Discussion Questions

10th Anniversary Edition of The Life You Can Save

  1. What, according to you, is Peter Singer’s key argument in The Life You Can Save? Has his argument, in any way, influenced your views on global poverty, philanthropy and the obligations we have towards our fellow human beings?

  2. What is extreme poverty? Why is the author optimistic about our ability to eliminate global extreme poverty?

  3. Peter Singer begins the first chapter of his book with The Girl in the Pond thought experiment.
    What is the author trying to illustrate through this thought experiment and what are the implications and conclusions he draws from it? How does it relate to his views on the equality of all human life and on giving?

  4. What are the reasons people don’t give to charity? Which reasons do you find convincing and which do you not? How does Singer respond to these common objections to giving and do you agree with his responses? 

  5. In Chapter 5, “Creating a Culture of Giving”, Peter Singer outlines specific approaches each of us can adopt to create a kinder, more giving world. Did any of the approaches resonate with you? Are there approaches you disagree with? Why?

  6. Each of the following charities have been recommended by Peter Singer as good giving options, even though they work in very different cause areas: 
    • Fistula Foundation: Providing surgery to women suffering with obstetric fistula.
    • Against Malaria Foundation: Preventing Malaria
    • Seva: Restoring Sight 
    • Development Media International: Promoting healthy behaviours through mass media campaigns 
    • Project Healthy Children: Preventing malnutrition 

    Why does Singer recommend these charities? What is his criteria for identifying good giving options? 

  7. Consider the following statement: Some charities provide hundreds, even thousands, of time greater impact per dollar than others.
    Should this affect our giving decisions, such as giving locally versus internationally? Why or why not? 

  8. Consider Singer’s suggestion for a new standard of giving: roughly 5% of annual income for those who are financially comfortable, with less for those below that level, and significantly more for the very rich.
    Do you agree with his suggestion? Why or why not? What is your answer to the question of how much we ought to give? 

  9. In his preface, Peter Singer writes, “At minimum, I hope this book will persuade you that there is something deeply askew with our widely accepted views about what it is to live a good life”. Do you agree with the author? What do you think does it mean to live a morally good life?

  10. Based on your reading of the book, how do you think you can play your part in ending world poverty?