Singer, Peter (1946- ), Australian philosopher and bioethicist. Born in Melbourne, Australia, Singer studied at the University of Melbourne and at the University of Oxford, in England. He began his career lecturing ethics at Oxford from 1971 to 1973. He subsequently worked at various universities in North America and Australia. In 1977 he became a professor of philosophy at Monash University, in Melbourne. Singer also became closely associated with the university’s Centre for Human Bioethics, which is dedicated to the study of the moral implications of biomedical discoveries. He served as its director from 1987 to 1991 and as its deputy director from 1992. In 1999 he became a professor at Princeton University’s Center for Human Values.
Singer is regarded as a rationalist. He supports a philosophical system based on reason rather than on sentiment, self-interest, or social conditioning. He has taken a preference utilitarian approach to the ethical issues involved in embryo experimentation, genetic engineering, surrogate motherhood, abortion, and euthanasia. This approach regards an action as ethically correct if it satisfies the preference of those affected and has the best consequences for the greatest number of people. Singer also rejects the idea that killing is wrong regardless of the circumstances.
Singer has published several books. In Animal Liberation (1975) he proposes that humanity’s domination of animals is morally indefensible. His opposition to the mistreatment of animals has been influential in stopping some inhumane testing of animals by large corporations. His other books include Practical Ethics (1979) and How are we to Live? (1993). Singer has donated the royalties from his books to international aid causes and the animal liberation movement. He has given between 10 and 20 percent of his income to the poor, believing that the rich have an ethical duty to help the undeprivileged.
“Singer, Peter,” Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 2000. 1993-1999 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.