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 In a previously unpublished piece, he suggests bringing up at Thanksgiving dinner the ethical implications of eating turkey.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.