footprint is above the global average? Other questions confront us as concerned citizens: equality and discrimination on the grounds of race or sex; abortion, the use of embryos for research and euthanasia; political violence and terrorism; and the preservation of our planet's environment. This book's lucid style and provocative arguments make it an ideal text for university courses and for anyone willing to think about how she or he ought to live. (shrink)
Acting Now to End World Poverty Peter Singer. were our own, and we cannot deny that the suffering and death are bad. The second premise is also very difficult to reject, because it leaves us some wiggle room when it comes to situations in.
Bringing together new essays by philosophers and activists, _In Defense of Animals: The Second Wave_ highlights the new challenges facing the animal rights movement. Exciting new collection edited by controversial philosopher Peter Singer, who made animal rights into an international concern when he first published _In Defence of Animals_ and _Animal Liberation_ over thirty years ago Essays explore new ways of measuring animal suffering, reassess the question of personhood, and draw highlight tales of effective advocacy Lays out “Ten Tips for (...) Activists”, taking the reader beyond ethical theory and into the day-to-day campaigns for animal rights. (shrink)
_From the ethicist the _New Yorker_ calls “the most influential living philosopher,” a new way of thinking 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. Effective altruism 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. _The Most Good You Can Do _develops the challenges Singer has made, in the _New York Times _and _Washington Post_, to those who donate to the arts, and to charities focused on helping our fellow citizens, rather than those for whom we can do the most good. Effective altruists are extending our knowledge of the possibilities of living less selfishly, and of allowing reason, rather than emotion, to determine how we live. _The Most Good You Can Do _offers new hope for our ability to tackle the world’s most pressing problems. (shrink)
In 1972, the young philosopher Peter Singer published "Famine, Affluence and Morality," which rapidly became one of the most widely discussed essays in applied ethics. Through this article, Singer presents his view that we have the same moral obligations to those far away as we do to those close to us. He argued that choosing not to send life-saving money to starving people on the other side of the earth is the moral equivalent of neglecting to save drowning children because (...) we prefer not to muddy our shoes. If we can help, we must--and any excuse is hypocrisy. Singer's extreme stand on our moral obligations to others became a powerful call to arms and continues to challenge people's attitudes towards extreme poverty. Today, it remains a central touchstone for those who argue we should all help others more than we do. As Bill and Melinda Gates observe in their foreword, in the age of today's global philanthropy, Singer's essay is as relevant now as it ever was. This attractively packaged, concise edition collects the original article, two of Singer's more recent popular writings on our obligations to others around the world, and a new introduction by Singer that discusses his current thinking. (shrink)
There is too much that we do not know about COVID-19. The longer we take to find it out, the more lives will be lost. In this paper, we will defend a principle of risk parity: if it is permissible to expose some members of society (e.g. health workers, or the economically vulnerable) to a certain level of ex ante risk in order to minimize overall harm from the virus, then it is permissible to expose fully-informed volunteers to a comparable (...) level of risk in the context of promising research into the virus. We apply this principle to three examples of risky research: skipping animal trials for promising treatments, human challenge trials to speed up vaccine development, and low-dose controlled infection or ‘variolation’. We conclude that if volunteers, fully informed about the risks, are willing to help fight the pandemic by aiding promising research, there are strong moral reasons to gratefully accept their help. To refuse it would implicitly subject others to still graver risks. (shrink)
Since its original publication in 1975, this groundbreaking work has awakened millions of people to the existence of "speciesism"âour systematic disregard of nonhuman animalsâinspiring a worldwide movement to transform our attitudes to animals and eliminate the cruelty we inflict on them. In Animal Liberation, author Peter Singer exposes the chilling realities of today’s "factory farms" and product-testing proceduresâdestroying the spurious justifications behind them, and offering alternatives to what has become a profound environmental and social as well as moral issue. An (...) important and persuasive appeal to conscience, fairness, decency, and justice, it is essential reading for the supporter and the skeptic alike. (shrink)
What does the idea of taking 'the point of view of the universe' tell us about ethics? Lazari-Radek and Singer defend objectivism in ethics, and hedonistic utilitarianism, following Henry Sidgwick's lead. They explore how to justify an ethical theory; conflicts of self-interest and universal benevolence; and whether we should discount the future.
In recent years a number of oppressed groups have campaigned vigorously for equality. The classic instance is the Black Liberation movement, which demands an end to the prejudice and discrimination that has made blacks second-class citizens. The immediate appeal of the black liberation movement and its initial, if limited, success made it a model for other oppressed groups to follow. We became familiar with liberation movements for Spanish-Americans, gay people, and a variety of other minorities. When a majority group—women—began their (...) campaign, some thought we had come to the end of the road. Discrimination on the basis of sex, it has been said, is the last universally accepted form of discrimination, practiced without secrecy or pretense even in those liberal circles that have long prided themselves on their freedom from prejudice against racial minorities. (shrink)
If we agree with the notion of a global community, then we must extend our concepts of justice, fairness, and equity beyond national borders by supporting measures to decrease global warming and to increase foreign aid, argues Peter Singer.
