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PHIL 3020 (3)


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York University
PHIL 3020
Shyam Ranganathan

Class 6 Consequentialism Actions are determined by the consequence which determine if its right or wrong ex utility pleasure or happiness is determines the right or wrongness of an actionPeter Singer Famine Affluence and Morality Premise 1 suffering and death from lack of food shelter and medical care are bad Premise 2 if it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance we ought morally to do itQualification By without sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance I mean without causing anything else comparably bad to happen or doing something that is wrong in itself or failing to promote some moral good comparable in significance to the bad thing that we can preventRadical Consequences of Premise 2 The uncontroversial appearance of the principle just stated is deceptive If it were acted upon even in its qualified form our lives our society and our world would be fundamentally changed For the principle takes firstly no account of proximity or distance It makes no moral difference whether the person I can help is a neighbors child ten yards from me or a Bengali whose name I shall never know ten thousand miles away Secondly the principle makes no distinction between cases in which I am the only person who could possibly do anything and cases in which I am just one among millions in the same positionSeemingly Absurd Consequence It might be thought that this argument has an absurd consequence Since the situation appears to be that very few people are likely to give substantial amounts it follows that I and everyone else in similar circumstances ought to give as much as possible that is at least up to the point at which by giving more one would begin to cause serious suffering for oneself and ones dependentsperhaps even beyond this point to the point of marginal utility at which by giving more one would cause oneself and ones dependents as much suffering as one would prevent in Bengal If everyone does this however there will be more than can be used for the benefit of the refugees and some of the sacrifice will have been unnecessary Thus if everyone does what he ought to do the result will not be as good as it would be if everyone did a little less than he ought to do or if only some do all that they ought to doAbsurdity is only Apparent It arises from the implausible assumption that we cannot know what others are going to do Outcome of Singers Argument1 The outcome of this argument is that our traditional moral categories are upset The traditional distinction between duty and charity cannot be drawn or at least not in the place we normally draw it2 Consequences does not imply that the distinction between duty and charity cannot be drawn It only implies that what is usually thought of as charity is not at all charity but rather obligatory
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