HOW ARE WE TO LIVE?
How are we to live?
Peter Singer’s main argument in his article, How are we to live?, is that people should strive to leave an ethical life. According to him, many people pursue love, care, family interests and money to fulfill their lives (Singer 1995, VIII). However, he also notes that some individuals have religious or political commitments that help them satisfy their desires (Singer 1995, IX). However, he believes that there are people who do not belong to any of these societal groupings. He argues that these people have an uneasy feeling that their lives lack significance because they might be missing something very important. According to him, living an ethical life would help in filling this void (Singer 1995, 19).
Singer defines an ethical life as the ability of individuals to express their altruism nature by assisting other people within the society. However, he recognizes that there are people who live an unethical life not because of selfishness, but because they misunderstands the term ethics (Singer 1995, 15). They prefer living self-centered lives because they consider altruism as pointless awkward and embarrassing. Furthermore, they consider themselves as incapable of influencing change on the society. However, he argues that people living ethical lives are subjected to prejudice and considered losers and suckers (Singer 1995, 20). Furthermore, some people within the society might take advantage of their selfless nature to get favors. He summarizes that an ethical life in not only beneficial to other people in the society, but also to the person living it (Singer 1995, 21).
Singer has issued several references to literatures and cases that support his arguments. For instance, he gives the example of the United Nation’s intrusion into Somalia. He states that other nations recognized the need for the victims of war in Somalia to access basic needs such as food, water and clothing. Furthermore, he has quoted from other authors like Todd Gitlin, William Boesky and Derek Partif. In some cases, such as the United Nation’s intrusion into Somali, ethics has been described as unavoidable evil. Conversely, according to William Boesky, ethics could also take a simpler and more peaceful form such as affordable pricing of products and services to avoid exaggerated profits.
This article appears to be very different from others that have tried to address problems, themes and principles of public administration. The major aspect of public administration that has been stressed by Singer is ethical living. Singer has really pointed out the need for all public officials to express altruism while offering service to the public. This article also defines significant role played by ethical living on the quality of products and service delivery. This article stands out from the rest because it advocates for an ethical living, which is in accordance with any organization’s professional codes of ethics. Furthermore, ethics are the fundamental principles of professionalism since it nurtures trust, discipline, accountability and integrity.
The article is
very convincing. This has been enhanced by a number of issues that have been
addressed in the article. Firstly, the use of many examples and cases to
clarify the importance of ethical living allows readers to relate very easily
to the article. Secondly, in some sections, Singer has used first person
pronoun allowing the readers to realize that the writer has personal interest on
the subject. Even though, the entire article was very interesting and
informative, Singer’s main argument that stood out the most was his ideology
that an ethical life will not only affect the rest of the society but also the person
Singer, Peter. 1995. How are we to live?: ethics in an age of self-interest. Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books.