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Week 7 - Famine Relief

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Department
Philosophy
Course
Philosophy 1305F/G
Professor
Adam Yates
Semester
Fall

Description
Week 7: On the Duty to Contribute to Famine Relief Peter Singer “Famine, Affluence and Morality” Thesis: The way people in affluent countries respond to famine natural disasters poverty etc. is immoral. We are morally obliged to do much more to help relieve the suffering of other people. This involves the forgoing of luxury items and giving away our disposable income. Strategy: 1) Introduces the claim he thinks most people will accept 2) Introduces a moral principle that most people accept 3) Introduces a case we agree the principle applies 4) Provides an argument from analogy to justify the applications of the principle to famine relief Argument from analogy  Attempts to justify the demand for the obligatory status of a moral practice by comparing it with another moral practice that we think is obligatory  Show there is no relevant moral difference between the two practices. First Claim: Suffering and death from lack of food and shelter and medical care are bad, Singer’s moral principle: If it is our moral power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance we ought to do it Without sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance:  Not causing anything else comparably bad to happen, not doing something that is wrong in itself or failing to promote some moral good, comparable in significance to the bad we can prevent. Weaker Version of the Principle If it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything morally significant, we ought to do it (Not interfering with the promotion of, or acting contrary to, another obligation or good) Do we accept Singers principle? Case of the drowning child: Do you have an obligation to rescue the child? Strong version: If it is our power to prevent something bad from happening, without causing anything else comparable bad to happen, not doing something that is wrong in- itself, or failing to promote some moral good, comparable in significance to the bad we can prevent, we ought to do it. Weak version: If it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything morally significant (without interfering with the promotion of, or contrary to, another obligation or good) we ought to do it. - Seems to relieve us of some duties, but is also counter-intuitive Assuming that we accept Singer’s principle (either version) there will be radical cstnges to our moral practices 1 – The principle takes no account of distance or proximity (may not be able to swim to save the child but obligated to get some form of help)  Duties are binding whether the discharge of them is at arm’s reach or thousands of miles away Proximity may make it likely that we will save the closer person in need  But this does not show that we ought not to save the person further away or that our obligation is somehow stronger to the closer person.  We are a global village; we have access to relieve stress far away just as we would be able to in our local community. 2 – The principle makes no distinction between cases in which I am the only person who can help and cases in which a vast number of persons can help. There may be a psychological difference: one may feel less guilty about not contributing if millions of others similarly fail to contribute  But this psychological difference makes no difference to our moral obligation Are you less obligated to save the drowning child if others similarly situated are also failing to rescue? Singer believes numbers don’t matter. WE are still obligated to help. Consider the following (plausible) argument: If everyone in circumstances similar to mine were to give $100 then there would be enough food, and supplier o relief the suffering cause by suffering\There is no reason why I should give more than $100 Consider another argument  If everyone gave what they were required by the strong principle they would cause hardship for themselves and their families  If everyone does this, however, there will be more than enough to benefit the refugees or victims of famine and some of the sacrifices be unnecessary  Therefore, if everyone did as they ought, the result will be not as good as it would be if everyone did less than they ought to do.  People who respond are required to sacrifice more of themselves by donating to famine relief Singers Argument from Analogy We accept that we ought to save the drowning child. It is wrong to stand by and do nothing Singers principle grounds – makes sense of – our obligation in this case But there is no relevant moral distinction between our obligation to save the child from drowning and our obligation to relieve the suffering of a person or people on the other side of the world. It is wrong to stand by and do nothing If we accept that the principle grounds our obligation to save the drowning child than we must, furthermore we accept that we ought to help suffer from famine or other disasters. The offshoot of accepting the moral principle The traditional distinction between duty and charity cannot be drawn in the place we normally draw it: Many of the acts that we traditionally categor
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