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Ethics in the Real World: 86 Brief Essays on Things that Matter

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  2,361 ratings  ·  252 reviews

Peter Singer is often described as the world’s most influential philosopher. He is also one of its most controversial. The author of important books such as Animal Liberation, Practical Ethics, Rethinking Life and Death, and The Life You Can Save, he helped launch the animal rights and effective altruism movements and contributed to the development of bioethics. Now, in Et

Paperback, 336 pages
Published September 19th 2016 by Text Publishing
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Mitchell Barrington I wondered the same thing. I own both books, the 82 was from the US and the 86 from Australia; I'm unsure why the American version has fewer essays. T…moreI wondered the same thing. I own both books, the 82 was from the US and the 86 from Australia; I'm unsure why the American version has fewer essays. The missing essays themselves aren't amazing or overly controversial.(less)

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Kevin Kelsey
Jan 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone with a few extra minutes here and there
Posted at Heradas Review

A wonderful collection of short essays, aimed toward every day people. Each designed to introduce some difficult ethical questions to those that may have never been forced to confront them in their day-to-day lives.

The only failure of this book is, in retrospect, actually a success, it being inherent to the function of what the book set out to achieve; the essays are too brief, and as a result, often too black and white. The author, a utilitarian, undoubtedly understood t
Tso William
Nov 10, 2016 rated it liked it
The book consists of short essays from one of the most eminent philosophers of our age. The book title Ethics in the Real World is a little misleading because there are in fact essays on a range of topics: from Godless morality to New Year's resolution. As each essay is only a few pages and written in clear and understandable prose, it gives good introductions on major topics.

The problem, however, is that sometimes the essays are so short that it gives no justice to Singer's thought. I have rea
Larry Bassett
I have come to respect Peter singer in recent years because of his contributions to the field of effective altruism, doing the most good possible with your financial contributions to charities. I decided to read this book because it was by Peter Singer. I was somewhat disappointed but I think that was more because I felt somewhat overwhelmed by one short op ad piece after another. I wasn't especially interested in all of the topics and didn't feel that Peter added a great deal to my thinking abo ...more
Liam Bai
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A collection of thought-provoking essays on ethical issues that should concern every single one of us.

How can philosophy and ethics be valuable if they only raise questions that cannot be definitively answered? This thought always steered me away from philosophy – why are you sitting here thinking about these empty ideas when, instead, you can use this time to do something useful? I found an answer in this book: just like inventing new technologies, by thinking about and discussing things that m
Malcolm Everett
May 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing

Australian philosopher and Stanford professor Peter Singer provides bite-sized food for thought in this collection of mini essays on various ethical issues, which was written with a general audience in mind. The essays are organized according to topic, covering everything from animal rights and euthanasia to charitable giving and politics.

As a teenager, these types of ethical questions were ones that I devoured endlessly. I lurked on online forums to discover different viewpoints and delighted
DNF at 68% - some of its arguments were engaging and thought-provoking (especially the ones on medical care), but for the most part I didn't really care for these essays. A lot of them felt obvious, and maybe that's because of the constraints of Singer's format. Personally, I thought the brevity of the essays robbed them of potential for nuance, and made them feel quite underwhelming at times. That being said, I'm deciding to DNF this because it simply isn't holding my attention right now. I'd r ...more
Arnaud Vigouroux
Dec 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book that raises a lot of important questions that we are often uncomfortable to ask ourselves.
Matthew Kramer
Dec 19, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Dr. Singer is an instructor in bioethics at Princeton, which explains his relentlessly liberal viewpoint and thinly veiled contempt for religion, conservatives and basically everyone who does not agree with him. For an individual who supposedly has spent a lifetime developing the field of Bioethics, many of his arguments (they are in fact arguments, in support of his own opinions, not even-handed treatments of difficult questions) lack even a pretense of logical progression. As a physician who h ...more
Text Publishing
‘Peter Singer’s status as a man of principles and towering intellect—a philosopher extraordinaire, if you will—is unrivalled in Australia.’
Sydney Morning Herald

‘Peter Singer is a public intellectual par excellence.’

‘Peter Singer may be the most controversial philosopher alive; he is certainly among the most influential.’
New Yorker

‘Lucidly conceived and written, the brief essays in Ethics in the Real World attest to Singer’s enduring facility for wise, clear-headed enquiry into some of the
Dec 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
I agree with Singer that the op-ed provides a great medium for scholars to advance their thoughts because it forces them to make their language less complicated and their thoughts more succinct. Having said that, there was no real coherency to this book--no connecting tissue from one thought to the other. It didn't even seem like there was any order at all to the random essays. Having said that each essay was really thought-provoking and it was great to have them all in one place and read Singer ...more
Feb 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Jake and I listened to a couple essays in the car on a road trip which started some really good conversations. I want to discuss all 86 essays with someone on a road trip. That would be awesome.
Corey Wozniak
Apr 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
This would make a great 'textbook' for a Philosophy & Ethics course at the high school level. I'd really like to teach such a class someday. The breadth is fantastic: "climate change, extreme poverty, animals, abortion, euthanasia, human genetic selection, sports doping, the sale of kidneys, the ethics of high-priced art, and ways of increasing happiness... whether chimpanzees are people, smoking should be outlawed, or consensual sex between adult siblings should be decriminalised" and more.

