Synopses & Reviews
"What binds us pushes time away" wrote David Oppenheim to his future wife, Amalie Pollak, on March 24, 1905. Oppenheim, classical scholar, collaborator, then critic of Sigmund Freud, and friend and supporter of Alfred Adler, lived through the heights and depths of Vienna's twentieth-century intellectual and cultural history. He perished in obscurity at a Nazi concentration camp in 1943, separated from family and friends, leaving his grandson, the philosopher Peter Singer, without a chance to know him.
Almost fifty years later Peter Singer set out to explore the life of the grandfather he never knew, and found a scholar whose ideas on ethics and human nature often parallel his own writings. Drawing on a wealth of documents and personal letters, Singer made startling discoveries about his grandparents' early romantic attachments, the basis on which they decide to marry, their professional aspirations, and their differing views of Judaism. An essay that Oppenheim co-wrote with Freud, but which was suppressed because of a bitter split within Freud's psychoanalytical society, leads Singer to explore the difficulties of following one's own ideas in the circles of both Freud and Adler.
Combining touching family biography with thoughtful reflection on both personal and public questions we face today, Pushing Time Away captures critical moments in Europe's transition from Belle Époque to the Great War and to the rise of Fascism and the coming of World War II. Singer gives us a vivid portrait of Vienna when it was the center of European culture and new ideas, a culture that was both intensely Jewish and distinctly secular. Examining this culture and its fate forces Singer to confront one of the foundations of his own thought: How much can we rely on universal values and human reason?
Through unique documents collected by his grandfather, David Oppenheim, Singer gives readers a rare glimpse into the contentious circles around Freud and Adler at a time when Vienna had the most vibrant, and also most intensely Jewish, intellectual life in Europe. 8-page insert.
Few books of this sort have been as clearly and thus as beautifully written.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -254).
From the ethicist the New Yorker calls andldquo;the most influential living philosopher,andrdquo; a new way of thinking about living ethically
Peter Singerandrsquo;s books and ideas have been disturbing our complacency ever since the appearance of Animal Liberation
. Now he directs our attention to a new movement in which his own ideas have played a crucial role: effective altruism. Effective altruism is built upon the simple but profound idea that living a fully ethical life involves doing the andquot;most good you can do.andquot; Such a life requires an unsentimental view of charitable giving: to be a worthy recipient of our support, an organization must be able to demonstrate that it will do more good with our money or our time than other options open to us. Singer introduces us to an array of remarkable people who are restructuring their lives in accordance with these ideas, and shows how living altruistically often leads to greater personal fulfillment than living for oneself.
The Most Good You Can Do develops the challenges Singer has made, in the New York Times and Washington Post, to those who donate to the arts, and to charities focused on helping our fellow citizens, rather than those for whom we can do the most good. Effective altruists are extending our knowledge of the possibilities of living less selfishly, and of allowing reason, rather than emotion, to determine how we live. The Most Good You Can Do offers new hope for our ability to tackle the worldandrsquo;s most pressing problems.
About the Author
In a nutshell, what is effective altruism and how does it differ from ordinary charitable giving?
Effective altruism is both an emerging movement and the set of ideas behind that movement. The basic idea is that to live a fully ethical life, we should seek to do the most good we can. To discover what will do the most good, we need to use reason and evidence. In contrast, two-thirds of donors to charity do no research at all into the organizations to which they donateandmdash;they are moved by images that play on their emotions, but give no indication whether the organization is effective at what it claims to be doing.
Arenandrsquo;t we all, at the core, self-interested?
The book introduces readers to many of the men and women who are practicing effective altruism. What they are doing will startle many readersandmdash;choosing their careers so that they can donate more, and donating half their incomes to effective charities. Yet typically they donandrsquo;t think of themselves as making a sacrifice. They find their lives more rewarding than they were before they made these choices. So it may not be a question of denying self-interest, but of a different understanding of what really is in oneandrsquo;s own interests.and#160;
Can effective altruism change the world?
I find the stories I tell in this book immensely encouraging. There are not many effective altruists yet, but they are already changing the world, and their impact is growing.