PHIL 1500P FALL LECTURE 4
Looking for weaknesses in Singer's core argument
• We're studying public reason.
• We studied how to find arguments.
• We found one in Singer's article.
• We studied how to assess them.
• Now we assess Singer's argument.
Singer's core argument
1. Suffering and death from lack of food, shelter, & medical care are bad. (HARD TO DENY)
2. Anything we can do to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing
anything of comparable moral importance, is something we ought, morally, to do.
(DISUPUTED BY OTHER VIEWS OF RESPONSIBILITY & OBLIGATION)
3. Providing famine relief to the Bengali refugees is something we can do to prevent suffering and
death from lack of food, shelter, and medical care. (MAY BE NECESSARY, AT LEAST, VERY
4. We can provide FR anywhere it is needed, without sacrificing anything of comparable moral
importance. (DISPUTED BY HARDIN & OVERLOADED)
5. So providing famine relief to the Bengali refugees is something we ought to do.
• Weak logical connection. Review what this is. Is Singer's argument weak? If so, can it be
• Implausible premises. Review what that means.Are any of Singer's premises implausible?
Type 1 - “valid”
• Impossible: premises true + conclusion false
• Premises “drive us” to the conclusion
• Accept premises > must accept conclusion
• Inconsistent if you do not reach the conclusion from the premises.
Type 2 - “strong”