Read On Elon program opens with 'The Life You Can Save'

Professors Raj Ghoshal and Katherine Johnson facilitated a student discussion of Peter Singer's "The Life You Can Save: Doing Your Part to End World Poverty," as the inaugural Read On Elon event.

Read On Elon: A Forum for Book Lovers, a new program in which students participate in a book discussion and receive a free book, held its first event on Monday, Feb. 21. Raj Ghoshal, assistant professor of sociology and Katherine Johnson, assistant professor of public health studies, organized and facilitated the discussion of “The Life You Can Save: Doing Your Part to End World Poverty,” by Peter Singer. Participants included students from five departments across the university.

In the book, Singer argues that people giving to charities or assisting aid organizations should focus closely on their actions’ measurable results, rather than on simply wanting to do good. For example, blindness-preventing cataract surgery in India costs well under $100, which means that hundreds of people’s sight can be restored for what it costs to train one seeing-eye-dog in a Western country.

Singer’s book is at the heart of a movement known as Effective Altruism, which works to show that middle-class Westerners have great power to transform the lives of others lives positively, and can do at much lower cost than is usually assumed.

The book discussion, conducted over pizza and drinks, focused on questions of ethical responsibility, measuring impacts, domestic versus international action and career choices for those concerned about global poverty.

The Read On Elon series is sponsored by Eta Chapter, Phi Beta Kappa. Upcoming Read on Elon discussions will address brain plasticity, Navajo identity, legacies of race in the United States and more.