Is Peter Singer’s conception a morally good life a realistic and achievable one? Or does it require us to sacrifice too much of what makes life really worth living?
Peter Singer’s conception mainly focuses on contemporary ethical challenges. This essay will argue that Peter Singer’s conception is realistic and achievable. As long as we adopt a different way of our thinking, there will be no need sacrificing ourselves. It will show that his conception is down-to-earth for us to implement rather than appealing us to be the perfect person all time.
Besides, changing our way of thinking is important in today’s life, which involves establishment of moral awareness and priority rearrangement. We are required to change our way of thinking so that we can think about things without sacrifice.
Basically, Peter Singer’s conception is no doubt reasonable and down-to-earth for us to learn from it and to implement in everyday’s life instead of finding out what we can do that make us the most perfect.
He advocates the most effective in giving and feeling fulfilled about making a difference to others in the world so that we are motivated by doing even more. According to Hans Kung (1991, p. 31), he once asked that ‘on what basis can the individual achieve a happy and fulfilled existence?’ That’s exactly what Singer calls on us to do to makes life worth living. When it comes to the rudimentary rule of giving help to others, we are not expected to give the same amount of money or efforts to help people.
Meanwhile, we are not required to be the most perfect when aiding others. For the celebrities and the rich, they can donate some money to charities while it is impossible for those who are under the poverty line. Meantime, his concept argues that we should increase our benevolent impulse as much as we can do and consider the needs and rights of others than those to whom we are bound by organic relationship (Niebuhr 1932, p. 3). It sounds a little bit unachievable, but we can think about it in another way. For example, in contemporary life now, it is no doubt that we gain information from different media. When we see people begging for food or asylum seekers escaping from their own country on TV, we can donate to the proper organisation to help them (Singer, Drowning child ex. 7). Besides, when we see some children suffering from starvation and preventable illness, we can find some charities to help them (Kuper & Singer 2002, p. 107). That’s the much more practical thing we can do to help others within hand’s reach.
Peter Singer appeals to us that changing our way of thinking is crucial in society now. The sustained growth of Australian economy makes it difficult for people to separate their financial, educational and financial inspirations. As is explained by Singer (Drowning child ex.15-16) , the shift from consumption life and moral life is totally essential for some contemporary Australian people. Ironically, nowadays, the demarcation between different classes of people is associated with high desire for grant brands and luxurious goods (Hamilton & Denniss 2005, pp. 8-9). Hamilton and Denniss (2005, p. 7) give us definition of affluenza which describes a condition in which we are confused about the meaning a worthwhile life. To some extent, I think we are now infatuated with brands and following vogue, neglecting what we really need in our daily life. In other words, we are radically addicted to over-consumption life. To get rid of this confusion, we should distinguish between what we want for pleasure and what we really need for living (Singer, Drowning child ex.10).
In terms of changing our way of thinking, it is important to enlarging sphere of influence on moral consciousness among public as Singer appeals to us. We should first notice that moral achievements and the individual conscience are both relevant and important to the life of society. As the expanding circle of Lecky (as cited in Singer, Drowning child ex.5), all men are united and joint. The individual life and the social life are inseparable because the pursuit and aims of these two lives are reciprocally inclusive (Niebuhr 1932, pp. 258-59). As is described in the last paragraph, only by recognising our material consciousness can we begin to improve other aspects in our lives that makes life worth living, like families, communities, natural environment and our minds. Consequently, it is no use to solely propagate ethical values to others and never apply them to ourselves when we make choices in our life. An improvement of public consciousness on planetary responsibility is first and foremost the key to ethical success that Singer advocates to us (Singer, Drowning child ex. 8).
Rearranging our priorities when doing things is also an important way to change our way of thinking (Singer, Drowning child ex.16). Reinhold Niebuhr (1932, pp. 257-60) states that there is an inevitable conflict between what the society needs and human conscience because of the double focus of human’s moral life. One focus is inner thoughts of individuals while other stands for care about social life. Therefore, It is common that sometimes we may confront a situation and hesitate whether sticking to moral values or pursuing self interest. Kung (1991, p. 31) suggests that identity and solidarity are both necessary for our greater society. However, it seems that a few contemporary people have misunderstanding on priorities, considering it as the opposite to ethical values (Singer, Drowning child ex.13). In fact, there is nothing against self-realisation and pursuits as long as they don’t contradict the basic rules for the society and nature.
Once we have established ethical consciousness and were able to rearranging priorities, we can think about things that we all could do without any sacrifice. In terms of planetary responsibility which is mentioned in the previous paragraph, we must protect the environment and the planet we live now because they are also for the world after us. Meantime, there is definitely something tiny that everyone can do to contribute ourselves making the environment a better place. For instance, we can use more public transport rather than driving cars which will release more deleterious gases. Also, someone will spend time on buying a bottle of water even the water from the tap is safe enough for us to drink. In that case, we can save the money and give it to those who really need help.
This essay has shown that Peter Singer’s conception is practical and we are not required to be the most perfect. It’s essential for us to change our way of thinking. With regard to how to change it, what we are supposed to consider is rearranging our priorities and having a sense of ethical consciousness so that we can think about doings without sacrifice. Consequently, his conception is achievable and realistic. As long as we adopt a new way of thinking, we are not required to sacrifice ourselves. At a macro level, finding a balance between moral clarity and personal interest is the core of his conception.
Singer,P,2018, ‘The Drowning child and the Expanding Circle’, Trinity College Foundation Studies, Melbourne.
Hamilton,C&Denniss,R 2005, Affluenza: When too much is never enough, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest New South Wales.
Kung,H 1991, Global Responsibility: In Search of a New World Ethic, Crossroad, New York.
Kuper,A & Singer,P 2002,’Debate:global poverty relief’, Ethics & international affairs vol.16, no.1, pp.107-128.
Niebuhr,R 1932, Moral Man and Immoral Society: A study in Ethics and Politics, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York.
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