Critical Notices/Études critiques

Hard Cases in Hard Places: Singer's Agenda for Applied Ethics*

Peter A. Danielsona1 and Chris J. MacDonalda1

a1 University of British Columbia

It may seem that there is no need to review such a well-known book. This is the second edition of Peter Singer's text, Practical Ethics. The first edition has been widely used and influential; indeed for many it defines the field of applied ethics. The field is lucky; rarely is such popular work so carefully argued, so factually well informed and so well written. In addition, it is unusual for the author of a basic text to be so daring. Peter Singer deserves credit for placing the interests of animals and famine victims on the agenda of applied ethics, and for making that agenda so prominent in public fora. But it behooves us to scrutinize carefully the power of definitive works as well. What sets the agenda is, for that very reason, more difficult to assess critically.


* Peter Singer, Practical Ethics, 2nd ed. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993), xii + 395 pp., $17.80. Page references are to this work.