The Final Paper

The Final Paper - Final Paper Peter Singer is a Utilitarian...

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Final Paper Peter Singer is a Utilitarian who, in my opinion, has fashioned a philosophy to support a noble cause, namely, the redistribution of wealth to rid the world of starvation. Singer’s sound-bite might be “give until it hurts and feel content about it” in his assertion that the rich have a moral obligation to help the poor. He defines such aid as moral, thereby making it a duty, a step far beyond mere benevolent action. He openly concedes his proposal is impractical but serves as an ideal. However, even in limited use its effectiveness appears restricted. His principle might resonate with institutions which applaud its righteous consequences but on close inspection might be hard-pressed to convince any individual to consistently act on it. This disconnection between individuals and the societies they belong to makes Singer’s proposition hard to endorse since rational societies emanate from rational individuals. His other ideas on proximity, individual versus collective culpability, the parity of killing and the failure to prevent death, and the overarching role of collective as opposed to individual responsibility erode not only his own proposal but major utilitarian principles to a point of disaffection. Singer builds his argument for famine relief upon the undisputed claim that “suffering and death from lack of food, shelter and medical care are bad.” He further expands that “if it is within our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we ought morally to do it.” (Sher, p. 696) He further clarifies that “ought to do” means that we are morally obligated to act. He argues that failing to prevent someone from starving to death is the moral equivalent of murdering them. (Sher, p. 700) He defines this moral obligation as an action that is not only praiseworthy if one does it, but blameworthy if one fails to do it. A moral obligation is distinguished from a charitable act or a “supererogatory act” in that the latter does not 1
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evoke derision if it is not performed. Singer asserts that the rich have a moral obligation or duty to aid the poor and their failure to do so is shameful and wrong, tantamount to murder. Singer clarifies that our duty to the starving is not influenced by the vast physical distance that may separate the rich and the poor. (Sher, p. 697) He asserts that our duty is the same whether the poor are known or unknown or in our own family, town or country or are in another part of the world. We are equally deserving of shame when we fail to aid the impoverished in Bangladesh as when we fail to aid a homeless person in our own community. Another dimension of Singer’s principle is that our failure to provide aid makes us equally
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The Final Paper - Final Paper Peter Singer is a Utilitarian...

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