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The Most Good You Can Do (Peter Singer, Text)

Forty years on from Animal Liberation, Peter Singer is still challenging our complacency with his advocacy for new ideas and movements. ‘Effective altruism’—doing the most good with the available resources—is a simple yet profound concept that Singer presents with stimulating clarity in The Most Good You Can Do. By first introducing the reader to a stream of effective altruists—millionaires donating fortunes to carefully selected charities; university students donating kidneys; philosophy graduates pursuing lucrative banking careers instead of academia—Singer positions the educated, morally conscious reader as a candidate for effective altruism. The book proceeds didactically, defining how and why we should act: how to choose effective charities; which meta-charities to consider; and why we should adopt a rational rather than emotional outlook on moral responsibility. Further into the book, the arguments become increasingly philosophical and existential, yet no less comprehensible and thought-provoking. The gravity of the moral responsibility and solutions that the book demands are not reflected in the book’s tone, which is consistently upbeat and optimistic. Singer urges that we strive for an attainable level of practical morality, while simultaneously accepting inescapable hypocrisy. In clear prose, Singer weaves effective altruism into a timely and convincing ideology. 

 

Sophie Lloyd is a bookseller at Readings

 

Category: Reviews