Strong Principle vs Weak Principle
The Strong Principle (SP)
If it is in someone’s power to prevent something bad from happening, without
thereby sacrificing anything, then she morally ought to do it.
The Weak Principle (WP)
If it is in someone’s power to prevent some very bad things from happening
without thereby sacrificing anything morally significant then she morally ought
to do it.
Singer notes that people don’t seem to act even in accordance with the weak principle. If
they did, he notes, our lives would be radically different from how they actually are.
Two important points about SP and WP:
1. They do not take distance or proximity into account.
2. They do not take into account whether there are other people who could
likewise prevent the bad things that we can prevent.
Distinguishing SP and WP
X and Y are of comparable moral significance if and only if the degree to which the
having of X (the lacking of X) makes one’s life better (worse) is equal to the degree to
which the having of Y (the lacking of Y) makes one’s life better (worse).
X is morally significant if and only if the having of X (the lacking of X) in one’s life
makes one’s life to a significant degree better (worse) than one’s life would be if it lacked
What are the implications of SP and WP in the following cases?
1. Shallow Pond
It follows from SP that you ought to save the child and dirty your
It follows from WP that you ought to save the child and dirty your