'What binds us pushes time away' wrote David Oppenheim to his future wife, Amalie Pollak, on March 24, 1905. Oppenheim, classical scholar, collaborator, then critic of Sigmund Freud, and friend and supporter of Alfred Adler, lived through the heights and depths of Vienna's twentieth-century intellectual and cultural history. He perished in obscurity at a Nazi concentration camp in 1943 leaving his grandson, the philosopher Peter Singer, without a chance to know him. Almost fifty years later Peter Singer set out to explore the life of his grandfather, and drawing on personal letters and documents, makes startling discoveries. Combining touching family biography with thoughtful reflection questions we face today, Singer gives us a vivid portrait of Vienna when it was the centre of European culture and new ideas, a culture that was both intensely Jewish and distinctly secular. He is finally forced to confront one of the foundations of his own thought: How much can we rely on universal values and human reason?
Peter Singer is the Ira W. Decamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University's Center for Human Values. He is the bestselling author of Animal Liberation and The President of Good and Evil (Granta).