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Practical Ethics

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  2,781 ratings  ·  145 reviews
Peter Singer's remarkably clear and comprehensive Practical Ethics has become a classic introduction to applied ethics since its publication in 1979 and has been translated into many languages. For this second edition the author has revised all the existing chapters, added two new ones, and updated the bibliography. He has also added an appendix describing some of the deep ...more
Paperback, 411 pages
Published January 29th 1993 by Cambridge University Press (first published 1979)
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Emma Sea
Feb 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Practical Ethics is one of those books that authors cite all the time, but which I had never actually read**. In terms of discussing personal ethics in a humanist framework, there's nothing better than this book. Singer goes through the issues so clearly and yet conversationally, and also thoroughly addresses criticisms of and weaknesses in his arguments.

However I was unprepared for Singer appearing to be in favour of euthanizing babies with Down syndrome and Myelomeningocele (spina bifida) (pp
Conrad Zero
Jan 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Practical Ethics was recommended to me by my ethics professor. She claimed that the book was the reason she became a vegetarian.

Reading this book will be an eye-opening experience for many. The discussions tackle the biggest questions facing ethics. At what point should we consider a fetus a human being? What is the value of one human life compared to another? Why worry about saving the environment?

A highlight of the text is that Singer starts with a simple question or example which you will i
Of course this book is far from impartial. But it offer good and scrupulous arguments for his choices.
The book is written in a very dry and unhelpfully, boring manner. Yet the content of the book is far from boring.
I'm not going to write more on this review, my dog is barking at me to take him for a walk.
Worthless Bum
Aug 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy, ethics
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oumaima Bendjama
May 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who wants to read about moral philosophy and doesn't know where to start
I picked up Peter Singer's book upon many describing it as a comprehensive introduction to applied ethics, and although I didn't agree with all of Peter Singer's moral judgments he has given me so many valuable tools to think about moral issues. The book has 12 chapters, that touch into topics of equality, equality for animals, killing animals, abortion, Euthanasia, income inequality, climate change, the environment, civil disobedience, and violence.

I don't understand why Singer chose preferen

Nick Black
May 26, 2009 rated it liked it
Read down in Savannah back in 2002; I picked up an archival copy back in 2004. Lots of good thinking here, but Singer's *way* too quick to consider something "conclusively demonstrated." I found his animal rights doctrine a particularly grotesque pill to swallow, and his arguments regarding abortion rather slipshod reasoning (although not so much as the roe v wade decision itself) -- I'm staunchly pro-choice, but certainly not due to Singer-style arguments. For that matter, the 700,000 Americans ...more
Billie Pritchett
Dec 28, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: ethics, peter-singer
Peter Singer's Practical Ethics is a very considerate book. Singer's writings about equality, the ethical treatment of animals, and ending world poverty are best, it seems to me. I will reframe Singer's positions regarding these, not exactly as Singer put them, but being as charitable as possible as to what he was arguing for. Singer argues that among the varieties of conceptions of equality, we should choose equality of interests of persons (self-conscious rational creatures) and anything capab ...more
Aug 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A little tip; when reading Singer, surrender your mind (and your whole self) to Singer. A lot of what he says will sit uncomfortably with your basic instinct and gut feeling (no matter how broad minded you thought yourself to be), yet his arguments are compelling. I’ve spent tremendous time try to rebut his arguments in my head. Unfortunately I was unsuccessful in coming with any, let alone good ones.
Not many books leave you with this conflicted feeling; I feel what you are saying is mistaken,
Sep 27, 2008 rated it liked it
Interesting, not that I agree with all of it. Pretty easy to read, thankfully, and clear.

Edit on reread: I can understand why this book gets some pretty extreme reactions, now I've read it straight through like this. His view of ethics builds up throughout the book, too, so if you don't read all of it, if you read some of it out of context, then he sounds pretty awful.

It also should, if you're properly thinking about it, make you wonder why our society -- globally -- is the way it is, if we clai
Amber Rush
May 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
In this book, Singer, best known for his work on speciesm and Utilitarianism, explains how we can incorporate these values into our society. Singer sets out how each species and race is entirely equal and everything and everyone is entitled to the same amount of respect. Singer explains how equality has changed over time standing that 'Racist assumptions shared by most at the turn of the century are now totally unacceptable', The whole time saying that despite our biological differences our natu ...more
Soleil Shah
Jun 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Offers lots of insight into issues in applied ethics, from euthanasia to climate change. Singer builds his positions using preference-based utilitarianism, which seeks to maximize individuals’ abilities to satisfy their preferences. I loved his discussion around harming potential persons and the ethics of killing animals! At times though, I felt like there was room for more engagement with real-world data and evidence (e.g., Kahneman’s studies on psychological preferences for minimizing sufferin ...more
Jan 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, ethics
I've given Singer a pretty rough time but I admit now that I was mistaken. I had underestimated Singer as a thoughtful philosopher. This was book was very insightful, and much of it is compatible with other ethical traditions. This has made me want to read his other works, particularly the point of view of the universe dedicated to defending utilitarianism rather than simply applying it. ...more
Humphrey J
Oct 20, 2020 rated it it was ok
Haven't read in full- still confident in saying the text is painfully underwhelming: makes Mill seem well-spirited & subtle.
Comments on Marxism make me despair that this guy wrote the OUP intro to it.
Bayu Wijaya
Aug 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I even make peace with cockroaches after reading this book...
Todd Martin
In Practical Ethics Peter Singer (a moral philosopher and professor of bioethics at Princeton University) puts forth the idea of a utilitarian system of ethics based on an “equal considerations of interests”. To quote Singer:
The essence of the principle of equal consideration of interests is that we give equal weight in our moral deliberations to the like interests of all those affected by our actions. This means that if only X and Y would be affected by a possible act, and if X stands to lose m
Mar 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
notes to condense later:

Chapter 1: About ethics

-Argues that our moral intuitions are a product of natural selection. pg. 5 "We have inherited a set of moral intuitions from our ancestors. Now we need to work out which of them should be changed.

