Childhood & Early Life
Peter Singer was born in Melbourne, Australia after his Viennese Jewish parents immigrated to Australia. His father was an exporter of tea while his mother was a doctor. Singer’s family had a violent history of their ancestors dying in concentration camps.
To attain formal education, Singer attended Preshil School and Scotch College. He did his BA degree from the University of Melbourne in law, history and philosophy in 1967 and completed his MA from the same university in 1969.
He went to the University of Oxford on a scholarship and earned his B.Phil in 1971; he did a thesis on civil disobedience, which was published as a book in 1973, titled ‘Democracy and Disobedience’.
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Singer published an article in 1971, ‘Famine, Affluence and Morality’, one of his most famous philosophical essays. In the essay, he has discussed how and why people should make charities and save the people who are dying of starvation.
In 1975, Singers’ book ‘Animal Liberation’ came out in which he talked about animal welfare and how we practice ‘speciesism’ in our modern culture. In his book he supported the concept of vegetarianism and veganism.
During the same time, he was appointed as a Radcliffe lecturer at University College, Oxford and was also an active visiting faculty at the New York University. He went back to Melbourne after some time and spent most of his literary career there.
From 1976-1981, Singer published works like: ‘Animal Rights and Human Obligations: An Anthology’ (1976), ‘Practical Ethics’ (1979), ‘Marx: A Very Short Introduction’ (1980), ‘Animal Factories’ (1980), ‘The Expanding Circle: Ethics and Sociobiology’ (1981).
He was made the chair of philosophy at the Monash University in 1977, where he also became the first director of the Centre for Human Bioethics. Later, he founded the International Association of Bioethics.
From 1982–1985, his published work included: ‘Hegel’ (1982), ‘Test-Tube Babies: a guide to moral questions, present techniques and future possibilities’ (1982), ‘The Reproduction Revolution: New Ways of Making Babies’ (1985) , and ‘Should the Baby Live?: The Problem of Handicapped Infants’.
Some of his major writings during the period 1986–1995 include: ‘Ethical and Legal Issues in Guardianship Options for Intellectually Disadvantaged People’ (1986), ‘Animal Liberation: A Graphic Guide’ (1987), ‘A Companion to Ethics’ (1991), ‘Save the Animals!’ (1991), ‘Embryo Experimentation’ (1993), and ‘The Great Ape Project: Equality Beyond Humanity’ (1995).
In 1993, Singer came out with his ‘How Are We to Live? : Ethics in an Age of Self-Interest’. The book goes through history of ethical thought and discusses the selfishness and the meaning of living life ethically and applying it to daily life.
In 1996, he ran as a Green candidate for the Australian Senate but was unsuccessful. Also, around that time he wrote ‘Rethinking Life and Death: The Collapse of Our Traditional Ethics’, ‘The Greens’, ‘The Allocation of Health Care Resources’, etc.
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In 1999, Singer was appointed as the Professor of Bioethics, University Centre for Human Value, Princeton University but due to his stand on bioethical issues, he was considered controversial in American, therefore his appointment had to be justified at the time.
In 2000, Peter's book ‘A Darwinian Left: Politics, Evolution and Cooperation’ was published. In this a book he argued that the evolutionary psychology is attuned with and should be integrated into the left ideological structure.
In 2004, he was recognized as the Australian humanist of the year by the Council of Australian Humanist Societies in 2004. His writings during this time were: ‘Unsanctifying Human Life’, ‘How Ethical is Australia? : An Examination of Australia’s Record as a Global Citizen’, etc.
In 2008, he became a part of the film and book ‘Examined Life: Excursions with Contemporary Thinkers’. The movie featured eight philosophers and was directed by Astra Taylor. Singer talked about ethics from Fifth Avenue, New York City.
In 2009, he wrote and published ‘The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty’. In the book he discussed the growing world poverty when for the first time in humanity we have the finances the and material to eradicate it completely.
In 1979, Singer published ‘Practical Ethics’, which is considered as one of his most wide-ranged works. He has discussed the various interests of the livings beings in details and the quality of a human being to invariably avoid pain.
‘How Are We to Live?: Ethics in an Age of Self-Interest’ published in 1993 is amongst Singer’s popular philosophical writings, delving into the quest of finding a reasonable ethical structure in today’s scenario.
In 2009, ‘The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty’ became one of his most comprehensive humanitarian writings, discussing the immorality of today’s generation in not coming together and eradicating poverty.
Singer donates 25 percent of his salary to Oxfam and UNICEF and he is a member of ‘Giving What We Can’, an international society for the promotion of poverty relief.
He wrote a book with the physician Deanne Wells on the surrogate motherhood. He believes that it should be allowed and regulated by the state by establishing non-profit 'State Surrogacy Boards'.
He is a vegetarian since 1971 and is increasingly becoming vegan.
Steve Forbes, an American publisher, stopped his aid to Princeton University in 1999 because of Singer's appointment to a prominent professorship.
Singer’s work has been a subject of protests and controversy in Germany in the late 80s.