My Wellesley

Philosophy, Controversy, and the Importance of Free Speech

November 30, 2017

Peter Singer, the Australian ethical and political philosopher best known for his work in bioethics and his role as one of the intellectual founders of the modern animal rights movement, will discuss "Philosophy, Controversy, and the Importance of Free Speech" at Wellesley. In his words: "Traditionally, the champions of free speech came from the left, pushing for greater freedom of expression for progressive ideas that conservatives denounced as sedition or blasphemy, and sought to prohibit. Today, it is often those on the left who are seeking to narrow the range of views that can be heard, at universities and elsewhere. In this talk I will draw on my own experiences of being prevented from speaking. I shall restate John Stuart Mill's case for freedom of thought and expression, and consider whether this freedom should be limited in some respects."

Prof. Peter Singer
Prof. Peter Singer
Professor at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne

Peter Singer was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1946, and educated at the University of Melbourne and the University of Oxford. After teaching in England, the United States and Australia, he has, since 1999, been Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics in the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University. Since 2005 he has combined that position with the position of Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne. In 2005 Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world, and in 2012 he was made a Companion of the Order of Australia, the nation’s highest civic honor. He is known especially for his work on the ethics of our treatment of animals, for his controversial critique of the sanctity of life ethics in bioethics, and for his writing on the obligations of the affluent to aid those living in extreme poverty. His 1972 article “Famine Affluence and Morality” is the original inspiration for the effective altruism movement. Together with other essays, it has recently been released in book format by Oxford University Press. Singer has written, co-authored, edited or co-edited more than 40 books, including Animal Liberation, Practical Ethics, The Expanding Circle, How Are We to Live?, Rethinking Life and Death, The Ethics of What We Eat (with Jim Mason), The Life You Can Save, The Most Good You Can Do, Ethics in the Real World, and most recently, Utilitarianism: A Very Short Introduction, co-authored Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek. His writings have appeared in more than 30 languages.

SUGGESTED READING: "On Being Silenced in Germany," Peter Singer, The New York Review of Books, Aug 15, 1991