How Are We to Live?

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How Are We to Live?: Ethics in an Age of Self-Interest
How are we to live (first edition).jpg
Cover of the first edition
Author Peter Singer
Country Australia
Language English
Subject Ethics
Publisher Text Publishing, Melbourne
Publication date
Pages 262
ISBN 1863721010

How Are We to Live?: Ethics in an Age of Self-Interest is a 1993 book on applied ethics by modern bioethical philosopher Peter Singer.[1]

Chapter content[edit]

In its first four chapters, the book describes the history of ethical thought.

Chapter Five explains and attempts to refute the popular idea that humans are genetically driven to be selfish.

Chapter Six studies the Japanese culture and its remarkable differences in ethical perspective when compared to modern western culture, and attempts to infer a few properties of the development of ethical thought.

Chapter Seven, "Tit for Tat", proposes that ethical behavior is in fact beneficial for the individual under real-life conditions, and proposes five practical ethical rules based on a computer simulation of the Prisoner's Dilemma.

Chapters Eight to Eleven mostly elaborate on the reasons for behaving ethically and how they apply on actual everyday life.

Chapter Nine, "The nature of ethics", discusses various philosophical perspectives on ethics, including Christian and Kantian ones.

Chapter Ten, "Living to some purpose", attempts to show how the key for a satisfactory life resides on its purpose and how crucial for that purpose a commitment to an ethical life is.

Chapter Eleven, "The good life", comments on the effect of having the widest perspective possible on our ethical decisions; on how our rational capability sometimes leads us to change our goal; and on the paradoxical opportunity that the existence of so many ills on the world brings to us by way of showing plenty of clearly worthwhile goals.

Editions and translations[edit]

The first edition was published in Melbourne by Text Publishing Company in 1993. It was reissued in Britain by Mandarin Press in 1994, and in the United States by Prometheus Books in 1995.

A second edition was produced by Oxford University Press in 1997.

The German translation, by Hermann Vetter, was published by Harald Fischer Verlag in 1996 as Wie sollen wir leben?: Ethik in einer egoistischen Zeit. A paperback was produced by Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag in 1999 and went through several reprints, most recently in 2004.


  1. ^ Pickering, Neil (November 1998). "Review: How Are We To Live? Ethics in an Age of Self-Interest". Journal of Medical Ethics 24 (5): 353–354. doi:10.1136/jme.24.5.353-a. PMC 1377619.