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Famine, Affluence and Morality

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I quoted this essay by Peter Singer in the Ch.0 Kony 2012 thread, but I thought I'd pay an omage to this section of 12oz that I have long since forgotten by posting the full essay here.

I'm not going to actually post the whole thing here, but I'll give you guys the link.

it's about 14 pages long and discusses how more developed countries have skewed assumptions in relation to how it's resources are spent.




I think (along with many, many others) he makes a very convincing argument.


Here is the outline in standard argument form...

  • "Suffering and death from lack of food, shelter and medical care are bad"
  • "If it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, then we ought, morally, to do it".
  • "It makes no moral difference whether the person I can help is a neighbor's child ten yards from me or a Bengali whose name I shall never know, ten thousand miles away".
  • "The principle makes no distinction between cases in which I am the only person who could possibly do anything and cases in which I am just one among millions in the same position".

Since it is in our power to prevent suffering without sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, and because the third and fourth premises reject two commonly-held intuitions about our moral obligations, we are morally required to prevent suffering in any form. Morality as Singer understands it (that is, from a consequentialist perspective) really is (and should be) this demanding. (-wiki)



(It really helps to understand the standard form of an argument [premises, conclusion] and what makes one valid and/or sound. If anyone has questions about this I will gladly elaborate)


Your thoughts?

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i've bookmarked it :/

have to finish MY essays before I get started on those 14 pages...! while I have an opinion on what you've quoted, doesnt feel right commenting without reading the entire thing.

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American altruism is usually too little, too late and most of the time we get it wrong. That's not to say we shouldn't try but where we do get involved it's with a very paternal "we know what's best for you" attitude....not to mention the perquisite strings attached involving strategic interests or resources (hello, Congo.)


When you think about it not much has changed since the US decided that colonialism seemed to be a pretty good blueprint to follow.

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* Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

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