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Practical Ethics [Paperback]

Peter Singer
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Practical Ethics Practical Ethics 5.0 out of 5 stars (5)
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Book Description

14 Feb 1980
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 misunderstanding of and consequent violent reaction to the book in Germany, Austria and Switzerland where the book has tested the limits of freedom of speech. The focus of the book is the application of ethics to difficult and controversial social questions.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (14 Feb 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521297206
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521297202
  • Product Dimensions: 18 x 11.7 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,009,269 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

From a review of the first edition 'Singer's book is packed with admirably marshalled and detailed information, social, medical, and economic, and has a splendid appendix of notes and references to further reading. The utility of this utilitarian's book to students of its subject can hardly be exaggerated.' New York Review of Books

'Peter Singer has provided us with a good example of the fruits of a major and by now established extension of philosophical interest. He succeeds in being straightforward, clear, and forceful without oversimplifying the technical aspects of the problems he discusses or trivialising the underlying philosophical issues.' The Times Higher Education Supplement

'Excellent and highly provocative.' Choice --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

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. The focus of the book is the application of ethics to difficult and controversial social questions. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly the world's most important book 27 Jun 2005
Format:Paperback
I first read Practical Ethics twenty-five years ago, and have re-read it, including the later expanded edition, several times. It is an amazing book, because it quietly, calmly and rationally tears apart most of our conventional views about what is right and wrong, particularly in the areas of abortion, euthanasia, our treatment of animals, how we should respond to global poverty and what responsibility we have towards future generations. Singer is currently a professor at Harvard, and is probably the world's most influential writer on ethics. Certainly, Practical Ethics is the most important book that I have ever read, and I urge you to read it, too.
Singer does not pre-judge anything: he challenges us to throw away assumptions such as 'all human life is sacred' and he exposes the unjustifiability of many of the conclusions that we imagine follow from the differences between people and other animals. He uses logical argument to make us realise that if we want to be moral, we need to fundamentally change many of our attitudes.
Singer uses detailed scientific facts as well as moral argument to explore how we should behave, and comes to many controversial conclusions. He has been accused, wrongly, of being hostile to the rights of people with disabilities, but in fact he is a persuasive advocate for ending all unfair discrimination, and for valuing the comparable interests of all sentient beings equally, even when those sentient beings are not people.
I do not agree with everything in Practical Ethics (though I suspect that when we disagree, it is Singer who is right!), but reading it has still managed to change my life in many ways. Be prepared for a challenging and wonderfully stimulating read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Valuable but still controversial 16 July 2008
Format:Paperback
The title of this book is most apt. Singer presents his view of ethics by considering practical situations that may present moral dilemmas. He arranges the chapters so as to provide progressive examples in which he puts forward a coherent, if in places controversial, approach to ethical behaviour. Chapter headings are:

1. About Ethics
2. Equality and its Implications
3. Equality for Animals?
4. What's Wrong with Killing?
5. Taking Life: Animals
6. Taking Life: The Embryo and the Fetus
7. Taking Life: Humans
8. Rich and Poor
9. Insiders and Outsiders
10. The Environment
11. Ends and Means
12. Why Act Morally?
Appendix: On Being Silenced in Germany

For me Singer's style isn't always easy to read. Of course one expects somehwat convoluted sentences in philosophy books but it could, IMO, benefit from an effort to tidy up the worst specimens. Apart from that, given the task that the author sets himself, the overall balance of the book is IMO nicely judged.

As to Singer's ethical position, I have my doubts. His concept of ethical personhood is made to bear, IMO, more than it reasonably can. It distinguishes between sentience and self-awareness and accords a self-aware being greater ethical consideration than a purely sentient one. He could, IMO, make stronger arguments for his positions from the Bhuddist principle that ethical behaviour is that which tends to reduce the suffering of any sentient beings. To my mind this makes many of his arguments in Chapters 4 to 7 open to significant criticism.

He mentions Hare's concepts of intuititive and critical ethics but does not develop them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Practical ethics 25 Feb 2011
By Mark
Format:Paperback
Peter singer is one of the best thinkers of or time!
I would recommend this book.
The best way I could explain would be having an opinion but thought it out ethically and morally !
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5.0 out of 5 stars Provocative, at least as in thought provoking 26 Feb 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Singer deals with some difficult issues from a utilitarian perspective; abortion, euthanasia etc. The only missing part, as I remember, is the question concerning when/if the utilitarian approach is not admissible - are there certain things one shouldn't do?
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3.0 out of 5 stars A not entirely practical set of ethics 10 Nov 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I read this as an undergraduate in philosophy over 30 years ago and returned to it as research for my own book of ethics 'Natural Ethics'. There is a lot to be said for the humane aspects of the ethics propounded is this book, but the inherent inhumanity of utilitarianism raises questions as to how 'practical' Singer's ethics are when human beings are not on the whole given to rational responses to moral situations. It makes sense to adopt such ethics if one ignores the emotional and psychologically subjective responses to moral choices that human beings are on the whole naturally disposed to make. Even after 30 years I found it easy read, again, and it's well written and logically 'bolted together' as one would expect from such a deservedly eminent modern philosopher.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read this book 20 Feb 2013
Format:Paperback
As a preference utilitarian i found this book coherent and logical, no greater testament can be made to its sound logic than the fact that i became a vegetarian because of this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very good 16 July 2012
By Livvi
Format:Paperback
I thought this was a really good book. I study philosophy so read this as a bit of extra reading and found it really interesting because he covers a wide range of topics. BEWARE though, Peter Singer is a preference utilitarian and as such as quite a biased way of writing, that's why I've only given it four stars.
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