What Does Animal Rights Legend Peter Singer Read for Fun?
The prominent philosopher and ethicist shares his all-time favorite books.
Philosopher and Princeton professor Peter Singer has a lot to be proud of: His book Animal Liberation (available on Amazon, iTunes, and Barnes & Noble) jump-started the animal rights movement when it was first published in 1975, changing the lives of people like Ingrid Newkirk, who says that the book inspired her to found PETA.
The New Yorker has called him one the most influential living philosophers, and his ideas about effective altruism continue to spark debate and controversy. Now the man who’s books have inspired so many shares the books that have been most meaningful to him.
If this isn’t everybody’s favorite it should be. Austen writes beautifully and has a delightful sense of humor. If this is not the best novel ever written, then my second choice is.
You won’t smile as often with Middlemarch as you do with Pride and Prejudice, but the characters are wonderfully drawn, and Eliot gets them into intriguing situations that raise all kinds of interesting moral dilemmas. That’s why Renata (my wife) and I included several extracts in our anthology of works of fiction that raise moral questions, The Moral of the Story.
OK, now we get to the serious stuff. Although Sidgwick is less well known that the other great classic utilitarians, Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, he was the best philosopher of the three and this is his masterpiece. Together with Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek, I wrote a book that seeks to bring Sidgwick’s work into contemporary ethical discussions: The Point of View of the Universe: Sidgwick and Contemporary Ethics.
Parfit’s penetrating thought and spare prose make this one of the most exciting, if challenging, works by a contemporary moral philosopher. (I am tempted to include his more recent work, On What Matters, but including two by the same author in a list of just five books would be too much.)
Goodall’s work on our closest nonhuman relative, the chimpanzee, has transformed our understanding of animals, and our relations with them. Among her many fine works, this is the one that most influenced me.