Teaching Students About Peter Singer’s Philosophy


Peter Singer is an Australian philosopher and bioethicist who is best known for his work on animal rights and ethics. His ideas have sparked numerous debates about the ethical treatment of animals and the moral obligations we have towards them. In this article, we will explore how to teach students about Peter Singer’s philosophy, and discuss his most famous and controversial arguments.

Utilitarianism: A Foundation

To understand Singer’s philosophy, one must first become familiar with utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is a moral theory that suggests the best action is the one that maximizes overall well-being or happiness. Introducing students to utilitarianism will allow for a deeper understanding of how Singer approaches issues like animal rights, poverty, and global ethics.

Animal Liberation

One of Peter Singer’s most influential works is his book “Animal Liberation.” In this book, Singer argues that by using animals for our own purposes such as food or experimentation, we are disregarding their interests which leads to unnecessary suffering. Teach your students about the concept of Speciesism – the idea of assigning different values or rights to beings based on their species membership. Engage in activities that encourage empathy towards animals and promote critical thinking about our treatment of them.

Effective Altruism

Another cornerstone of Peter Singer’s philosophy is effective altruism. This concept combines both empathy for others and a rigorous analytical approach to doing good in the world. Singer argues that we have a moral responsibility to help others in need but also advocates for prioritization of causes based on their effectiveness.

Introduce your students to Effective Altruism by discussing the importance of quantifying the impact of charitable actions, encouraging research into high-impact causes like global poverty and existential risks, and emphasizing personal values around maximizing one’s positive impact on the world.

The Famine Relief Argument

Peter Singer presented a powerful argument on global poverty in his essay “Famine, Affluence, and Morality.” The famine relief argument posits that individuals in affluent societies have a moral obligation to donate a portion of their income to help those affected by famine and extreme poverty. To help students grasp this complex topic, present case studies of global poverty, discuss the moral implications of wealth disparities, and engage in debates about the responsibilities of individuals and governments in addressing these issues.

Application in the Classroom

An effective way to teach students about Peter Singer’s philosophy is through practical exercises and interactive teaching methods. Incorporate group discussions, role-playing activities, and debates in your lessons to encourage critical thinking and develop an understanding of Singer’s ethical theories. Encourage your students to apply these ideas to real-life situations and discuss potential ethical dilemmas they may face in their lives.


Teaching students about Peter Singer’s philosophy can be a rewarding experience that encourages them to think deeply about ethical issues and consider their roles as global citizens. By understanding utilitarianism, discussing animal rights and effective altruism, and grappling with the implications of the famine relief argument, students will gain valuable insight into a highly influential contemporary philosopher’s work.

Choose your Reaction!