The Expanding Circle

Ethics, Evolution, and Moral Progress

by Peter Singer

Subject categories
ISBNs
  • 1400838436
  • 9780691150697
  • 9781400838431

What is ethics? Where do moral standards come from? Are they based on emotions, reason, or some innate sense of right and wrong? For many scientists, the key lies entirely in biology--especially in Darwinian theories of evolution and self-preservation. But if evolution is a struggle for survival, why are we still capable of altruism?


In his classic study The Expanding Circle, Peter Singer argues that altruism began as a genetically based drive to protect one's kin and community members but has developed into a consciously chosen ethic with an expanding circle of moral concern. Drawing on philosophy and evolutionary psychology, he demonstrates that human ethics cannot be explained by biology alone. Rather, it is our capacity for reasoning that makes moral progress possible. In a new afterword, Singer takes stock of his argument in light of recent research on the evolution of morality.


  • Princeton University Press; April 2011
  • ISBN: 9781400838431
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF or secure ePub format
  • Title: The Expanding Circle
  • Author: Peter Singer
  • Imprint: Princeton University Press
Subject categories
ISBNs
  • 1400838436
  • 9780691150697
  • 9781400838431

In The Press

"The Expanding Circle is a great introduction to the whole question of the relationship between evolution and ethics. Looking at it now nearly 30 years after its original publication, I am amazed at how well it has withstood the test of time. This book remains as relevant as ever."—Michael Ruse, editor of Philosophy after Darwin


About The Author

Peter Singer is the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics in the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University and Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne. His books include Animal Liberation, Practical Ethics, Rethinking Life and Death, One World, and, most recently, The Life You Can Save.