Many people believe that all human life is of equal value. Most of them also believe that all human beings have a moral status superior to that of nonhuman animals. But how are these beliefs to be defended? The mere difference of species cannot in itself determine moral status. The most obvious candidate for regarding human beings as having a higher moral status than animals is the superior cognitive capacity of humans. People with profound mental retardation pose a problem for (...) this set of beliefs, because their cognitive capacities are not superior to those of many animals. I argue that we should drop the belief in the equal value of human life, replacing it with a graduated view that applies to animals as well as to humans. (shrink)
In the first two volumes of On What Matters, Derek Parfit argues that three major normative theories – Kantianism, Contractualism and Rule Consequentialism – are, in their most defensible forms, compatible, and can be reconciled in what he calls ‘Triple Theory’. This has led many to assume that Parfit does not believe that Act Consequentialism is a defensible form of Consequentialism. We draw on correspondence with Parfit to show that this assumption is incorrect. We then consider Parfit's efforts, in the (...) third volume of On What Matters, to narrow the differences between Act Consequentialism and the triple theory, in part by treating impartial rationality as an external rival to morality, in much the same way that egoism is an external rival to morality. We argue that Parfit's attempts to bridge the gap between Act Consequentialism and Triple Theory meet with only limited success. (shrink)
Evolutionary accounts of the origins of human morality may lead us to doubt the truth of our moral judgments. Sidgwick tried to vindicate ethics from this kind of external attack. However, he ended The Methods in despair over another problem—an apparent conflict between rational egoism and universal benevolence, which he called the “dualism of practical reason.” Drawing on Sidgwick, we show that one way of defending objectivity in ethics against Sharon Street’s recent evolutionary critique also puts us in a position (...) to support a bold claim: the dualism of practical reason can be resolved in favor of impartiality. (shrink)
In his book A Theory of Justice, John Rawls introduces and employs the concept of “reflective equilibrium” as a method of testing which of rival moral theories is to be preferred. The introduction of this concept is plainly a significant event for moral philosophy. The criterion by which we decide to reject, say, utilitarianism in favour of a contractual theory of justice is, if anything, even more fundamental than the choice of theory itself, since our choice of moral theory may (...) well be determined by the criterion we use. (shrink)
Few subjects have generated so many newspaper headlines and such heated controversy as the treatment, or non-treatment, of handicapped newborns. In 1982, the case of Baby Doe, a child born with Down's syndrome, stirred up a national debate in the United States, while in Britain a year earlier, Dr. Leonard Arthur stood trial for his decision to allow a baby with Down's syndrome to die. Government intervention and these recent legal battles accentuate the need for a reassessment of the complex (...) issues involved. This volume--by two authorities on medical ethics--presents a philosophical analysis of the subject based on particular case studies. Addressing the doctrine of the absolute sanctity of life, Singer and Kuhse examine some actual cases where decisions have been reached; consider the criteria for making these decisions; investigate the differences between killing and letting die; compare Western attitudes and practices with those of other cultures; and conclude by proposing a decision-making framework that offers a rational alternative to the polemics and confusion generated by this highly controversial topic. (shrink)
Our traditional ways of thinking about life and death are collapsing. In a world of respirators and embryos stored for years in liquid nitrogen, we can no longer take the sanctity of human life as the cornerstone of our ethical outlook. In this controversial book Peter Singer argues that we cannot deal with the crucial issues of death, abortion, euthanasia, and the rights of nonhuman animals unless we sweep away the old ethic and build something new in its place. Singer (...) outlines a new set of commandments, based on compassion and commonsense, for the decisions everyone must make about life and death. (shrink)
B'Imagine that you could choose a book that everyone in the world would read. My choice would be this book.' Roger Crisp, Ethics -/- Many people have an uneasy feeling that they may be missing out on something basic that would give their lives a significance it currently lacks. But how should we live? What is there to stop us behaving selfishly? In a highly readable account which makes reference to a wide variety of sources and everyday issues, Peter Singer (...) suggests that the conventional pursuit of self- interest is individually and collectively self-defeating. Taking into consideration the beliefs of Jesus, Kant, Rousseau, and Adam Smith amongst others, he looks at a number of different cultures, including America, Japan, and the Aborigines to assess whether or not selfishness is in our genes and how we may find greater satisfaction in an ethical lifestyle. (shrink)
In the Brazilian film "Central Station," Dora is a retired schoolteacher who makes ends meet by sitting at the station writing letters for illiterate people. Suddenly she has an opportunity to pocket $1,000. All she has to do is persuade a homeless 9-year-old boy to follow her to an address she has been given. (She is told he will be adopted by wealthy foreigners.) She delivers the boy, gets the money, spends some of it on a television set and settles (...) down to enjoy her new acquisition. Her neighbor spoils the fun, however, by telling her that the boy was too old to be adopted â€”he will be killed and his organs sold for transplantation. Perhaps Dora knew this all along, but after her neighbor's plain speaking, she spends a troubled night. In the morning Dora resolves to take the boy back. (shrink)
