In , the young philosopher Peter Singer published Famine, Affluence and Morality, which rapidly became one of the most widely discussed essays in. Outline of PETER SINGER: “Famine, Affluence, and Morality”. Singer’s main argument: 1. Lack of food & shelter & medicine is bad. 2. If it is in. Peter Singer. Abstract. As I write this, in November , people are dying in East Bengal from lack of food, shelter, and medical caxc. The suffering and death.
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Report a mispronounced word. What would you do if you were walking past a shallow pond in which a small child was drowning? There can be little doubt that the vast majority of people would wade in to save the child even if it came at the relatively aflfuence cost of getting their clothes muddy.
This is the starting point of a famous essay by Peter Singer, an Australian moral philosopher, first published in It has just been republished, along with two additional essays by Singer and a foreword by Bill and Melinda Gates. Of course, Singer does not stop with the example of the drowning child.
His next step is to argue there is no moral difference between letting the child drown and letting one die in a faraway country as a result of extreme poverty. The two cases are different in psychological terms, though.
The small child morqlity the hypothetical example is in front of you whereas those living in severe poverty are generally a long way away. But in moral terms, Singer argues, the challenge posed is the same.
Peter Singer, Famine, affluence, and morality – PhilPapers
In both cases it is possible to eliminate the suffering at no risk to our physical well-being. We might get our clothes muddy or be able to afford fewer luxuries, but that is miniscule when faminw against the value of a human life. Perhaps its influence is not surprising since, at first sight, its argument seems unimpeachable.
Who, after all, would want to be seen arguing the case for letting a small child drown? In particular, the use of a small child as a starting point risks infantilising the people it is ostensibly designed to help: It casts western philanthropists as heroic saviours of the helpless and those living in dire conditions as passive victims of dire circumstances.
An alternative starting point afflufnce be to see human beings as capable of shaping and reshaping their own circumstances. People have the ability to transform the world around them for the better, rather then simply lying back helplessly and accepting their fate. This sense of agency is the main force for eliminating poverty. This was achieved by a drive to transform its economy, rather than allowing itself to become the object of western pity. That is not to say contemporary China is perfect or that its model should be followed slavishly.
Only that, through their own efforts, people have often succeeded in lifting themselves out of poverty through economic growth. Western affluence is primarily the result of fsmine action by earlier generations, rather than the gift of external charity. This alternative view does not, of course, singfr saving drowning children or even giving aid to those suffering in an emergency.
In fact, Singer is, at least in passing, critical of the forces that do most to eliminate poverty. In his original essay on famine he favourably cited two of the most prominent critics of economic growth of the time.
Outline of Peter Singer on famine, affluence, and morality
His explicit condemnation of those who fail to accept a duty to eschew new clothes or cars for the sake of the poor risks generating resentment. Sinter is essentially trying to guilt-trip westerners into giving up luxuries.
Yet there is not a fixed amount of wealth in the world. Those who want to contribute to famine relief or poverty alleviation should be free to do so. Choose your FT trial. Peter Singer argues people have the ability to transform the world around them for the better, ans than accepting their fate.
Famine, Affluence, and Morality
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