Introduction to Philosophy (Fall '09) - class#21

Introduction to Philosophy (Fall '09) - class#21 -...

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Unformatted text preview: Organizational Information The second assignment is due in The Discussion Section this Friday, Dec. 4th Discussion Reading for next time: “All Animals Are Reading Equal” by Peter Singer Equal” The final exam has been scheduled for The 12/17 at 8:00. 12/17 Ethics So far we’ve been considering what we ought to believe about the world. Ethics is not an inquiry into what we ought to believe about the world, but, rather, Ethics an inquiry into what we ought to do. do There are two major branches within ethics proper: Normative Ethics In normative ethics we strive to come up with general principles that In normative dictate for all possible scenarios what we morally ought to do in those scenarios. scenarios. Practical Ethics (or Applied Ethics) In practical ethics (or applied ethics) we examine particular ethical In practical applied we issues and try to figure out what we morally ought to do with respect to them. them. We are not going to be doing any normative ethics. We’re going to focus only on We not practical ethics. practical Specifically, we are going to look at three particular practical ethical issues: our moral obligations to those in desperate need our moral obligations to non-human animals the morality of warfare Some Crucial Moral Concepts An action, x, is morally permissible if and only if it is morally OK (or An morally morally allowed, or morally “all right”, etc.) to perform x. morally The concept of moral permissibility is a notion in terms of which a number of The other moral concepts can be defined. other An action, x, is morally impermissible =def. it would not be morally An morally permissible to perform x. permissible An action, x, is morally wrong =def. it would not be morally permissible to An morally perform x. perform An action, x, is morally wrong if and only if x is morally impermissible. An action, x, is morally obligatory =def. it would not be morally An morally permissible to fail to perform x. permissible An action, x, is morally required =def. it would not be morally permissible An morally to fail to perform x. to An action, x, is morally obligatory if and only if x is morally required. Obligations to Those in Desperate Need Peter Singer Famous and extremely controversial contemporary moral philosopher. He has controversial views on: Abortion Infanticide Euthanasia He is also the author of Animal Liberation (1975) He Animal Other papers discussing the issue of our moral obligations to those in Other desperate need: desperate Peter Singer - “The Singer Solution to World Poverty” The New York Times Magazine, September 5, Peter The September 1999 1999 Peter Singer - “What Should a Billionaire Give - and What Should You?” The New York Times Peter Magazine, December 17, 2006 Magazine Peter Unger - Living High and Letting Die, Oxford University Press, 1995 Peter Living John Arthur - “Famine Relief and the Ideal Moral Code” Obligations to Those in Desperate Need Singer believes that the behavior of people in the affluent part of Singer the world towards those in desperate need around the world is morally outrageous. morally He wrote the paper in 1971 when there was a massive He humanitarian emergency in East Bengal. humanitarian Collectively the affluent nations of the world gave only a tiny Collectively fraction of what would have been necessary to prevent all the death and suffering that did occur. death Obligations to Those in Desperate Need Consider Two Cases The Shallow Pond Case: On his morning walk to work Donald stumbles upon an infant On frantically thrashing about in a shallow pond. Donald recognizes that the infant is in peril of drowning and will drown if no one saves it. He realizes that he can easily save the infant by wading into the pond, picking it up, and safely transporting it to dry land. He also realizes, however, that doing this will ruin the pants to his new Brooks Brothers suit. Without giving it a second thought, Donald decides not to save the infant and ruin his pants. He walks on and has a productive day at the office. The infant drowns. productive Obligations to Those in Desperate Need The Letter Case: John receives a letter in the mail from Oxfam informing John him that with a donation of $200 he can save the life of a starving child in Nigeria. (A donation of $200 can transform a sickly 2-year-old into a healthy 6-year-old-transform offering safe passage through childhood’s most offering dangerous years.) John has $200 on hand, but he plans to spend that money on a new pair of pants for his Brooks Brothers suit. Without giving it a second thought, John crumples up the letter and heads off to Brooks Brothers, where, with his $200 he purchases a smashing new pair of pants for his Brooks Brothers suit. The Nigerian child starves to death. starves Obligations to Those in Desperate Need How does Donald act in the Shallow How Pond Case? Pond How does John act in the Letter Case? Is there any moral difference between Is their actions? their Obligations to Those in Desperate Need “I begin with the assumption that suffering and death begin from lack of food, shelter, and medical care are bad. I think that most people will agree about this, although one may reach the same view by different routes. I shall not argue for this view. People can hold all sorts of eccentric positions, and perhaps from some of them it would not follow that death by starvation is in itself bad. