The Most Good You Can Do How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically Peter Singer

Publication date:
07 May 2015
Yale University Press
232 pages: 210 x 140 x 22mm
2 b-w illus.
Sales territories:
Not for sale in Australia or New Zealand

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From the ethicist the New Yorker calls “the most influential living philosopher,” a new way of thinking about living ethically

"Singer’s argument is powerful, provocative and, I think, basically right. The world would be a better place if we were as tough-minded in how we donate money as in how we make it."—Nicholas Kristof, New York Times

"Bold, fresh, inspired, reasoned, optimistic."—Walter M. Bortz II, MD, Huffington Post Blog

Peter Singer’s books and ideas have been disturbing our complacency ever since the appearance of Animal Liberation. Now he directs our attention to a new movement in which his own ideas have played a crucial role: effective altruism. Effective altruism is built upon the simple but profound idea that living a fully ethical life involves doing the "most good you can do." Such a life requires an unsentimental view of charitable giving: to be a worthy recipient of our support, an organization must be able to demonstrate that it will do more good with our money or our time than other options open to us. Singer introduces us to an array of remarkable people who are restructuring their lives in accordance with these ideas, and shows how living altruistically often leads to greater personal fulfillment than living for oneself.

The Most Good You Can Do develops the challenges Singer has made, in the New York Times and Washington Post, to those who donate to the arts, and to charities focused on helping our fellow citizens, rather than those for whom we can do the most good. Effective altruists are extending our knowledge of the possibilities of living less selfishly, and of allowing reason, rather than emotion, to determine how we live. The Most Good You Can Do offers new hope for our ability to tackle the world’s most pressing problems.

Peter Singer is Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics, Princeton University, and Laureate Professor, School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, University of Melbourne. He is the author of more than twenty books including Animal Liberation, Practical Ethics, and The Life You Can Save. He divides his time between New York City and Melbourne, Australia.

"Singer’s argument is powerful, provocative and, I think, basically right. The world would be a better place if we were as tough-minded in how we donate money as in how we make it."—Nicholas Kristof, New York Times

"We need thinkers such as Singer to test our intuitions. . . . The encouraging message is that we do have the resources to be better. . . . This requires foremost that we believe in the goodness of others. So reading these powerful new books on the existence of altruism could be the first step to making the world a nicer place."—Stephen Cave, Financial Times

"Singer's book is bold, fresh, inspired, reasoned, optimistic. Read it and grow your brain."—Walter M. Bortz II, MD, Huffington Post Blog

"Singer's argument is powerful, provocative and, I think, basically right. The world would be a better place if we were as tough-minded in how we donate our money as in how we make it."—Nicholas Kristof, International Times

". . . easily one of the most relevant moral philosophers working today."—Jonathan T.D. Neil, Art Review

"The Most Good You Can Do should be of interest not only to committed [effective altruists] . . . but to anyone who cares about the effectiveness of their charitable activities. . . . It is a valuable contribution to the philosophical literature."—Travis Timmerman, The Philosophical Quarterly

"The Most Good You Can Do is worth reading, if only for the interesting examples and the challenge to our own comfortable thinking and accepted norms. It should also rightly strengthen the views of those who believe in using objective evidence when it comes to philanthropy rather than subjective emotion."—Nick Temple, Alliance

"A marvellously provocative and intriguing book. We would expect no less from Peter Singer, who has been bringing out such books for forty years."—Joel Marks, Philosophy Now

"In a world getting ever wealthier and more unequal, a book about effective altruism is overdue. What can you be doing— realistically, practically, today—to make the world a better place? No one has thought harder about this question than Peter Singer, and he answers it with his characteristic clarity and persuasiveness."—Elie Hassenfeld and Holden Kamofsky Co-Founders and Co-Executive Directors of the Open Philanthropy Project

"Peter Singer is one of the most important thinkers of our time, and this is his most important book. Through the stories of those in the nascent effective altruism movement, he provides clear guidance on what it means to live an ethical life in the face of the world’s many problems. From charity to career choice to consumerism, this book will revolutionize how you think about doing good."—Will MacAskill, author of Doing Good Better: Effective Altruism and How You Can Make a Difference

"Provocative and important. . . .The Most GoodYou Can Do is a delight to read—Singer is a deep thinker and a wonderfully clear writer, moving smoothly from careful philosophical analyses to vivid stories of extraordinary lives. And even if you are not persuaded that effective altruism is the way to become a better—and happier—person, you will find yourself deeply unsettled by Singer’s provocative claims about poverty, climate change, animals, art, rationality, and much else."—Paul Bloom, author of Just Babies

"From the time of his 1972 paper “Famine, Affluence, and Morality,” Peter Singer has argued that we should be giving more to alleviate global suffering than we usually do. In this new book, Singer introduces us to people who are giving much more and are having fun doing it, and shows us just how easy it is to make a positive difference in the world."—Lori Gruen, author of Ethics and Animals: An Introduction

"Read Peter Singer at your own peril. His arguments about animal welfare and vegetarianism have moved millions to change their lives. The Most GoodYou Can Do will challenge you to consider how your donations, career choices, and everyday life decisions can maximize good in the world."—Rob Reich, Stanford University