Photo: Clarissa Bonet_City Space / lenscratch.com/2012/11/clarissa-bonet/

Urban altruism

An interview with moral philosopher Peter Singer on human altruism and its connection to inhabitable space

Read intro

An interview with Peter Singer

An interview by Alina Petrakova

Altruism is a phenomenon that regularly occurs in social space and affects our everyday lives, but it is something we do not normally put much thought in on a daily basis. Would we feel the urge to help more people if we were placed in different urban life conditions and reminded more often by our city about the importance of being there for our neighbors? If altruism was more widespread, could we feel safer in cities where we live and that we visit? Would people who are now surviving in harsh conditions have more opportunities to develop their settlements and cities? Peter Singer helps us to get a better understanding of human altruistic behavior, its development through time, connection to inhabitable space and sheds some light on the possible antidote to consumerism.

Peter Singer is an Australian moral philosopher. He is currently a Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University and a Laureate Professor at the Center for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne. He approaches ethical issues from a utilitarian perspective and specializes in applied ethics.
Hide intro

Professor, you study moral blindness. Could you please explain what it is and how it was created?

Moral blindness is something that has evolved because of the situation in which our ancestors, both human and non-​human primates lived. And we evolved in small groups… perhaps groups of between one or two hundred people, where we knew every individual. So we developed moral responses to helping other individuals we knew in our group, but we didn’t develop any kind of positive attitude to helping people in other groups.

Over the last couple of years we have lived in larger societies, and have only recently got the opportunity to help complete strangers far away due to new technologies. The problem is that we haven’t really developed moral emotions that would support us in helping strangers, helping people who are distant from us. The consumer society focuses on personal consumption, status, things of that sort, because people can take advantage of those desires in order to profit.

What effect do bigger cities have on people’s behavior?

In smaller cities, even though there might be many thousands, it is still possible to meet someone and have a long term relationship with them, help them today, and they’ll help you tomorrow. In bigger cities you encounter a stranger you can help, and there is a very small chance that you’ll meet them again, so we don’t have those kinds of responses.

People think that everything is going downhill, but on a larger scale we are making progress

Perhaps one way of stimulating people would be to create spaces in which they do get to know each other and meet each other, like small neighborhoods. In Life and death of great American cities Jane Jacobs talks about a lively Italian neighborhood where you go to buy food in a small grocery store. This preserves that sense of small community where you know those people. I think now this is less the case, partly because those small stores have been replaced and partly because half of the people on the streets are tourists. New York would be a classic example of how to preserve that sort of idea. Now that’s one way. I don’t know if there’s another way and that’s something I’m interested in doing in my work in which I advocate altruism to strangers.

(3)Clarissa_Bonet_CitySpace121

Photo: Clarissa Bonet_​City Space /​lenscratch​.com/​2012​/​11​/​c​l​a​r​i​s​s​a​-​b​onet/​

Do you think we are heading in a positive direction?

I’m reasonably positive about the direction that we’re going. I know a lot of people find that surprising because the headlines are always about something bad happening. People think that everything is going downhill but, on a larger scale we are making progress in reducing, for example, the number of deaths of children under five of poverty. For 25 – 30 years it has been pretty steadily going down. So that’s good news.

I think we are making some progress, but nobody can be sure of the kinds of directions we’re going in. More people have achieved a reasonable level of security, that is, they’ve got enough income for themselves. They know that if they get sick there’s a state health service that will look after them reasonably well, that they won’t starve in their old age because of some sort of social security. Those people, I think, will find it easier to be altruistic if they look for a purpose in their life. Helping others, volunteering, being altruistic may be something that they reach towards.

How can technology be used to inspire altruistic behavior?

There are a lot of ideas out there​.It could be that every time you use your credit card to buy some luxury item, you get a message on your cell phone that reminds you about this or suggests that you donate a similar amount to some charity.There are a few ideas that are around that people have talked about. Basically, sending reminders like programs that would measure how well you’re doing in living a good life from that point of view.

How can we think about the preferences of people who haven’t been born yet?

