Complete notes for PHLB08

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January 10, 2008
Amal Abdirahman
Ethics and International Development
1971- Peter Singer
-famine in Bengal
- can still apply it with regards to global situation at present
Argument: Is a formal term for explaining why you think what you think
definition: A set of reasons that together are intended to support a view
Philosopher’s Viewpoints
Premise: The reasons! Things that are supposed to explain the conclusion
Conclusions: The thing you are supposed to persuade someone of.
Two Basic Things to ask about a Premise
1. Are the premises true?
- Is it false?
- It is a big flaw if it does now. It does not support anything.
2. Do the premises support the conclusion?
- A premise can be true, but not necessarily support the conclusion
E.g. Person 1 says "That stuff is a myth"
Person 2 says "Why?"
P 1 says "I saw Tom and he said so" ---> The premise is true but, it doesn't give you
a reason to believe the conclusion.
3. Even if the premises are true, do they REALLY support the conclusion?
Peter Singer: Believes we need to give more to people in need, ALOT more.
- Developed countries are affluent, while others are starving.
The fact that they are far away shouldn’t make a difference. [He means that the
distance makes it harder for us to see this. We lose sight of the fact that those in
developing countries are human too.]
--> He says we NEED to give more, if not we are "immoral"
His Argument:
1. A person ought to do what he/she can to eliminate or reduce suffering whenever he/she
can do this without
"sacrificing anything of moral significance."
(idea not to be a constant thing, but if you come across something you can do, do it)
2. The fact that many people in the world are suffering from preventable hunger IS BAD.
3. We could eliminate this suffering without sacrificing anything of "moral significance"
(C) Therefore we ought to do so.
Child falls into a pond. You see it and are walking by. Should you save the child?
Yes--> at almost no cost.
--> This is related to premise two
--> you aren't a good swimmer, risk is involved. Child is far out, water is deeper. Should
Basically, if it will benefit someone else, with no cost to you, you should.
1. Do we have a moral obligation, when we will end up living poorly ourselves?
-> He thinks it would be right, but that people won’t buy that.
Moderate principle: His idea suggests that a lot of things we think of as "frivolous" or
extra (just for fun)
--> these should be eliminated in order to help them.
{Some people equate it as being harder to give away things we enjoy}
Premise 3 Problem:
Doubts about how effective aid is People don’t think aid is effective because we will
not be able to rid of the suffering. War and other circumstances will just move this
suffering to other places in the world.
January 15, 2008
Amal Abdirahman
How do we Proceed In Ethics?
We internalize certain things throughout our lives.
Example: Pedestrians
we don't run over them, we see them as deserving of life.
Part 1 Assume we are trying to better understand our beliefs.
-Find out what the implications of our commitments are.
We can try to expand our commitments, persuade people to further their commitments to
those in need.
1. When people have things they agree about, we can work from there.
What do you do morally when there are disagreements?
How do you persuade people from a different background?
-People argue that you should let people do what they believe is morally good for them.
Singer is trying to do just that.
He is trying to argue his reasoning by building upon principles we already have as
Singer wants to claim that premise 1 is something we should generally accept.
1. We accept the idea of suffering not being a good thing.
2. Singer thinks that people reading his argument are committed to the principle of
equality. That we are all human despite, race, country and that we are all worthy.
(All people matter equally)
3. Singer thinks that because we generally accept the principle of equality, we will
accept premise1.
The weakness in Premise 1:
- He overlooks a conflict. He thinks that the principle in us that looks down on those who
don’t want to a child because they don’t want to get their shoes dirty” is the same as his
premise 1.
- His premise 1 is to an extreme personal sacrifice.We should have to give up
everything”. These are sacrifices that will change our quality of life.
- The notion of self innocence. We don’t cause it so why should we give up all our
luxuries to fix problems cause by others.
Another important issue for people is HOW things came to be the way they are.
-Unless we are the cause, we have limited roles to play.