Moral Relativism, Humanitarian crises and Poverty

Categories: SingerWorld Hunger

This article by Peter Singer is an article that deals with humanitarian crises around the world. Singer believes that the wealthiest countries around the world do not do enough to help out during times of humanitarian crises. Singer starts out by listing how many countries were giving humanitarian aid and how and comparing those numbers to how much money is needed in India. There are many more countries around the world that need just as much help if not more than India does.

Singer makes a simple argument. His first premise is that “suffering and death from lack of food, shelter, and medical care are bad.” His second premise is that “if it is in our power to prevent suffering without sacrificing something of comparable moral importance, we out morally to do it.” Singer gives an example of his argument by conveying a situation where there is a child drowning in a pond. Singer argues that the second premise of his argument nullifies any inconvenience to those that should help.

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The fact that you may get your clothes muddy trying to help this child is a minor inconvenience, so you should help the kid. Singer also addresses some criticism of his argument that goes along the lines of, “We have our own problems with people who are in peril in our countries, therefore we should focus on those close to us first.” Singer retorts by explaining that proximity between those who need help and those who should help is morally insignificant.

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I would say that I agree with Peter Singer on this issue on a moral perspective. However, I do not think that ending all afflictions of suffering around the world will not come at a minor inconvenience to us. Because the earth is populated so greatly today, we are at a point where we do not have enough resources for everyone around the world to have a first-world lifestyle. We are at a point where we, as humans, are not living in equilibrium with our environment anymore. I still do think that we should do what ever we can as a first world country to help those in need around the world.

Onora O’Neill starts off their paper by summarizing Kant’s argument. They explain Kant’s definition of a maxim, which is the intention behind a person’s action. Kant calls his article The Categorical Imperative and O’Neill chooses to focus on the part of the article that is called “The End in Itself” where Immanuel Kant spells out his moral philosophy.

Kant’s morality is based the intrinsic value of actions rather than an extrinsic value. Kant believe that actions taken that give intrinsic value are more moral. His philosophy is summarized in this sentence: “Always treat people, including yourself, never merely as mere means, but always as an end.” In this sentence, Kant implies that using people for extrinsic value when that other person does not consent to it is immoral. This is treating people “merely as means.” When another person cannot consent to the circumstance that you have put them under, you have either coerced them or deceived them. That is using them as a tool. To Kant it is immoral to use people this way because we, as humans, have rational capacities. Therefore, we each have our own intrinsic value.

As far as whether I agree with this or not, I would say that is a mixed bag. I agree that using people as means is immoral, but it I wouldn’t say that this is immoral because we, as humans, have rational capacities. I would say, however, that it is immoral because coercing or deceiving people can end up hurting people in it of itself. I do not think it should stop with animals. I do not see why it is just fine to deceive living, conscious beings just because they do not have a rational capacity. In general, people would not be okay with coercing a person who is mentally disabled because they do not have a rational capacity.

Gilbert Hartmen starts out by defining moral relativism the idea that there is no one single true morality. Therefore, there are only different moralities between cultures and there is no such thing as a true right or wrong. This is the case because there is no objective way to establish a morality. It is all in a group or individual’s opinion. There are different variations of relativism, such as legal relativism and linguistic relativism. Others, when discussing moral relativism, will assert that because there is no absolute right and wrong in moral relativism, that it is no different than something like moral nihilism. The response to that is to use the analogy that because in the case of law, or linguistics, there since there is no true language or law, it does not mean that language or law does not exist at all. Hartmen also argues that despite having different moralities across the globe, there still are plenty of examples of issues where all cultures across the world agree on it.

Personally, I side more so with moral relativism than objective morality because I recognize that there is no actual way of precisely measuring which moralities are correct and which ones are wrong. I see what others see as objective moralities across the world as just other frames of morality with no one morality really above the others because time and time again, I see these rules stretched and subdued for convenience. Specifically, with religion because usually those who subscribe to this philosophy are religious. A good example of this would be the events in Numbers, Chapter 31 of the bible. In this chapter, God commanded the Israelites to kill, rape, and plunder through the city of the Midianites because they were worshipping other Gods. They were commanded to kill all the men and boys and keep the women as wives. Many people who subscribe the Judeo-Christian morality would justify this by saying that the Midianites convinced some of the Israelites to believe in other Gods. This is a problem in my view because this is the exact same justification is made with other religions when other atrocities are pointed out in their respective religions.

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Moral Relativism, Humanitarian crises and Poverty. (2021, Sep 20). Retrieved from

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