Peter Singer. Photo courtesy of Leif Tuxen
In the News
Peter Singer receives the 2021 Berggruen Prize
Peter Singer has been awarded the 2021 Berggruen Prize for Philosophy and Culture, a $1 million award given annually to “thinkers whose ideas have profoundly shaped human self-understanding and advancement in a rapidly changing world.”
About Peter Singer
Journalists have bestowed on me the tag of “world’s most influential living philosopher.” They are probably thinking of my work on the ethics of our treatment of animals, often credited with starting the modern animal rights movement, and with the influence that my writing has had on the development of effective altruism. I am also known for my controversial critique of the sanctity of life ethics in bioethics.
In 2021 I was delighted to receive the Berggruen Prize for Philosophy and Culture. The citation referred to my “widely influential and intellectually rigorous work in reinvigorating utilitarianism as part of academic philosophy and as a force for change in the world.” The prize comes with $1 million which, in accordance with views I have been defending for many years, I am donating to the most effective organizations working to assist people in extreme poverty and to reduce the suffering of animals in factory farms.
Effective altruism measures the number of lives saved per dollar.
Several key figures in the animal movement have said that my book Animal Liberation, first published in 1975, led them to get involved in the struggle to reduce the vast amount of suffering we inflict on animals. To that end, I co-founded the Australian Federation of Animal Societies, now Animals Australia, the country’s largest and most effective animal organization. My wife, Renata, and I stopped eating meat in 1971.
I am the founder of The Life You Can Save, an organization based on my book of the same name. It aims to spread my ideas about why we should be doing much more to improve the lives of people living in extreme poverty, and how we can best do this. In 2013, I gave a TED talk on this topic.
My writings in this area include: the 1972 essay “Famine, Affluence, and Morality” in which I argue for donating to help the global poor; and two books that make the case for effective giving, The Life You Can Save (2009) and The Most Good You Can Do (2015).
I have written, co-authored, edited or co-edited more than 50 books, including Practical Ethics, The Expanding Circle, Rethinking Life and Death, One World, The Ethics of What We Eat (with Jim Mason) and The Point of View of the Universe (with Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek.) My writings have appeared in more than 25 languages.
The Life You Can Save — 10th Anniversary Edition
I was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1946, and educated at the University of Melbourne and the University of Oxford. After teaching in England, the United States, and Australia, in 1999 I became Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics in the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University. I am now only teaching at Princeton for the Fall semester. I spend part of each year doing research and writing in Melbourne, so that Renata and I can spend time with our three daughters and four grandchildren. We also enjoy hiking, and I surf.