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The Most Good You Can Do

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The Most Good You Can Do
AuthorPeter Singer
SubjectNormative ethics
PublisherYale University Press
Publication date
April 7, 2015
Publication placeUnited States
Media typePrint
Peter Singer lectures on 'What's the most good you can do?' at Conway Hall in 2015.

The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically is a 2015 Yale University Press book by moral philosopher and bioethicist Peter Singer describing and arguing for the ideas of effective altruism.[1][2][3] As a follow-up to The Life You Can Save, which makes the moral argument for donating money to improve the lives of people in extreme poverty, the new book focuses on the broader question of how to do the most good.[4]



Oliver Milman interviewed Peter Singer about the book for The Guardian shortly before the book's release.[5][6] Hamilton Nolan interviewed Singer for Gawker a week after the release.[7] Singer was also interviewed on ABC Online (an Australian media network) about his book.[6][8] He also did a longer interview with the Melbourne radio channel of the network.[6][9]

Singer also participated in an Ask Me Anything on Reddit, fielding questions about his book, on April 14, 2015 (a week after the book's release).[6][10]

Book reviews[edit]

Nicholas Kristof reviewed the book for The New York Times, beginning with a discussion of the earning to give strategy. Kristof had three reservations about the book: (1) it is not clear where to draw the line with respect to altruism, (2) in addition to humanitarian motives, loyalty is also important and many give to universities or the arts out of loyalty, (3) the idea of taking a job solely because it is well-paying made him flinch. Kristof concluded on a positive note: "Singer's argument is powerful, provocative and, I think, basically right. The world would be a better place if we were as tough-minded in how we donate money as in how we make it."[11][12]

University of Chicago Law School professor Eric Posner reviewed the book for Slate Magazine, concluding: "So what's an effective altruist to do? The utilitarian imperative to search out and help the people with the highest marginal utility of money around the world is in conflict with our limited knowledge about foreign cultures, which makes it difficult for us to figure out what the worst-off people really need. For this reason, donations to Little League and other local institutions you are familiar with may not be a bad idea. The most good you can do may turn out to be—not much."[13] Posner wrote a follow-up post on his personal blog, stressing that in his view Singer's main weakness was that he did not spend enough time working through the ramifications of the importance of institutions.[14]

Minal Bopaiah wrote a blog post favorably reviewing the book for PSI Impact, a website maintained by Population Services International. PSI was one of many charities discussed by Singer in his book as potentially effective places to donate to.[15]

John Abdulla reviewed the book on Oxfam's blog, concluding: "And so the question that remains for me, as I think more about the ideas laid out in this book, is how can I challenge myself to do more good in this world?"[16]

Glenn C. Altschuler, professor of American Studies at Cornell University, reviewed the book for Philly.com, concluding: "Singer opens up worthwhile conversations (and practical applications) related to ethical ideals. At minimum, The Most Good You Can Do can stimulate donors to insist that charitable organizations provide persuasive proof of their effectiveness."[17]


  1. ^ Singer, Peter (7 April 2015). The Most Good You Can Do. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0300180275.
  2. ^ Singer, Peter. "The Most Good You Can Do". Archived from the original on 23 February 2017. Retrieved 11 April 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  3. ^ Singer, Peter. "The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically". Yale University Press. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  4. ^ "The Most Good You Can Do". The Life You Can Save. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  5. ^ Milman, Oliver (26 March 2015). "Peter Singer: I want to shame charities into proving the worth of their spending". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d Singer, Peter. "The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas about Living Ethically". Text Publishing. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  7. ^ Nolan, Hamilton. "How to Save Lives: A Conversation With Peter Singer". Gawker. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  8. ^ "Philosopher Peter Singer: Think before you give". ABC Online. 26 March 2015. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  9. ^ Standish, John (27 March 2015). "Making the most of your opportunities". Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  10. ^ Singer, Peter (14 April 2015). "I'm Peter Singer (Australian moral philosopher) and I'm here to answer your questions about where your money is the most effective in the charitable world, or "The Most Good You Can Do." AMA". Reddit. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  11. ^ Kristof, Nicholas (4 April 2015). "Opinion | The Trader Who Donates Half His Pay". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  12. ^ "Nicholas Kristof Shouldn't Follow Peter Singer". National Review. 5 April 2015. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  13. ^ Posner, Eric (26 March 2015). "Donating to a Little League Should Not Make You a Moral Monster". Slate Magazine. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  14. ^ Posner, Eric (27 March 2015). "The Most Good You Can Do". Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  15. ^ Bopaiah, Minal (8 April 2015). "Book Review: The Most Good You Can Do by Peter Singer". PSI Impact. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  16. ^ Abdulla, John (27 March 2015). "Want to do the most good you can do in the world? Follow these 3 steps". Oxfam. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  17. ^ Altschuler, Glenn C. (19 April 2015). "'Peter Singer's 'Most Good' makes rational case for good life". Philly.com. Retrieved 20 April 2015.

External links[edit]