-This latter bit seems a bit problematic to me. On what basis can we reason about/revise these intuitions without an appeal to a natural law? How do we go from an "is" to an "ought"?

-Singer agrees that moral intuitions are subjective in the sense that they
Vladyslav Sitalo
I wanted to Practical Ethics for some time now. It's not exactly the light read, but if you decide to take it in your hands you will find yourself in a possession of a small treasure.
The sharp reasoning and clear language of the author will lead you on an intellectual journey where you will think through the variety of topics (e.g. abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, animal suffering, poverty, global warming, environment and ethics itself) and quite possibly will change your position on some of
Jul 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Practical Ethics is the one book I know that can, without fail start a heated argument in any company. You just open to any page read a paragraph out loud. Instant debate.

Peter Singer makes a habit of bait-and-switching the reader. Starting with what (usually) sound like simple, easy to agree with axioms he builds up easy to follow example. Then proceeds to explain why, if you agree with the example, which most people do, you have agreed to something that most people would find unacceptable.

Sep 07, 2018 marked it as to-keep-reference
During my first year of graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania, I discovered the weakness of moral reasoning in myself. I read a wonderful book—Practical Ethics—by the Princeton philosopher Peter Singer. Singer, a humane consequentialist, shows how we can apply a consistent concern for the welfare of others to resolve many ethical problems of daily life. Singers approach to the ethics of killing animals changed forever my thinking about my food choices. Singer proposes and justifies a ...more
Aug 17, 2012 rated it liked it
Since I am not Utilitarian, I disagreed with Singer far more than I agreed. This is not a problem though because it was a good introduction to some views that otherwise would have been alien to my understanding. His more extreme views should not be discounted out of hand, but must be taken seriously and answered appropriately. Among these are his views on animal rights and the treatment of the mentally deficient and infants. He speaks a great deal against Speciesism, but seems to practice his ow ...more
Apr 29, 2015 rated it liked it
I liked this book more than most books that I give three stars and I admire Peter Singer for his reasoning and his conviction. However, I found his arguments unconvincing, mainly because I disagree with his premise that we have some moral compulsion to act ethically in the first place. While it certainly seems rational to attempt to preserve the environment for selfish reasons (as well as other, virtuous, reasons), I see no moral compulsion to do so. Similarly for not killing animals. We may ind ...more
Dec 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 w ...more
Erin McNally
I haven't read this book. I was going to but thankfully Peter himself told me not to. Instead Peter said we should be boycotting this thing that calls himself a philosopher when really he is just spewing bullshit. I understand 90% of the comments about this book was pre April 2015 so no one knew. But this "man" this "thing" preaches Ethics but then says disabled babies should be killed to save on the cost of health insurance. How is this "Ethical"? Oh the irony. I would LOVE to wake up one morni ...more
the kenosha kid
Dec 05, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to the kenosha kid by: José Eduardo Porcher
I disagree with Singer's implicit premise that ethics can be systematized or rigorously examined with logic, but taken for what it is this book must be as good as it gets. His arguments are clear and consistent, although he does get a little ad hoc every now and then. Overall it could be useful as heuristics for when you're undecided about the morality of a certain action; but I don't think you can say any of this stuff is right or use it to argue against competing conceptions of ethics.

update 2
Shozo Hirono
Dec 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
I liked the chapter "Why Act Morally?" the best. It delved into some interesting but unresolved problems of the foundations of ethics, discussing the tension between self-interest and universality, and the difficult example of happy psychopaths. However, his tentative conclusion that the justification for ethics is that it makes you happier isn't entirely convincing. How odd that the branch of philosophy that's among the closest to our daily experience, ethics, is an area that's still in a surpr ...more
Nia Nymue
Jun 25, 2015 rated it liked it
Finally finished this book. Took me a while to get through because I was initially only interested in a few chapters. I think this is the kind of book that you can get by with reading only the chapters you're interested in. His views are very consistent and he explains them quite well, although I think that he could be a lot more succinct. I suspect that it is as lengthy as it is because he has a lot of critics and need to take slower, more careful steps in his phrasing. ...more
Abdullah Baheer
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a difficult read for me since it was my first read on the topic of philosophical argumentation for ethics. This book gave me a solid base for understanding the various outlooks on morality and ethics in the different schools of thought. The book is dense since it is dealing with very heavy topics. It also rocked my ethical boat at different places and made me think deeper about my preconceived ideas about why are certain acts moral/immoral.
Brooks Kohler
Dec 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I bought this book while in college for 50 cents. I still refer to it. For any person wanting a primer into ethics, this book is a good start. Singer lays out clearly ethical scenarios and possible solutions.
Jul 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Interesting and challenging book. I don't agree with many of his conclusions but he has put a lot of time into creating a strong argument for his views. ...more
Rui Coelho
Sep 27, 2015 rated it it was ok
This is the kind of "humanist" BS that you are likely to find everyday on Facebook. ...more
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Peter Singer is sometimes called "the world’s most influential living philosopher" although he thinks that if that is true, it doesn't say much for all the other living philosophers around today. He has also been called the father (or grandfather?) of the modern animal rights movement, even though he doesn't base his philosophical views on rights, either for humans or for animals.

In 2005 Time mag

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