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Many pieces could well inspire conversations—and arguments—that deepen and complicate the crucial moral and ethical issues...

Collected opinion pieces from a renowned ethicist.

Australian philosopher Singer (Bioethics/University Center for Human Values, Princeton Univ.; The Most Good You Can Do: How Affective Altruism is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically, 2015, etc.) has written, famously and controversially, about such issues as animal liberation, abortion, equality, altruism, global health, and attainment of a common good. His new volume gathers 82 short pieces—all under 1,000 words—most of which were contributions to Project Syndicate, a news service for more than 450 media outlets in 153 countries. Singer acknowledges that such pieces often are “ephemeral” and lack the “nuances and qualifications that could be explored in a longer essay.” Because his tone is characteristically sedate, the short form unfortunately flattens the impact of some emotionally laden topics: whether physicians are justified in carrying out euthanasia on severely impaired newborns; whether adult sibling incest should be considered a crime; whether demented, aged adults should be treated with antibiotics; and whether obese individuals should be taxed for excess weight. Among the essays on “Doing Good” are several pieces about how to evaluate charities for giving; Singer argues that supporting the Make-A-Wish Foundation to “fulfill the superhero fantasies of a five-year-old” is less responsible than contributions to organizations that provide surgeries, mosquito nets, and treatments against blindness. In a section on animals, Singer, who has not eaten meat for 40 years, exposes the cruelty involved in the poultry industry, cattle farms, and fishing; it is not merely the method of killing animals that he objects to, but the suffering that animals experience while alive. In a previously unpublished piece, he suggests bringing up at Thanksgiving dinner the ethical implications of eating turkey.

Many pieces could well inspire conversations—and arguments—that deepen and complicate the crucial moral and ethical issues that Singer presents.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-691-17247-7

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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