It's not just what you give it's how you give

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Thursday, 15th June 2017, 6:20 pm
Updated Wednesday, 21st June 2017, 3:21 pm
Philosopher Peter Singer, who gave the 2017 Knox Lecture at the University of St Andrews.

And the bottom ten per cent have to survive on our purchasing equivalent of £1.50 a day for all their basic needs – food, accommodation and health.

These were just two of the figures discussed by Prof Peter Singer, one of the world’s most influential living philosophers and ethicists, at a recent lecture in St Andrews.

Prof Singer was the guest speaker for the University of St Andrews 2017 Sir Malcolm Knox Memorial Lecture and spoke on Living Ethically in the 21st Century, and more exactly on the ethics of giving.

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Singer has been described as the father of a movement called effective altruism and argues that those who have enough to spend on luxuries but don’t share even a tiny fraction of their income, have to bear some responsibility for deaths that they could have prevented.

He gave the example of the cup of coffee that so many buy every day without a thought, the cost of which is greater than that £1.50 ten per cent of the population have to live on every day. The implications of living on such an inadequate sum were many – malnourishment, no healthcare, children dying from diseases that do not exist in developed nations.

“Six million children are dying each year,” he said. “If we can prevent something without sacrificing anything of comparable significance, we ought to do it.”

Effective altruism is a relatively new movement based on having a life goal to make the world a better place and to use reason and evidence to do the most good.

One way to find out more is through research, such as through the non-profit organisation co-founded by Prof Singer – www.thelifeyoucansave.org.

You can also hear Prof Singer talk about effective altruism at this TED talk.