Marcus George Singer

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Marcus George Singer (born 1926) is an American philosopher. His works include Generalization in Ethics – An essay in the Logic of Ethics, with the Rudiments of a System of Moral Philosophy (1961).

Personal life[edit]

Marcus Singer was born in 1926 in New York City. From 1944 to 1945 he served in the U.S. Army Air Forces. After mustering out of the army, he attended the University of Illinois, which awarded him a degree in 1948. In 1952, Singer earned his Ph.D. in philosophy at Cornell University. Immediately on receiving his doctorate, Singer accepted a position teaching in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he continued to teach until 1994.[1] Marcus currently lives with his wife Blanche. Marcus has two daughters, Karen and Debra, and has one grand child, Isaac. Karen Singer is Principal and Artistic Director of Karen Singer Tileworks. Debra Singer is a photographer/designer focused on environmental advocacy.

Singer served as the president of the American Philosophical Association, Central Division, from 1985 until 1986.[1]


Singer's work describes a moral philosophy which has become known as the generalization argument. He further refines this philosophy in later works. Similar to Immanuel Kant's universalizability principle, Singer argues that if it is acceptable for one person in a particular situation to take – or not take – an action, then it is acceptable for any person in that particular situation to do the same.[2] He further posits that an action is ethical if the results would be positive if everyone took that action and the results would not be negative if no one took that action.[1] According to Richard Flathman, Singer's 1961 book, Generalization in Ethics – An essay in the Logic of Ethics, with the Rudiments of a System of Moral Philosophy, was, at its publication, the "most detailed study of the topic" of generalization of the universalizability principle.[3]

According to his profile in the Encyclopedia of Ethics, Singer's "writings also include important work on the moral philosophies of" John Stuart Mill and Henry Sidgwick.[2] Singer's views of utilitarianism have also been noted as some of the most influential of modern ethicists.[4]


  1. ^ a b c Timmons (2001), p. 1584.
  2. ^ a b Timmons (2001), p. 1585.
  3. ^ Flathman (1967), p. 39.
  4. ^ Ross (1994), p. 35.


  • Flathman, Richard E. (1967), "Equality and Generalization: A Formal Analysis", in Pennock, J. Roland; Chapman, John W., Equality, New York: Atherton Press, ISBN 0-202-30883-9 
  • Ross, Jacob Joshua (1994), The Virtues of the Family, New York: The Free Press, ISBN 0-02-927385-4 
  • Timmons, Mark (2001), Becker, Lawrence C.; Becker, Charlotte B., eds., Encyclopedia of Ethics: P–W (2 ed.), Routledge, ISBN 0-415-93673-X