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Practical ethics by Peter Singer
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Practical ethics (edition 1979)

by Peter Singer

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795519,747 (4.03)7
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.… (more)
Member:UMPhilosophy
Title:Practical ethics
Authors:Peter Singer
Info:Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1979.
Collections:Your library
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Practical Ethics by Peter Singer

  1. 00
    Reasons and Persons by Derek Parfit (kiparsky)
    kiparsky: Parfit covers similar ground to Singer, but in a much more theoretical and academic manner. Having read Singer, a reader will probably be well equipped to grapple with Parfit's work.
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If we are looking for a purpose broader than our own interests, something that will allow us to see our lives as possessing significance beyond the narrow confines of our own conscious states, one obvious solution is to take up the ethical point of view. The ethical point of view does [...] require us to go beyond a personal point of view to the standpoint of the impartial spectator. Thus looking at things ethically is a way of transcending our inward-looking concerns and identifying ourselves with the most objective point of view possible — with, as Sidgwick put it, 'the point of view of the universe'.

Singer's arguments are powerful and clear. In the field of applied ethics, there are few works as compelling as Practical Ethics—regardless of whether one is a consequentialist or not. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in challenging their ethical notions and digging deep into the most difficult moral issues of our time. ( )
  drbrand | Jun 8, 2020 |
A careful and systematic layman's treatment of of the study of ethics primarily centered on actual cases - hence the "practical" in the title. Singer's approach is essentially to introduce the reader to the fundamental questions of philosophical ethics by considering "obvious" answers to basic questions, and seeing how those obvious answers fare when confronted with difficult situations pulled from real life.
This is perhaps a slightly unfair approach - the legal maxim holding that "hard cases make bad law" comes to mind - but it does force the reader to confront some non-obvious difficulties in those obvious answers.
If I have a complaint with the book, it's that Singer often seems to take his conclusions as definitive, or to present them as definitive, when it seems clear that the reader still has some work to do in validating his steps, and even some room to disagree with the author.
However, the treatment of the subject is a good one, and the reader will find much to argue with here, and will likely have their mind changed a time or two. All in all, a good introduction to the subject, and the references and notes will lead the interested reader much deeper in if they choose to go there. ( )
1 vote kiparsky | May 3, 2014 |
Ethics as applied to difficult and controversial social questions from a secular, preference utilitarian perspective that "promotes actions that fulfill the interests (preferences) of those beings involved. The beings may be rational, that is to say, their interests may be carefully selected based on future projections, but this is not compulsory; here, the definition of party extends to all sentient beings" (Wikipedia). ( )
1 vote Ron_Peters | Aug 11, 2013 |
This is a strange, strange book, mostly because of Singer's insistence that he's being impeccably reasonable. Here's the best example I can think of where this becomes a burden to his case: I spent the first half of the book wondering how he could justify giving priority in any way to humans -- in the allocation of scarce medical resources, for example; Singer sought to answer this question (in part) by conducting a thought experiment in which you are first a horse for a bit, then a human for a bit, and finally, you are neither a horse nor a human (nor anything at all, it seems) but can remember what it's like to be each and can choose which you'd prefer to be... and that'd be human, right? Reason dictates that, doesn't it?

It's not that I disagree with his conclusions, it's the way he goes about defending them that seems so strange, and an essential component of that strangeness is his completely ignoring virtue ethics. They're an incredibly awkward absence from this book when I can't help but feel they're the only way to accomplish utilitarian ends. (And utilitarianism might, in turn, be a way of tempering the cultural blindnesses and prejudices with which virtue ethics is capable of being crippled.) What I mean is simply that, if we determine that a just world is the best world to live in, the most straightforward way to accomplish that is not to argue that x action contributes more pain to the moral calculus than it contributes pleasure -- but instead, to ask how we can inculcate in ourselves more compassion, more interest in justice, more attention, more openness to sympathetic experience. If we succeed in the cultivation of these qualities, the moral force of suffering would be much greater and justice, having come about 'from the bottom up,' would be more sustainable once established.

A final fault I found in this book is that I would have liked to hear Singer's thoughts on the death penalty. I understand that he's an Australian philosopher and that the death penalty is not an issue there, but it does seem to be an excellent fit for the other life and death subject matter of this book. ( )
1 vote ossicones | Jun 8, 2009 |
required reading. even if you don't agree with Singer, you will think about the issues. ( )
1 vote heidilove | Nov 25, 2005 |
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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.

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