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Famine, Affluence, and Morality

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RUNNING HEAD: FAMINE, AFFLUENCE, AND MORALITY 1

Famine, Affluence, and Morality
Keith Campbell
PHI 208 Ethics and Moral Reasoning
Instructor Ronald Davenport
June 30, 2013

FAMINE, AFFLUENCE, AND MORALITY 2 Peter Singer argues what the moral implications of any situation like this and how people all around the world sit back watching while little is being done to help, and many of innocent people die without a care in the world. While we all know people dying from starvation is bad, the moral thing to do is help as long as it does not cause harm to others, why should we sit back and do nothing. The goal in this article is to get people all around the world to realize the magnitude of the issues that people are dying of things that we at home take for granted, such as, the lack of food, shelter, and medical care. These things are vital to the survival of humans no matter where they live and what the state of their government is in. Singer also argues how affluent nations respond to situations such as the one in Bengal and presents us with a view of the moral issues at hand. The first counter argument is that according to Singer, (1971) “the view that numbers do make a difference”. This view implies that a wealthy person donates five dollars to help those suffering in Bengal the money would add up if everyone gave this amount. This would require no one to give any more than another in the same financial position; this is based off a hypothetical situation. Singer also states that this idea would not work because no one would give more than the five dollars, and by doing so he could help more people find adequate food, shelter, and medical care.

FAMINE, AFFLUENCE, AND MORALITY 3 The second counter argument is people do not judge the way he initially thought they should. Most people tend to keep their opinions about how they judge others to themselves unless an extreme moral code is overstepped, it is generally thought that most wealthy people do not think it is a bad thing to buy expensive things like cars, furniture, and electronics. While there are homeless people standing on a corner they drive by everyday on their commute to work: Singer’s response to this argument is “unless that principle is rejected, or the arguments are shown to be unsound, I think the conclusion must stand however strange it appears. It might, nevertheless be interesting to consider why our society, and most other societies, do judge differently from the way I have suggested they should”. Singer, (1971). The third counter argument is that distance is not morally relevant, with modern means of donating and the logistics of getting aid to the people in need is easy compared to what it used to be also it implies that distance should not matter when lives are in danger and you are not the closest to what is happening. Singer uses the example of a child drowning in a pond, his point is it should not matter who it is or if you are among many others you are morally obligated to help that person as long as you are not causing harm to yourself or others that is worse than the person you are helping. Also, he states that we are more likely to help if it is someone we know personally rather than a stranger.

FAMINE, AFFLUENCE, AND MORALITY 4 Singer’s concept of marginal utility and how it relates to his argument, marginal utility is people in affluent countries are morally obligated to do everything in their power to relieve the suffering of victims of starvation, even if it means drastically changing their lives. Meaning that we should give until we are in a situation as bad as the victims, this relates to Singer’s argument because it upsets the distinction between duty and charity. Compare how the ideas of duty and charity change in Singer’s proposed world. Singer believes that it is our duty to help others in need so long as it does not bring harm that is worse than those we are helping. This is the argument that we should try to save the lives of others when we can do so at little cost to ourselves. Also Singer thinks it is not charitable or generous but is the duty of every well off member of every country, and it would be simply wrong if we did not. My personal response to Singer’s argument is I agree that it should be our duty to help others but not until we share the same situation. I have been struggling for as long as I can remember to work and pay my bills, just to keep a roof over my families head and there have been a number of times when I could have used help and no one helped me out. I still think that we should give at least ten percent of what we make to charity. My preference is what Christians call tithing, I give my ten percent to the church who is better aware of the situations of families in need and can distribute the funds accordingly. I truly believe that if every family did this, there would be lots of money to help those in need of food, shelter, and medical care.

REFERENCES 5
Mosser, K. (2010). A concise introduction to philosophy. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
Singer, P. (1972). Famine, affluence, and morality. Philosophy and Public Affairs, 1(3), 229-243.

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