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Most of us are absolutely certain that we wouldn’t hesitate to save a drowning child, and that we would do it at considerable cost to ourselves. Yet while thousands of children die each day, we spend money on things we take for granted, and would hardly miss if they were not there. Is that wrong? If so, how far does our obligation to the poor go?
According to the World Bank 1.4 billion people live on less than US$1.25 per day. This entails a vast amount of suffering and avoidable loss of life. The Life You Can Save offers a solution to world poverty. With his trademark clarity, logic and intellectual flair Peter Singer shows us not only that this solution is possible, but also that we have a moral obligation to be part of it.
‘Peter Singer’s status as a man of principles and towering intellect—a philosopher extraordinaire, if you will—is unrivalled in Australia.’
‘The true reason we do not give freely is because of an almost unlimited capacity to put out of our minds the suffering of people we will never meet. One of the effects of Singer’s book is to refocus the reader on that suffering, at least for a while. After I finished the book, I contacted Oxfam to give money. I always knew I didn’t need a new suit; Peter Singer reminded me.’
‘Peter Singer believes that current standards of charitable giving in affluent societies are not only inadequate but morally indefensible. His argument proceeds, cool and devastating, through a refutation of common objections…a concrete proposal, with a sliding scale, for what everyone should give.…the gauntlet is down, and lovely discussion must follow. This is what philosophy is for.’
‘Peter Singer is a public intellectual par excellence; he takes complex philosophical notions and relates them directly to the general reader without a hint of loftiness or superiority. The Life You Can Save is classic Singer: a straightforward but perspicacious exploration of one of the great ethical questions of our age…rarely have arguments been stated with such forensic intensity and with such persuasive accompanying data. Singer strikes just the right tone…an ineluctable call to action—the prose equivalent of blazing trumpets.’
‘Compelling, sobering and inspiring, with Singer at his most convincing with sensible and measured arguments in favour of doing more to stop 1000 children dying every hour from poverty…Singer is a master at posing the curly philosophical dilemmas, the ones aimed at really making you confront the way you think and what you think about issues, and The Life You Can Save is filled with such delicious hypotheticals.’