The Philosopher as Dickhead

I just read this profile of Peter Singer. I've always consider him an ass, but I had underestimated him -- he's really a gargantuan ass:

"Singer himself gives 20% of his Princeton professor salary to nonprofits, principally Oxfam. To lead an even minimally moral life, he argues, we’re all obligated to give at least that much."

Wow! What a coincidence! The absolute minimum that anyone can give to charity and still be considered morally decent just happens to be exactly the amount Singer himself gives! Man, did he luck out! Cause, you know, just 1% less and he would have had to condemn himself.

So how did he arrive at that figure? From one of his "two overarching principles": "If we can prevent something bad without sacrificing anything of comparable significance, we ought to do it.” It's not right, he claims, for Americans to enjoy luxuries while others starve.

You know what? Eighty percent of the salary of a tenured full professor at Princeton plus book royalties still buys a whole lot of luxuries. Singer's "principle," which he has no intention whatsoever of living by, requires him to give about 99% of his income away. I'll tell you how he arrived at the 20% figure: it's a higher amount than given by anyone he is likely to run into at a coktail party, so that he can demonstrate his moral superiority to them but not be inconvenienced too much.


  1. God only expects half that from Rachael and me.

  2. The Big G told me he bases his 10% on potential income. If your wife isn't working 18 hour days, MAXIMIZING her paycheck, she's just not working hard enough!

  3. You're looking buff there, Woody.

    I just began re-reading Milan Kundera's Slowness, a wonderful novel, where he captures the Singer phenomena precisely: such folks are "dancers," there concern being to "dance" in the spotlight of public opinion in a display of their own virtue.

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