Victoria's Reviews > The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty

The Life You Can Save by Peter Singer
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Oct 11, 2011

really liked it
Read on October 11, 2011

I read this book as someone who was already very sympathetic to Singer's argument that giving is important. I was not only already familiar with Singer's work, but as a practicing Christian, I already tithe. Instead, what I was looking for was to hear Singer's argument for particularly how we should give. In that case, I think he does a great job showing that it is very important to focus on the impoverished. I also very much enjoyed the beginning section, in which Singer justifies why giving is morally justified without the aid of religion, as it will hopefully make it much easier to clarify my views to others.

I was actually very surprised by many of the reviews, which claim that Singer calls for his readers to live an ascetic life and to feel incredibly guilty. I think the first part of this book, in which Singer lays out the philosophical case, may be the reason for that. In order to make a strong case for why people should give at all, I think he takes quite a hard line.

That said, I think his argument, when followed to the practical implications at the end of the book, says quite the opposite. Regardless of what he thinks is expendable, ultimately he only asks those making over $100,000 to give 5% of their income, and most only 1%. He also presents several possible plans for giving, some of which require one to give nothing at all under $100,000. Moreover, he claims that we should give anyone who chooses to give, like celebrities or even ourselves, a break because they're doing more than most. I felt that Singer ultimately did a good job tempering his argument with practical, achievable results that would allow you and I to feel good, rather than guilty, about the changes we can make while still emphasizing how necessary it is that change occur. I highly recommend this book.
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