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Lecture 13

Philosophy 1020 Lecture 13: Oct 21st Singer and O’Neill on Famine.docx

Course Code
PHIL 1020
Dennis Klimchuk

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Intro to Phil
Tues, October, 21st
Singer and O’Neill on Famine (helping those who are in great distance to us)
Begins with an assumption: that suffering and death from lack of food shelter and
medical care are bad
Strong Principle: if you can stop something bad from happening, then you have to
do it, this is the strong version of the principle
Moderate version: if you can stop something VERY bad from happening and there
is nothing morally significant in it, then you have to do it (ex. Drowning child,
If you are using anything you don’t need, give it to people who are about to die
Two controversial feature of the principle:
It takes no account of proximity
It takes no account of how many persons may have this power
Means that its saying to do your best without knowing how many people are
actually doing it too
You don’t do the math about it, go like “yeah if this person gave, then I did my
One controversial consequence:
It undoes the traditional distinction about duty and charity
What is utilitarian about Singer’s argument?
Has an independent theory on something thats good or bad, distinctive of
consequentialism (ultilitarnizm kind of consequentialism)
A utilitarian argument because it talks about suffering
The argument is that it makes morality a full time job
You’re always gonna be going around trying to promote happiness
Morality isn’t a full time occupation
Singer says that his argument is not like this because it only asks you to prevent
something if it is VERY bad
O’Neill on Kantian approaches to famine
To begin: two general contrasts between utilitarianism and Kantianism:
1. Kant’s theory has less scope
2. Kant’s theory offers more precision when data is scarce
Ultilitarnism: how do you know what will make everyone happy?
Kant’s theory is easier
All it does is not reduce someone to a mere means
3. Kant the difference between justice (duty says singer) and beneficence (singer calls
charity) is strict
Duty to support famine relief is a duty to beneficence, but one that, according to
O’neill, ‘must stand very high among such duties
Morality requires that you don’t just stop the bad thing, but you harmonize it
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