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Overview Of Famine, Affluence Essay

612 words - 3 pages

“Famine, Affluence, and Morality”

Constant famine is one of the great issues facing our

global society today. The article examines why Singer believes

it is morally indefensible that suffering as a result of poverty

is bad. He argues that affluent persons are morally obligated to

donate far more resources to the poor in this world. Singer

introduces the famine in Bengal setting up his first premise

that starvation is bad. His second premise is, “if it is

possible to stop something bad from happening, then we should

do all we can to stop it as long as it does not cause something

else just as bad to happen.”(Singer,1971) His arguments are

clear, logical, and motivated by utilitarian perspectives.

Singer’s first premise is simple, it states the idea that
humans suffering from poverty and famine is "bad." This basic
point is not dwelled upon, because Singer ...view middle of the document...

The author also points out that proximity and distance are
morally irrelevant, especially today, because there are expert
observers and organizations to send aid. He notes that we can
send a small amount of money to a foreign country, and that
money will save the lives of many people. Likewise, he believes
there is no reason why people should not uphold their moral
responsibility when others can help out as well. Therefore, one
is not less obliged to pull the child out of the pond if others
are doing nothing.
Singer believes that the distinction between duty and

charity is in the wrong place. The idea that it is charitable to

give but it is also acceptable not to give needs to be changed.

For example if one gives money to charity, then one is

considered praiseworthy. In the same way, Singer suggests that

one who indulges in luxury and money, and does not give to those

in need should be considered blameworthy. This unexplainable

duty or morality seems to transcend all world views solidifying

the claim of a universal morality.

One objection to Singer’s position as it relates to

affluence and charity is the way people judge morality. Moral

condemnation is reserved for those who violate a social norm,

and not for those who indulged in luxury instead of giving to

charity. A change will be too drastic for our moral scheme,

since people don’t judge morality in that way. Moreover, if

a new morality code was implemented, there would be a break down

in our morality code.

Furthermore, Singer’s idea conflicts with

utilitarianism. A utilitarian would work hard to produce the

greatest amount of happiness over any pain. Singer maintains

that this is the real world and that theory simply does not


I think we all would agree than an idealistic world would

be void of pain, suffering, and evils like poverty. The

existence of a moral imperative to help those in need was

evident in the recent presidential election. If enough people

give, small donations can be a powerful social force that can

make difference.

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