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Writings on an Ethical Life Paperback – September 18, 2001
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Peter Singer's arguments have penetrating moral accountability that can be quite unnerving to the reader who is expecting an afternoon on the couch with a cup of coffee and a book. In fact, words like influential, controversial, and much less flattering adjectives are invariably appended to his name. There is no doubt that the first two titles apply, but whether he is deserving of the less flattering adjectives remains for readers of this book to decide. Writings on an Ethical Life collects his thoughts on practical ethics over the last 30 years into a single volume. Singer begins from the premise that "the whole point of ethical judgments is to guide practice," which may not seem very remarkable nowadays, but in its day was virtually anathema to academic ethicists, who preferred abstract theorizing to practical moral reasoning.
Singer first gained eminence for his profoundly important early work on animal rights, arguing convincingly for vegetarianism and against the commonplace cruel treatment of animals by large commercial interests. However, he has probably attracted the most notoriety for his much-maligned writings in defense of abortion rights and certain forms of euthanasia. Singer is frequently misunderstood, misquoted, and demonized. Ironically, the ferocity of his detractors--particularly during his appointment as DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University--has generated nearly unheard-of exposure for an academic philosopher. While a small portion of Singer's work has been catapulted into the limelight, lay audiences have often overlooked other equally important ideas--unfortunate, because he is a wonderfully plainspoken and powerful writer: "Where so many are in such great need, indulgence in luxury is not morally neutral, and the fact that we have not killed anyone is not enough to make us morally decent citizens of the world." It is no wonder Singer is so controversial and influential. --Eric de Place --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
While highly controversial (his appointment as professor of bioethics at Princeton's Center for Human Values last year unleashed a storm of protests), Singer is one of the most innovative, sensitive and honest philosophers of morality in today's world. His Animal Liberation established the modern animal rights movement, and in this new collection, Singer gathers many of his writings from the past 30 years to provide a clear view of his positions. For example, in his famous essay "Famine, Affluence and Morality," Singer argues that suffering and pain are bad and we should do all we can to prevent them. This thread, running consistently through Singer's writings, leads, for instance, to his much-debated position that we are justified in killing a severely disabled infant because the consequences of letting the baby live are more direDphysically, financially, sociallyDthan letting the baby die. Singer famously broadens this view to include animals. Inflicting pain on laboratory animals is unethical, Singer says, and charges that "all consumers of animal products are responsible for the existence of cruel practices involved in producing them." Our moral responsibility should compel us to avoid hamburgers because every time we eat one we are contributing to a cycle of suffering not only of animals, but also of humans, for the grain used to feed the animals we consume is more than enough to end hunger in many less industrialized and affluent countries. Very simply, Singer is a utilitarian and argues that the consequences of an act should determine our ethical decisions. (Dec.) Forecast: Singer, who has drawn media attention in the past for his controversial views, has a dedicated following among animal rights activists and among many physicians searching for a way to justify euthanasia of severely handicapped infants. This book makes a significant contribution to ethical discussions in modern society and will find a passionate, if small, audience.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Sure, some of the things here are controversial, but the fact is that a lot of the things our current society does are absurd. When slavery was the norm, a book by someone saying slavery was immoral and unjust would have been seen as "controversial" as well. While reading this, you must separate yourself from your own and your culture's moral values and view the issues purely on their own as much as possible. 50 years from now, you'll look back and realize how right he was.
-I am now a vegetarian with vegan ambitions
-I have pledged to donate at least 30% of my life's income to developing countries
-I have changed my career path to concentrate on global human health