It would be quite wrong of us to ignore or even to discard the interests of future generations. Assuming that there will be some future generations as we can all hope, I think that their interests will count as much as ours. If we think there’s some uncertainty about that, if we think that somehow our species might become extinct or also life on earth might become extinct. Then it’s reasonable to discount the interests of future generations by the degree of uncertainty about their existence.

(1)Clarissa_Bonet_CitySpace081

Photo: Clarissa Bonet_​City Space /​lenscratch​.com/​2012​/​11​/​c​l​a​r​i​s​s​a​-​b​onet/​

People are consistently failing at what they set out to do. In this context, do you think we assume that our own preferences are the ones of the future generations and it is moral from our side to imagine a long way into the future?

I think we should try to keep options open for the future. One of the arguments for preserving endangered species, and preserving historical and cultural monuments is that if we don’t, we have closed off that option for future generations. It is far harder to predict what they will value. But keeping options open for them is clearly very important. We have to realize that needs will change, technology will change. So you’re always going to make mistakes. Take things around this university for example: tables have these little holes in them so that you could plug your cables in. That was only around for a few years when Wi-​Fi made it irrelevant. So, clearly, you can’t predict the way technology is going to go. Some mistakes are just going to be inevitable. Some of the basic things about human nature and about the things that what are fundamental human needs, I wouldn’t see this changing in quite some time.

What would be your advice to future urban planners?

Create cities that meet human needs and not only for the people that are living in them at the time, but also that meet the needs of others worldwide. Cities with a sustainability aspect in them, those that try to create better societies in which people are more aware of the needs of others both near to them and those that are far away.

