Peter Singer, one of this generation’s most influential philosophers, has had a long and illustrious career, with his work impacting the lives of millions around the world.
It’s almost impossible to summarise all of his accomplishments, but that’s exactly what we’ll be trying to do in this blog – Peter Singer Through the Decades. If you’ve ever wondered “why is Peter Singer so popular?”, this post is for you.
Upon finishing high school, Peter studied law, history and philosophy at the University of Melbourne, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1967.
In 1969 he gained a master’s degree with his thesis “Why Should I Be Moral?”
He supported this notion using the “drowning child analogy”. The thought experiment goes like this: if you saw a helpless young child drowning in a shallow pond, would you save them? Most people say yes. What about if you would ruin your best clothes? You would still do it, even if you didn’t know the kid. The reality is that people are suffering all around the world, and even if you don’t know them, we have an obligation to help them if we can.
Now living in Australia, Peter wrote Practical Ethics (1980) which analyzes why and how living beings’ interests should be weighed. In his view, a being’s interests should always be weighed according to that being’s inherent properties, and not according to its belonging to a group.
In it, Singer studies a number of ethical issues including race, sex, ability, species, abortion, euthanasia, infanticide, the moral status of animals, political violence, overseas aid, and whether we have an obligation to assist others. Later editions added chapters on refugees, the environment, equality and disability, and embryo experimentation.
Originally that circle would have been self, family and tribe, but over time it grew to encompass all other humans. Peter argues that non-human animals should also be included.
During the decade, Peter also published books on Hegel and Marx.
In September 2021 Peter won the prestigious Berggruen Prize for Philosophy and Culture. He plans to give half the money to The Life You Can Save and more than a third to effective organizations combating factory farming. As for the rest, you can help decide where it’s donated to on The Life You Can Save’s website.
See Peter Singer LIVE
Would your friends and family love to see Peter Singer LIVE on-stage? We’re touring him across Australia and New Zealand (with a Virtual Event for those who can’t make it to an in-person show) in March/April 2022!
The net proceeds from the tour are being donated to The Life You Can Save in support of their efforts to alleviate global poverty, so when you buy a ticket you’re not only getting your mates a great night out, you’re also supporting a worthy cause – that’s a win-win!