Singer and Dawson point out that two arguments against abortion, that the embryo is entitled to protection because from fertilization it is (1) a human being or (2) a potential human being, are also used by opponents of embryo experimentation. They focus on the second argument, evaluating the notion of potentiality as it applies to gametes, to the unimplanted embryo, to the implanted developing embryo, and to the embryo created by in vitro fertilization (IVF). They argue that there is a (...) crucial distinction between natural reproduction, in which all that is needed for the embryo to have a prospect of reaching its potential is for those involved to refrain from stopping it, and IVF, in which the embryo cannot develop into a person without a deliberate human act. Reproductive techniques necessitate our rethinking of established views about potentiality, and how it should be applied to the embryo in a laboratory. (KIE abstract). (shrink)
What is ethics? Where does it come from? Can we really hope to find any rational way of deciding how we ought to live? If we can, what would it be like, and how are we going to know when we have found it? To capture the essentials of what we know about the origins and nature of ethics, Peter Singer has drawn on anthropology, evolution, game theory, and works of fiction, in addition to the classic moral philosophy of such (...) thinkers as Nietzsche, Kant, and Confucius. By choosing some of the finest pieces of writing, old and new, in and about ethics, he conveys the intellectual excitement of the search for answers to basic questions about how we ought to live. From the debates of Socrates and the profound writing of Rousseau to Jane Goodall's reflections on the ethics of chimpanzee kinship and Luther's commentary on the Sixth Commandment (thou shalt not kill), this engaging reader offers a complete and thorough introduction to the fascinating world of ethical debate. (shrink)
Not so long ago, any form of sexuality not leading to the conception of children was seen as, at best, wanton lust, or worse, a perversion. One by one, the taboos have fallen. The idea that it could be wrong to use contraception in order to separate sex from reproduction is now merely quaint. If some religions still teach that masturbation is "selfabuse," that just shows how out of touch they have become. Sodomy? That's all part of the joy of (...) sex, recommended for couples seeking erotic variety. In many of the world's great cities, gays and lesbians can be open about their sexual preferences to an extent unimaginable a century ago. You can even do it in the U.S. Armed Forces, as long as you don't talk about it. Oral sex? Some objected to President Clinton' choice of place and partner, and others thought he should have been more honest about what he had done, but no one dared suggest that he was unfit to be President simply because he had taken part in a sexual activity that was, in many jurisdictions, a crime. (shrink)
A decade ago, we reviewed the field of clinical ethics; assessed its progress in research, education, and ethics committees and consultation; and made predictions about the future of the field. In this article, we revisit clinical ethics to examine our earlier observations, highlight key developments, and discuss remaining challenges for clinical ethics, including the need to develop a global perspective on clinical ethics problems.
In response to Kuper's article Singer writes, " I show that his counter-examples are often irrelevant to what I am advocating, and he has not substantiated his extraordinary claim that the approach I advocate would 'seriously harm the poor'.".
To challenge my students to think about the ethics of what we owe to people in need, I ask them to imagine that their route to the university takes them past a shallow pond. One morning, I say to them, you notice a child has fallen in and appears to be drowning. To wade in and pull the child out would be easy but it will mean that you get your clothes wet and muddy, and by the time you go (...) home and change you will have missed your first class. (shrink)
In this volume, some of today's most distinguished philosophers survey the whole field of ethics, from its origins, through the great ethical traditions, to theories of how we ought to live, arguments about specific ethical issues, and the nature of ethics itself. The book can be read straight through from beginning to end; yet the inclusion of a multi-layered index, coupled with a descriptive outline of contents and bibliographies of relevant literature, means that the volume also serves as a work (...) of reference, both for those coming afresh to the study of ethics and for readers already familiar with the subject. (shrink)
Singer responds to Andrew Kuper: "I reiterate the central ethical claim of my argument and argue that, if we don’t know how to make deep structural changes that will end desperate poverty, it is still better to help some people rather than none.".
Background There are numerous ethical challenges that can impact patients and families in the health care setting. This paper reports on the results of a study conducted with a panel of clinical bioethicists in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, the purpose of which was to identify the top ethical challenges facing patients and their families in health care. A modified Delphi study was conducted with twelve clinical bioethicist members of the Clinical Ethics Group of the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics. (...) The panel was asked the question, what do you think are the top ten ethical challenges that Canadians may face in health care? The panel was asked to rank the top ten ethical challenges throughout the Delphi process and consensus was reached after three rounds. Discussion The top challenge ranked by the group was disagreement between patients/families and health care professionals about treatment decisions. The second highest ranked challenge was waiting lists. The third ranked challenge was access to needed resources for the aged, chronically ill, and mentally ill. Summary Although many of the challenges listed by the panel have received significant public attention, there has been very little attention paid to the top ranked challenge. We propose several steps that can be taken to help address this key challenge. (shrink)