generic levitra cipro and tendonitis is tamoxifen chemotherapy azithromycin tablets cipro side effects in elderly levitra coupons buy levitra lexapro cialis from canada escitalopram nebenwirkungen free cialis acyclovir for cold sores acyclovir 800mg cialis samples overnight tamoxifen langzeitfolgen viagra for sale viagra sex azithromycin three times a week ciprofloxacin side effects after age 60 cialis discount cialis dosage strengths cialis 5 mg cipro generic cialis tadalafil cialis samples viagra alternative liquid cialis cipro drug class ciprofloxacin hcl 500 mg weaning off lexapro how to get off lexapro first few days on lexapro viagra without a doctor prescription usa what is cialis where to buy viagra viagra receptfritt azithromycin medscape cipro dangers cialis free trial tamoxifen side effects in women cialis coupons from manufacturer buy viagra online finasteride medication levitra erfahrungen azithromycin and alcohol ciprofloxacin 500 generic viagra 100mg ciprofloxacin 250 mg acyclovir medication viagra pillen kruidvat azithromycine eg 500 mg bijsluiter viagra natural cialis canadian pharmacy cialis for daily use tamoxifen side effects in women over 55 azithromycin 250mg tablets 6 pack side effects of ciprofloxacin 500 mg azithromycin dosage what is finasteride used for viagra for sale uk lexapro vs wellbutrin nolvadex azithromycin 250 mg free viagra what is ciprofloxacin levitra 20mg lexapro manufacturer website effects of stopping lexapro suddenly lexapro and wellbutrin combination therapy viagra ohne rezept auf rechnung viagra pill viagra prices cialis patent expiration levitra 10 mg prezzo cialis savings card azithromycin 500 mg levitra vs viagra for hardness escitalopram antibiotic ciprofloxacin azithromycin without a doctor’s prescription cialis for sale 9 levitra at walmart viagra generic what is viagra viagra coupons finasteride side effects finasteride results viagra from canada how long for azithromycin to take effect lexapro side effects in women is lexapro a controlled substance lexapro benefits for women what is escitalopram ciprofloxacin 250mg azithromycin 500 erfahrungen viagra vs cialis side effects of finasteride how to wean off lexapro canadian cialis cipro antibiotic lexapro for anxiety finasteride vs dutasteride levitra prices cialis vs viagra azithromycin for strep throat cialis without a doctor’s prescription azithromycin for pneumonia cialis pricing lexapro generic ciprofloxacin 500mg tablets viagra vs cialis vs levitra viagra on line no prec escitalopram side effects acyclovir side effects finasteride 5mg tab azithromycin levitra vs viagra azithromycin 500 viagra generico finasteride 5 mg tab cialis 5mg equipe argentine viagra generic for cialis lexapro overdose what is cipro used for lexapro 20mg viagra coupon cipro antibiotics wholesale cialis lexapro medication ciprofloxacin nebenwirkungen viagra alternatives female viagra pfizer viagra coupons from pfizer propecia side effects viagra vs cialis vs levitra finasteride 5mg cialis 30 day trial coupon azithromycin 250 mg treatment escitalopram oxalate levitra without a doctor prescription cialis vs viagra cialis 5mg daily zithromax vardenafil vs viagra viagra 100 how does lexapro work ciprofloxacin side effects in women lexapro coupons azithromycin side effects azithromycin drug class viagra 100 mg finasteride tablets escitalopram 10 mg cialis 20 mg wellbutrin and lexapro tamoxifen cost side effects of acyclovir zovirax cream levitra azithromycin uses ciprofloxacin 500mg buy cialis online lexapro side effects men viagra pills azithromycin 250mg cialis 20mg directions viagra 100mg tablets retail price viagra effects acyclovir for shingles what is acyclovir azithromycin class ciprofloxacin side effects escitalopram 10 mg para que sirve stopping lexapro azithromycin pediatric dosing acyclovir dosage for cold sores discount viagra how does cialis work thuoc azithromycin ciprofloxacin dosierung how does viagra work cialis pharmacy prices zovirax ointment withdrawal from lexapro what is tamoxifen used for azithromycin z pak finasteride 5 mg what is azithromycin for viagra kaufen what does viagra do levitra generic azithromycin for uti what is cipro cipro side effects cealis viamedic cialis when will cialis go generic lowest cialis prices viagra substitute cialis website viagra side effects acyclovir ointment 5 order viagra discount cialis what is acyclovir used for escitalopram 10mg tamoxifen therapy side effects of viagra lexapro bula zithromax z-​pak escitalopram 20 mg erectile dysfunction cialis lexapro 10 mg cost of viagra cipro 500 levitra coupon azithromycin pregnancy category levitra bayer 20mg meilleur prix cialis generic tadalafil finasteride side effects in men azithromycin 250 how much does cialis cost cialis coupons what is tamoxifen what does ciprofloxacin treat azithromycin tablet lexapro reviews cheap viagra viagra medicine viagra on line side effects of finasteride 5mg finasteride reviews side effects of azithromycin 250 mg viagra canada azithromycin 5 day dose pack finasteride 5mg side effects mayo clinic cialis 30 day sample ciprofloxacin ophthalmic solution side