When  the book The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty was first published in 2009, it completely changed (and re-ignited) the conversation around poverty, ethics, and philanthropy. Clearly it affected Musings host Charlie Bresler, who, after reading the book, ultimately approached its author about starting a non-profit based around philanthropy.

According to its author, Peter Singer, those with money are behaving unethically — even immorally — if they don’t take steps to end the poverty and suffering of others.

Singer’s parents were Austrian Jews who immigrated to Australian to escape the Nazis. Tragically, three of his four grandparents died at the hands of the Nazi regime, and in this episode, Peter and Charlie discuss how this history may or may not have impacted his world view. 

It’s a fascinating conversation around why we give or don’t. As you might imagine, the reasons are complex, rooted in human psychology, tinged with fear and cognitive dissonance, and seasoned with a lack of cultural pressure, thanks to an idea called the “diffusion of responsibility.”

We hope you’ll enjoy this episode and share it widely. 

More about Peter Singer:

Raised in Australia, Peter Singer was awarded a scholarship to attend Oxford, where he received a Bachelor of Philosophy and later a Master’s. He was a Radcliffe lecturer at Oxford, a visiting professor at NYU, and spent most of his career as a professor in Melbourne. In 1999 he moved to Princeton to teach, and in 2011 to London to lecture at the New College of the Humanities.

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Recent Episodes

Episode 17: Musings with Peter Singer

Most of us in the west have our first pair of shoes long before we can actually walk. Not true for Caroline Teti, who had her first pair of shoes at 12, when it was time to go to high school. Today Caroline is the Director of Recipients Advocacy at GiveDirectly Global – we hope you’ll enjoy Charlie’s conversation with this absolutely inspiring woman.

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One of its first three employees, journalist Dylan Matthews is a senior correspondent and head writer for Future Perfect at Vox. For those unfamiliar, Future Perfect tells stories about people and organizations “finding the best ways to do good.”

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