Peter Singer

Philosopher, ethicist
Sometimes controversial, always practical ethicist Peter Singer stirs public debate about morality, from animal welfare to global poverty.

Why you should listen

Peter Singer may be, as The New Yorker calls him, the planet’s “most influential living philosopher." His groundbreaking 1975 book, Animal Liberation, questioned society’s tendency to put human needs above those of members of other species and helped trigger the modern animal rights movement. In 2023, he published Animal Liberation Now, which asks what progress has been made since his earlier book and outlines what still needs to be achieved. His 1972 article "Famine, Affluence and Morality" is one of the most widely reprinted philosophical essays and inspired effective altruism, now a worldwide movement that focuses on using our resources as effectively as possible to reduce suffering and bring about a better world.

Singer draws fire from critics who object to his claim that affluent people who fail to help those living in extreme poverty are not living an ethical life. This, critics believe, sets the bar so high that it means we are almost all living unethically. His defense of euthanasia and infanticide in some circumstances has led to protests against his lectures and to his appointment as professor of bioethics at Princeton University. Still, Singer’s collective body of work is more acclaimed than controversial. He has written the classic text Practical Ethics, The Expanding Circle, The Life You Can Save (which gave rise to the organization of the same name) and Pushing Time Away (an account of the life and fate of his grandfather, a victim of the Holocaust). He's also written three volumes in Oxford University Press's Very Short Introductions series: Marx, Hegel and -- with Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek -- Utilitarianism. Ninety of the best of his brief, brilliant popular essays have been collected in the volume Ethics in the Real World.

Peter Singer’s TED talks

More news and ideas from Peter Singer


The why and how of effective altruism: Peter Singer’s talk visualized

September 19, 2013

If you’re lucky enough to live without want, it’s a natural impulse to want to try and help others. But what’s the most effective way to give? This was the question philosopher Peter Singer asked in his 2013 TED Talk, given in Long Beach, California, and he shared some surprising thought experiments to help balance emotion […]

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Global Issues

20+ resources for better giving and living a more altruistic life

May 20, 2013

Every day, most of us do something morally indefensible — we go about our lives without sending help to the 6.9 million children under the age of 5 who will die this year from poverty-related disease. In today’s talk, philosopher Peter Singer makes the case that ignoring these kids is as inhumane as ignoring a […]

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Effective altruism: Peter Singer at TED2013

March 1, 2013

Moral philosopher Peter Singer starts the last session of TED2013, “A Ripple Effect?” with a shocking video of a 2-year-old girl in China who was hit by a van — and then a second van — and ignored by passers-by as she lay dying in an alley. He asks of the audience: Would you have […]

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