Ethics and Moral Reasoning
Instructor: Thomas MacCarty
December 10, 2012
In Peter Singer’s article “Famine, Affluence, and Morality, he gives what seems to be a devastating outline of our normal way of thinking concerning the relief of the famine, charity and morality in general. Only a small number of people accepted, or even acted upon the conclusions that he shared. The enlightenment of these facts someone may make the statement or argument such as Hume did in the likeness of Berkely’s argument for immaterialism, stating that “they admit of no answer and produce any convictions” (Hume, 1999). I believe that Singer’s consideration show that people should be more considerate, but because they do not accept his conclusion in the fullness from his general facts that he provided. Even though his arguments seem to only provide a partial answer, but if properly examined it may bring conviction.
Singer argues that people who lives in affluent countries must change their way of life along with their conception of morality, in hopes that they will commit to helping those that at are in need. He first asked for us to consider cases of famine such as the one in Bengal in the year of 1971, people suffered extensively and he felt if that the proper requirements wasn’t fulfilled by individuals as well as the government officials. Singer presented two principles: the first principle was that suffering and death are bad, whether it comes from hunger, deficient housing, or the lack of proper medical care. The second principle was that if anyone is in a position to prevent a morally bad situation without sacrificing something of roughly equal moral importance one should do so. The first principle states whether a person should help those who are suffering or dying by the closeness of another person unless it is too difficult or it’s a lot of distance between them does not make the suffering any less. When both principles are connected it appears that one’s obligation to help those who are in need will not vanish or change for the better if those who are able to help refuse to do so, and morally they are no different than the people who are not present but involve themselves. Singer comments on this argument by adding that he could get by with a weaker version of the second principle, which would have “something of moral significance” in place of “something of roughly equal moral importance” (Urmson, 1958). Singer next considers a couple of objections one is that if everyone were to donate what they should to famine relief, each person would only need to contribute a small amount, and thus there would be no reason for one to contribute more than a small amount. Singer responds that it’s just not true that everyone donates what they should to famine relief, so this objection is irrelevant given the actual situation. Another is that, since not many people donate much to famine relief, those who do should keep giving until they reach the point where their wellbeing is roughly equal to that of the people they are trying to help. This would result in them donating more than they need to, which means that things would be better if people didn’t do quite as much as they should. Singer says that this would happen only if they didn’t know how much others were donating, and if they all acted at the same time. If they do know, and don’t all give at the same time, they may, and will, donate less than they otherwise would. Taking himself to have satisfactorily answered the past two objections, Singer regards the second principle as established, and says that if necessary he can still make his case using its weaker version. Singer thinks the foregoing has wide-ranging consequences for our moral thinking. Most people feel that they are perfectly within their rights to give whatever they choose to charity, whether it is nothing, a large amount, or something in between. According to Singer this is wrong. The money that people of...
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