Peter Singer receives the University's Behrman Award for the humanities

May 6, 2024

Peter Singer, the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics in the University Center for Human Values, received the 48th annual Howard T. Behrman Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities.

Singer is the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics in the University Center for Human Values. He joined the Princeton faculty in 1999 and will transfer to emeritus status in July. He is an associated faculty member at Princeton’s High Meadows Environmental Institute, where he is involved with the Climate Futures Initiative for Science, Values and Policy, and the Department of Philosophy.

He is a renowned philosopher best known for his work in applied ethics, particularly regarding the ethical treatment of animals and the alleviation of poverty.

“Peter Singer has had a massive impact on a global scale and also at Princeton University, thanks in part to the practical and accessible nature of his work,” wrote one colleague who nominated him for the Behrman Award. “Singer embodies engaged philosophy at work in the world and, happily for us, at Princeton.”

His deep dedication to teaching is centered on the course he created, “Practical Ethics,” taught every other year, which has enrolled thousands of undergraduates. In a nomination letter for the Behrman Award, another colleague wrote that Princeton students have described the course “as a life-changing intellectual experience” and that “Peter’s graduate seminars were the stuff of legend among our Ph.D. candidates for their combination of freewheeling intellectual exploration and philosophical rigor.”

Singer has also served as mentor and faculty adviser for more than 20 years for the undergraduate-run Human Values Forum, where students and faculty members meet “to discuss current and enduring questions concerning ethics and human values" over weekly dinners featuring guest speakers from within and beyond the University.

He has written, co-authored, edited or co-edited more than 50 books, including “Practical Ethics,” ”The Expanding Circle,” ”The Life You Can Save," ”The Most Good You Can Do" andEthics in the Real World." His influential 1972 essay “Famine, Affluence and Morality” was published in book form in 2015 with a foreword by Bill and Melinda Gates, and argues that the affluent are morally obligated to donate a significant proportion of their income to help alleviate global poverty.

His recent book, ”Animal Liberation Now" (2023) updates his 1975 classic “Animal Liberation: A New Ethics for Our Treatment of Animals,” which is widely credited with setting in motion the modern animal rights movement. His latest book, “The Buddhist and the Ethicist,” was also published in 2023.

Singer earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Melbourne and his B. Phil. from the University of Oxford. He is the founder and board chair of The Life You Can Save, a nonprofit that aims to reduce global poverty.

The recipient of many awards and honors, Singer was awarded the Berggruen Prize for Philosophy and Culture in 2021 and donated the entire $1 million prize to organizations focused on helping people in extreme poverty and on reducing the suffering of animals. In 2023, he shared, with Steven Pinker, the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Humanities and Social Sciences.

The full story, written by Jamie Saxon, appears on the University homepage. Congratulations to Professor Singer!