Eastern spirituality and utilitarian philosophy meet in these unique dialogues between a Buddhist monastic and a moral philosopher on such issues as animal welfare, gender equality, the death penalty and more An unlikely duo—Professor Peter Singer, a preeminent Australian philosopher and professor of bioethics, and Venerable Shih Chao-Hwei, a Taiwanese Buddhist monastic and social activist—join forces to talk ethics in lively conversations that cross oceans, overcome language barriers and bridge philosophies.
Together, these two deep thinkers explore the foundation of ethics and key Buddhist concepts, and ultimately reveal how we can all move toward making the world a better place.
Peter Singer, the 'father of the modern animal welfare movement', was named one of the most influential people in the world by Time magazine. An Australian philosopher and professor of bioethics, he has contributed to more than fifty books, which have been translated into more than thirty languages. Singer is founder of The Life You Can Save nonprofit and a professor of bioethics at Princeton University as well as Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne.
Shih Chao-Hwei is a Buddhist monastic, social activist, scholar and recent winner of the Niwano Peace Prize. A leading advocate for animal rights, a vocal supporter of same-sex marriage and a key figure in the Buddhist gender equality movement, she is also a professor at Hsuan Chuang University and the founder of Hong Shih Buddhist College.
‘Peter Singer’s status as a man of principles and towering intellect—a philosopher extraordinaire, if you will—is unrivalled in Australia.’ Sydney Morning Herald
‘A public intellectual par excellence.‘ Monthly
Western utilitarianism meets Buddhist philosophy in this intellectually stimulating if uneven outing. In 2016 at the Bodhi Monastery in Taiwan, Singer (Animal Liberation), an ethicist and professor of bioethics at Princeton, and Chao-Hwei (Buddhist Normative Ethics), a Buddhist monastic and professor of ethics at Hsuan-Chuang University in Taiwan, discussed a broad range of moral issues, including abortion, the death penalty, animal rights, and euthanasia. Edited and expanded here, their dialogues unfold in rigorous detail and probe rich and trenchant ethical questions: for example, the conversation on the use of embryos for medical research examines the limits of sentience, the biological instinct to survive, and the respect that should be afforded to nonconscious beings. (Chao-Hwei sees the biological will to live as an indication of inherent moral worth, while Singer argues this biological impulse has no inherent moral value.) Chao-Hwei's perspective is more prominent throughout, and provides valuable context on Buddhism's application to contemporary ethical debates. Unfortunately, Singer's utilitarianism occasionally gets lost in the shuffle, and the pair's exchanges can feel stilted after being adapted for the book. Still, readers with an interest in either school of thought will find plenty of insight in these challenging and thought-provoking investigations.