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Famine, Affluence, and Morality Essay

In Peter Singer’s 1972 article titled “Famine, Affluence and Morality”, he suggests that wealthy nations have an ethical duty to contribute much more than they do to other nations who are suffering through a natural disaster, extreme poverty, famine or other issues. In this paper, I will describe Singers objective and give his argument with regards to this issue. I will describe three counter-arguments to Singer’s view which he addresses, and after that reveal Singer’s reactions to those counterarguments. I will explain Singer’s idea of marginal utility and also differentiate how it pertains to his argument.

I will compare how the ideas of duty and charity alter in his suggested world. To conclude, I will provide my own position in response to Singer’s argument. The primary objective of Singer’s article is to express that we as people have the capacity to assist those in dire need as it is our moral duty to do so. He uses the disaster in East Bengal as an example. “Continuous poverty, a cyclone, and a civil war have turned a minimum of 9 million people into abandoned refugees; nonetheless, it’s not beyond the capability of the wealthier countries to provide sufficient help to decrease further suffering to very small proportions (Singer 1972).

He thinks that there’s no reason at all for individuals to suffer if other people have the ability to assist and prevent it from happening or getting worse. It’s our moral responsibility to modify our way of living so as to achieve this important objective. They are overcrowded, hungry, dehydrated and need medical attention. Singer believes that we have the resources to decrease the suffering and pain yet we disregard the problem and do nothing at all, which can be immoral. We should modify our opinions of morality so as to develop a dedication to helping people in dire need.

Singer provides counter-arguments in his work which I will talk about here. He offers his readers a scenario which involves a drowning kid and a witness. Most people would try to save the kid since it’s the “right” action to take. Singer proposes that this duty happens since lots of people know that a drowning kid is considered very bad and outweighs the fact they you have to get your clothes muddy and wet. The counter-argument in this situation proposes that because I am not the only individual seeing this event, why is it my duty to do something positive about it?

Why must it be my ethical responsibility to assist this kid in case nobody else is doing anything regarding it? Singer explains, “In case it’s in our power to avoid something bad from occurring, without thereby compromising anything of comparable moral significance, we should, morally, to do it (1972). ” He thinks that we are able to do what’s right however we should decide to do what’s right even when everybody else decides not to. Singer also touches on whether our moral responsibilities must be restricted to distance.

The counter-argument in this instance proposes that because these suffering people are so far away, why is it my moral responsibility to help them instead of using it in my own area? According to Singer, “It makes no ethical difference whether the individual I can assist is a neighbor’s kid 10 yards from me or a Bengali whose name I shall never know, 10,000 miles away (pg. 232). ” It’s still our moral obligation to do what’s right. Is it morally appropriate to discriminate against a suffering individual just due to their distance?

Singer suggests, “In case we accept any rule of impartiality, universalizability, equality, or whatever, we can’t discriminate against somebody just because he is far away from us (or we are far off from him) (pg. 232)”. A person’s distance must not restrict our moral duties. Singer believes that everybody must give when it’s required. Many people are not contributing, so how much must I give without making myself or my loved ones worse off? The counter-argument here is whether to give more than can cause financial stuggle. He discusses the probability of contributing to the point of marginal utility.

As Singer states “Because the situation seems to be that not many people are likely to give considerable sums, it makes sense that I and everybody else in similar conditions must give as much as possible, that is, at least up to the level at which by giving more one would start to cause acute suffering for oneself and one’s dependents-perhaps even beyond this level to the stage of marginal utility, at which by giving more one would cause oneself and one’s loved ones just as much suffering as one would prevent in Bengal” (pg. 234).

To conclude, we all must give as much as possible so long as it doesn’t cause us to suffer in the process. Singer proposes that responsibility and charity is our ethical duty. We “ought” to assist unknown people in need of assistance if we are capable to and that it would be morally incorrect not to contribute. We must put on our old clothes instead of purchasing new ones just for the simple truth that you want to be well dressed. Duty and charity change in this future world since in this era, many people won’t give up certain luxuries so as to give to other people.

Most people are selfish and would prefer to indulge in the finer matters in life rather than worry about contributing their hard earned bucks to other people in need of assistance. Individually, I support Singer’s point for many reasons. I do think that we must assist people in need when we are capable of doing so as long as it does not cause us to suffer financially. I agree that a few luxuries must be overlooked if it implies that a life can be saved.

In case we were suffering or in an identical condition, would we wish or expect assistance? I agree that it’s the correct thing to do morally. I don’t believe that we must discriminate against a suffering person simply because that individual isn’t in our society. The life of an individual is invaluable and must come first of all. To conclude, Singer’s primary point is that it is our moral obligation to assist other people in times of need with regards to medical care, food, shelter or reconstruction.

I agree that we must contribute our money and time to assist other people if it doesn’t create a bad impact on our own lives. In this era, lots of people are selfish as well as greedy and don’t usually stop to take into consideration other people in need of assistance. People need to understand that there are lots of people around suffering and may ultimately pass away if they don’t get the assistance they need as well as deserve. I agree that it is our moral duty to assist any person in urgent need even when it’s an individual thousands of miles away.


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