In Conversation with Peter Singer — Ethics and Animals

July 3, 2022


About the Event:

Professor Peter Singer will consider the ideas presented in Animal Liberation, originally published in 1975, and his current thinking about these ideas.  He will indicate the significant progress that has been made since the book was first published, and then argue that, notwithstanding this progress over earlier periods, our treatment of animals remains “speciesist” and therefore indefensible.  He will argue that we owe nonhuman animals equal consideration of their interests, and will explain what the implications of that view are, and why it is important, both for animals and humans, that we change the way we treat animals, especially in our current methods of raising animals intensively for meat, eggs and dairy products.

Discussion Topics

  1. What is the moral status of animals? How should we weigh their interests against ours?
  2. Is it justifiable to treat animals in the way they are being treated today on factory farms and in laboratories?
  3. If the answer to (2) is negative, what can be done to change our treatment of animals for the better?

Peter Singer, Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics, University Center for Human Values, Princeton University.

Peter Singer was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1946, and educated at the University of Melbourne and the University of Oxford. After teaching in England, the United States and Australia, he has, since 1999, been Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics in the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University.  In 2021 he was awarded the Berggruen Prize for Philosophy and Culture.

Singer first became well-known internationally after the publication of Animal Liberation in 1975. Singer’s book The Life You Can Save, first published in 2009, led him to found a non-profit organization of the same name that has raised more than US$70 million for the most effective charities assisting people in extreme poverty.

Singer has written, co-authored, edited or co-edited more than 50 books, and his writings have been translated into more than 30 languages.  Some of his other well-known books are: Practical Ethics, The Expanding Circle, Rethinking Life and Death, Ethics in the Real World, and Why Vegan? 

In 2012 Singer was made a Companion of the Order of Australia, the nation’s highest civic honor. Since 2021, he has been a founding co-editor of the Journal of Controversial Ideas.

WANG Hui, Distinguished Professor of Literature and History, Tsinghua University

Wang Hui is the distinguished Professor in the school of humanities at Tsinghua University and Director of the Tsinghua Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences. His research interests include Chinese intellectual history, Chinese literature and social and political theory. He has received numerous awards for his scholarship, including the Luca Pacioli Award (2013) and Anneliese Maier Research Award(2018), and has been Visiting Professor and fellow at Harvard, Edinburgh, Bologna, Stanford, UCLA, Berkeley, Tokyo University, the University of Washington, Wissenschaft Kolleg zu Berlin and Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study among others. He was the co-editor of the influential Chinese journal Dushu from 1996 to 2007. In 2008, the magazine Foreign Policy listed him as one of the top 100 most influential intellectuals worldwide. His recent publications include China’s Twentieth Century (2016), China from Empire to Nation-State (2015), and The Politics of Imagining Asia (2011).

GUO Peng, Director, Center for Animal Protection Studies, Shandong University |
Associate Professor, School of Philosophy and Social Development, Shandong University

Guo Peng is Director of the Center for Animal Protection Studies at Shandong University and Associate Professor at the School of Philosophy and Social Development of Shandong University. She received her B.A. in Philosophy from Northwestern University in 1991, her M.A. in Philosophy from Shandong University in 1997, and her MPhil in Philosophy from the University of Sheffield in 2006. She has been teaching in the Department of Philosophy of Shandong University and working at the Institute for Jewish Studies of Shandong University since 1997. She has actively participated in social practice and academic research related to animal protection from 2007 to present. Her main research interests are philosophy of language, animal ethics, and medieval and contemporary Jewish philosophy. Her co-written and co-translated works include Contemporary Jewish Philosophy, The Guide for the Perplexed, and God in Search of Man. Her research papers include “The Anscombe Curve: Intentionality and Mind-Body Holism,” “The Adaptability of Translation and the Truth of Proposition: On Davidson’s ‘Interpretability Strategy’,” “The Associate Descriptions of Proper Names: Saul A. Kripke and John. R. Searle,”“An Introduction of the Thirteen Doctrines of Judaism,” and “On the Local Misreading of Some Contemporary Western Theories of Animal Ethics.” She has also published a collection of personal essays, Loneliness Is Inhumane. She is currently leading a translation series on animal studies, and she is directing several social investigations on human-animal studies and animal welfare.

About the Global Thinkers Series
The Global Thinkers Series invites thinkers who have deep insights into the evolution of different civilizations and the grand narratives of world history to share their knowledge and wisdom. It is hoped that with strengthened understanding and trust between different civilizations, we can help remove the intolerance, arrogance, and misunderstanding that has come to characterize contemporary geopolitics.

composed by Arswain
machine learning consultation by Anna Tskhovrebov
commissioned by the Berggruen Institute
premiered at the Bradbury Building
downtown Los Angeles
april 22, 2022

Human perception of what sounds “beautiful” is necessarily biased and exclusive. If we are to truly expand our hearing apparatus, and thus our notion of beauty, we must not only shed preconceived sonic associations but also invite creative participation from beings non-human and non-living. We must also begin to cede creative control away from ourselves and toward such beings by encouraging them to exercise their own standards of beauty and collaborate with each other.

Movement I: Alarm Call
‘Alarm Call’ is a long-form composition and sound collage that juxtaposes, combines, and manipulates alarm calls from various human, non-human, and non-living beings. Evolutionary biologists understand the alarm call to be an altruistic behavior between species, who, by warning others of danger, place themselves by instinct in a broader system of belonging. The piece poses the question: how might we hear better to broaden and enhance our sense of belonging in the universe? Might we behave more altruistically if we better heed the calls of – and call out to – non-human beings?

Using granular synthesis, biofeedback, and algorithmic modulation, I fold the human alarm call – the siren – into non-human alarm calls, generating novel “inter-being” sonic collaborations with increasing sophistication and complexity. 

Movement II: A.I.-Truism
A synthesizer piece co-written with an AI in the style of Vangelis’s Blade Runner score, to pay homage to the space of the Bradbury Building.

Movement III: Alarmism
A machine learning model “learns” A.I.Truism and recreates Alarm Call, generating an original fusion of the two.

Movement IV: A.I. Call
A machine learning model “learns” Alarm Call and recreates A.I.Truism, generating an original fusion of the two.