Ethics in the Real World is a collection of Singer's writings on a wide range of topics, ranging from vegetarianism and charitable giving to parenting and artificial lifeforms. The essays can be interesting and thought provoking. However, if one is at all knowledgeable about the subject matter, the author's views routinely come across as shockingly naive. He also writes as if his subjective value judgments were universal truths; they are not.
Mar 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
This book will make you think about every single thing you do. It will also make you want to be a better person. This book will also make you want to be a deeper better thinker. Professor Singer does these things effortlessly in easy language George Orwell would approve of. He does it with humility, sincerity and brio. Everyone should have this on their bed side table ready to be absorbed nightly.
This collection of essays is thought-provoking and at times, controversial. I was inspired to try veganism and dismayed by Singer's lack of appreciation for art and culture, which he consistently values below disease-prevention. Bunched by topic, the essays can be quite repetitive and are not ideal for road-trip listening. The book is better in small doses.
Teo 2050


Singer P (2016) (09:04) Ethics in the Real World - 86 Brief Essays on Things that Matter


Big Questions

01. The Value of a Pale Blue Dot (from Project Syndicate, May 14, 2009)

02. Does Anything Matter? (from Project Syndicate, June 13, 2011)

03. Is There Moral Progress? (from Project Syndicate, April 14, 2008)

04. God and Suffering, Again (from Free Inquiry, a publication of the Council for Secular Humanism, a program of the Center for Inquiry, O
Michael Kich
Ummm, this title actually bored me. I didn't object to anything written within it, and I don't object in principle to the chosen format (short, 2-3 page essays on a variety of topics taken from roughly a decade-long period), but it just didn't inspire very much curiosity or new thought in me. Every conclusion he reached was what would be obviously ethical, or at least what I would already judge as the ethical position. It's not that I want to strenuously object to whatever I'm reading, but that ...more
Peter Singer is a well known and influential Australian bioethicist who teaches at Princeton. This book presents a series of "80 brief essays" on things that matter. So this is a book in which a highly regarded philosopher presents some of his core insights working under a constraint of a 1000 word space constraint. I thought about this for a while before I began. Philosophy is hard to read and takes much time and attention. There is much craft involved in it, although it is often difficult enou ...more
Oct 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Australian Peter Singer is one of my favourite philosophers because he writes about everyday issues that thoughtful citizens need to think about clearly. I’ve reviewed a couple of his books about philanthropy (The Most Good You Can Do, and The Life You Can Save) but this latest title Ethics in the Real World is different because it ranges widely over a variety of topics and as the sub-title says, it’s 86 Brief Essays on Things That Matter. The 82 essays are short pieces of less than 1000 words w ...more
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I agree
Bradley Eylander
Aug 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
Due to small length of each essay Singer is forced to state a ethical issue and give HIS solution and opinion. It's missing the well thought reasoning behind his opinion and why the contrary view is incorrect. For example, when he talks about global warming he briefly mentions that people don't view all lives as of equal value, hence why rich societies and people are not doing enough to stop their greenhouse gas effects which affects poor people more than rich ones. Well why should the reader th ...more
Peter Jaimez
Nov 14, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Not a a philosopher a Parrot!

Putting aside the merits, or lack of them, of the arguments is very sad when you only find those ideas that a) make the author feel superior to the rest on mankind, b) Help insure his status and material well being.

Of course thinking about the issues would threaten not only his pocket but his vision of himself.

And that is what I desire from a real "lover of wisdom"

A single example: a single old badly tuned car in Caracas puts out more pollution in an hour than a thou
Abhishek Kona
May 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a series of essays from Peter singers newspaper columns. The essays introduce the reader to various ethical issues today and how the author reasons or thinks about them. It is an opinionated book. The book does not provide some sort of decision framework, it treats each issue case by case.

This book was mind opening. The criticism I have it some essays are too simple, may be the author wanted to make it accessible to the casual newspaper reader.
Jul 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ethics
If you don't like philosophy, read this. Ethics in the real world is philosophy as it was originally meant to be: careful thinking about real world issues and how to address them. No nonsensical word games, just pragmatic, thought provoking essays about issues anybody should be concerned with, without falling back on "well, God done said in this Bronze Age book written by illiterate herdsmen that..."
Jan 16, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
While I find some of the arguments novel and interesting, there are major flaws in there author's provided information that is used to start each argument. I found the statistics he provided on Iran flawed. Also don't expect it to be a public policy guideline but just a thought exercise book given the impracticality of some of his arguments.
John Fredrickson
Mar 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ethics, philosophy, essays
In this book, Singer explores a myriad of subjects from the standpoint of ethical considerations. Often this takes unexpected turns, as when he explores our predilection for eating meat and its impact on climate change issues. Each essay is extremely short, and is quickly read, but they touch on subjects that are quite diverse.
Cian Breen
Dec 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Peter Singer is a joy to read. His utilitarian views are highly rational and enlightening. The essays contained in this book are indeed brief but they cover a wide range of important topics. This is an excellent introduction to Singer's work.
Oct 31, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Too brief, in my opinion - this book is more a clear statement of all Singer's positions than an attempt to defend them. Singer is a concise writer, though, I'm interested in reading his thoughts at a level with more rigor.
Manaal Faruqui
Mar 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
highly recommend for those who would like a quick grasp on different topics that touch ethics in the real world. it's a collection of essays on such topics with every essay being 2-3 pages which makes it easier to digest while not getting bored.
Edward Sullivan
A great collection of short, accessible essays that are intellectually and morally challenging. Many would be great for small group discussions.
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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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