effects of cialis finasteride permanent side effects finasteride hair loss side effects of lexapro acyclovir dose ciprofloxacin for dogs lexapro vs celexa levitra 20 mg precio farmacia tamoxifen interaction viagra side effects of lexapro in women ciprofloxacin bnf tamoxifen bijwerkingen daily cialis online viagra finasteride dosage buy cialis cialis professional viagra 100mg ciprofloxacin spc lexapro 5mg ciprofloxacin coverage cipro for uti cialis coupon 20 mg viagra vs cialis ciprofloxacin 500 mg lexapro vs zoloft post finasteride syndrome buy viagra how does acyclovir work azithromycin eye drops cialis cost side effects of azithromycin viagra wikipedia ciprofloxacin dosage ciprofloxacin class finasteride for hair loss finasteride effets secondaires viagra online cialis on line celexa vs lexapro generic lexapro zithromax antibiotic azithromycin 500mg what is lexapro used for ciprofloxacin eye drops cost of cialis what is lexapro for what does ciprofloxacin 500mg treat cialis canada lexapro generic name levitra 20 mg cost walmart cyalis sex viagra for women cialis otc generic cialis ciprofloxacin hydrochloride azithromycin pregnancy cialis online viagra tablet zithromax 500 mg common side effects of ciprofloxacin 500 mg lexapro dosage what is azithromycin utilisation viagra cialis testimonials tamoxifen side effects how long does viagra last cialis effects acyclovir dosing zovirax cialis side effects cialis trial viagra 50mg viagra bestellen ciprofloxacin drug class azithromycine 250 mg generic for lexapro what is acyclovir for canadian viagra cialis or viagra tamoxifen lawsuits lexapro side effects levitra rezeptfrei deutschland tamoxifen and foods to avoid viagra cost viagra activate viagra en ligne livraison 24h tamoxifen nebenwirkungen tamoxifen and weight gain viagra tablets what infections does ciprofloxacin treat cialis coupon acyclovir 200mg levitra dosage side effects of tamoxifen cialis for men cialis voucher finasteride long term effects buy generic viagra cheap cialis ciprofloxacin uses azithromycin vs erythromycin lexapro withdrawal symptoms levitra vs viagra zithromax dosage viagra for women canada cialis acyclovir azithromycin liquid women viagra what does finasteride do buy generic levitra zoloft vs lexapro lexapro withdrawal price cialis cialis dosage recommendations acyclovir 800 mg 5 times a day levitra online cialis medication propecia cialis prices cialis daily viagra nebenwirkungen ciprofloxacin 500mg antibiotics side effects ciprofloxacin hcl cialis coupon print cheap levitra cialis reviews what works better than viagra lexapro 10mg tamoxifen citrate ciprofloxacin dose viagra soft cialis generic generic viagra generic levitra vardenafil 20mg finasteride efectos secundarios is azithromycin penicillin cialis patent expiration date extended what is lexapro buying viagra what does azithromycin treat acyclovir vs valacyclovir side effects lexapro zovirax for cold sores cialis for bph ciprofloxacin viagra price tamoxifen how long for lexapro to work azithromycin coverage sophia viagra escitalopram effets secondaires lexapro and weight loss cialis pills cialis coupons printable online cialis lexapro and weight gain finasteride for women ciprofloxacin 500 mg for urinary tract infection viagra wiki cialis 10 mg natural viagra tamoxifen and bone pain levitra 20 mg von bayer cialis tadalafil finasteride 1mg side effects of ciprofloxacin lexapro and weight gain in women viagra ohne rezept aus deutschland lexapro side effects in men 200 cialis coupon acyclovir 800 mg for shingles is azithromycin viagra dosage acyclovir 400mg viagra without a doctor prescription cialis patent expiration 2017 pfizer viagra how to use viagra cipro dosage cialis 20mg acyclovir 800 mg does lexapro cause weight gain cipro uses cialis side effects of lexapro 10 mg viagra for men generic cialis at walmart lexapro dosages acyclovir 400 mg cialis coupons 2017 cialis pills for sale is ciprofloxacin a penicillin finasteride 5mg side effects viagra uk ciprofloxacin hcl 500 mg tab what is finasteride cialis alternative zovirax pills viagra single packs zovirax dosage acyclovir dosage ciprofloxacin hcl 500 mg side effects what is cipro usually prescribed for revatio vs viagra ciprofloxacin hydrochloride ophthalmic cialis generic availability effects of stopping finasteride cialis cheap how to take cialis vardenafil 20mg cialis dosage viagra samples cialis for women azithromycine levitra 20mg cost per pill acyclovir ointment azithromycin cost cialis sample buy levitra online how to wean off lexapro without withdrawals what is ciprofloxacin prescribed for viagra sans ordonnance finasteride levitra 20 mg lexapro weight gain viagra cialis levitra prezzo in farmacia cialis price ciprofloxacin drops cialas lexapro para que sirve ciprofloxacin used for viagra costs what is azithromycin used for ciprofloxacin 500mg antibiotics viagra tesco what is ciprofloxacin used for cialis copay card finasteride and enlarged prostate cilias best price viagra over the counter viagra herbal viagra canada viagra ciprofloxacin 500 mg tabletten what bacteria does ciprofloxacin kill lexapro dosing acyclovir cream