This week we talk to Peter Singer
Peter Albert David Singer, is an Australian moral philosopher. He is the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University and a Laureate Professor at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne. He specializes in applied ethics and approaches ethical issues from a secular, utilitarian perspective. He is known in particular for his book Animal Liberation, in which he argues in favor of vegetarianism, and his essay Famine, Affluence, and Morality, in which he argues in favor of donating to help the global poor. For most of his career, he was a preference utilitarian, but he announced in The Point of View of the Universe that he had become a hedonistic utilitarian.
On two occasions, Singer served as chair of the philosophy department at Monash University, where he founded its Centre for Human Bioethics. In 1996 he stood unsuccessfully as a Greens candidate for the Australian Senate. In 2004 Singer was recognized as the Australian Humanist of the Year by the Council of Australian Humanist Societies, and in 2006 he was voted one of Australia’s ten most influential public intellectuals. Singer is a cofounder of Animals Australia and the founder of The Life You Can Save.
In This Interview, Peter Singer and I Discuss…
- His book, Ethics and the Real World: 82 Brief Essays on Things That Matter
- How he’s widely considered the most famous living philosopher
- Utilitarian philosophy
- The importance of preventing unnecessary suffering
- How the world is better today than it’s ever been
- The reasons why we don’t donate to help save children across the world
- Where to find highly vetted charity organizations to donate to
- How we’ve evolved to respond to help the person right in front of us but not yet to respond to someone who needs help on the other side of the world
- The science of measuring happiness
- Which is a better, more important question: asking people if they’re satisfied with their lives or enjoying their lives moment to moment
- Reducing unavoidable suffering vs. making people happier
- The link between happiness and money at various levels of society
- The importance of living in accordance with your values
- The importance of believing that your life has some purpose
- Personal identity or the idea of self
- The public good as a value and then individual liberty as another value
- Physician-assisted suicide
- His views on animal rights
- The value of starting new things later in life and taking on things you may not be great at
Peter Singer Links
A grandfather is talking with his grandson and he says there are two wolves inside of us which are always at war with each other.
One of them is a good wolf which represents things like kindness, bravery and love. The other is a bad wolf, which represents things like greed, hatred and fear.
The grandson stops and thinks about it for a second then he looks up at his grandfather and says, “Grandfather, which one wins?”
The grandfather quietly replies, the one you feedThe Tale of Two Wolves is often attributed to the Cherokee indians but there seems to be no real proof of this. It has also been attributed to evangelical preacher Billy Graham and Irish Playwright George Bernard Shaw. It appears no one knows for sure but this does not diminish the power of the parable.
This parable goes by many names including:
The Tale of Two Wolves
The Parable of the Two Wolves
Which Wolf Do You Feed
Which Wolf are You Feeding
Which Wolf Will You Feed
It also often features different animals, mainly two dogs.