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to refute such positions, and so for brevity I will henceforth take this assumption as accepted. Those who disagree need read no further.” read Obligations to Those in Desperate Need The Quite Plausible Assumption (QPA) Suffering and death from lack of food, shelter, and medical Suffering care are very bad. care With QPA and some other principles, Singer is going With to argue that most of us morally obliged to donate a very large part of what we have to international relief organizations. organizations. Obligations to Those in Desperate Need “My next point is this: if it is in our power to prevent something My bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we ought, morally, to do it. By “without sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance” I mean without causing anything else comparably bad to happen, or doing something that is wrong in itself, or failing to promote some moral good, comparable in significance to the bad thing that we can prevent. This principle seems almost as uncontroversial as the last one [the QPA]. It requires us only to prevent what is bad, and to promote what is good, and it requires this of us only when we can do it without sacrificing anything that is, from the moral point of view, comparably important.” important.” Obligations to Those in Desperate Need The Strong Principle (SP): If it is in someone’s power to prevent something bad from If happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, then she morally ought to do it. it. Singer notes that he thinks that SP is extremely Singer plausible, but that it is not necessary for his argument. For his argument, all he needs is an even weaker principle. weaker The weaker principle is “weaker” because it demands less The and, thus, Singer would maintain, is harder to deny than is SP. SP. Obligations to Those in Desperate Need “I could even, as far as the application of my could argument…is concerned, qualify the point so as to make it: if it is in our power to prevent something very bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything morally significant, we ought morally to do it.” it.” The Weak Principle (WP): If it is in someone’s power to prevent something very bad If from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything morally significant, then she morally ought to do it. significant, Obligations to Those in Desperate Need Singer contends that people do not act upon even Singer the weak principle and that if we did, our lives would be radically different from how they actually are. are. Singer notes two things about SP and WP: 1. 2. They do not take distance or proximity into account. They make no distinction between cases in which one is They the only person who could prevent the bad thing from happening and cases in which one is merely one among many who could prevent the bad thing from happening. Obligations to Those in Desperate Need Though SP and WP do not take these Though things into account, Singer argues, that is a good thing because, he contends, factors like distance and how many people could help are not morally relevant to one’s own moral obligations. relevant Obligations to Those in Desperate Need “I do not think I need to say much in defense of the do refusal to take proximity and distance into account. The fact that a person is physically near to us, so that we have personal contact with him, may make it more likely that we shall assist him, but this does not shall show that we ought to help him rather than another ought who happens to be be farther away. If we accept any principle of impartiality, universalizability, equality, or whatever, we cannot discriminate against someone merely because he is far away from us” merely Obligations to Those in Desperate Need “[T]he fact that there are millions of other people in the same [T]he position [as we are], with respect to the Bengali refugees…can make no real difference to our moral obligations. Should I consider that I am less obliged to pull the drowning child out of the pond if on looking around I see other people, no further away than I am, who have also noticed the child but are doing nothing? One has only to ask this question to see the absurdity of the view that numbers lessen obligation. It is a view that is an ideal excuse for inactivity; unfortunately most of the major evils poverty, overpopulation, pollution - are problems in which everyone is almost equally involved.” everyone Obligations to Those in Desperate Need Distinguishing SP and WP. What is it for X and Y to be of comparable moral significance? X and Y are of comparable moral significance if and only if and comparable the degree to which the having of X (the lacking of X) makes one’s life better (worse) is equal to the degree to which the having of Y (the lacking of Y) makes one’s life better (worse). having What is it for X to be “of moral significance” at all? X iis morally significant if and only if the having of X (the s morally lacking of X) in one’s life makes one’s life to a significant degree better (worse) than one’s life would be if it lacked (had) X. (had) Obligations to Those in Desperate Need What are the implications of SP and WP in the What following cases: following 1. The Shallow Pond Case - It follows from SP that you ought to save the child and It dirty your pants dirty - It follows from WP that you ought to save the child and It dirty your pants dirty 2. The Runaway Train Case - It follows from SP that you ought to stop the train and lose It your legs - It does not follow from WP that you ought to stop the train It not and lose your legs. and Obligations to Those in Desperate Need Singer’s Strong Argument 1. If donating half of what I own to Oxfam will prevent If a tremendous amount of death and suffering from occurring, then I ought to donate half of what I own to Oxfam. to 2. Donating half of what I own to Oxfam will prevent a Donating tremendous amount of death and suffering from occurring. occurring. 3. Therefore, I ought to donate half of what I own to Therefore, Oxfam. Oxfam. 1,2 MP Obligations to Those in Desperate Need Justification for premise 1: If SP is true, then I morally ought to Justification prevent something bad from happening if I can do so without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance. Sacrificing half of what I own is not of comparable moral significance to the death of another person. So if SP is true and donating half of what I own will prevent a tremendous amount of death and suffering from occurring, then I ought morally ought to do so. do Justification for premise 2: It just is a matter of fact that given Justification what I have, donating half of it would prevent a tremendous amount of suffering and death. amount Obligations to Those in Desperate Need Singer’s Weak Argument 1. If donating everything I would spend on leisure If items to Oxfam will prevent a tremendous amount of death and suffering from occurring, then I ought to donate everything I would spend on leisure items to Oxfam. to 2. Donating everything I would spend on leisure items Donating to Oxfam will prevent a tremendous amount of death and suffering from occurring. death 3. Therefore, I ought to donate everything I would Therefore, spend on leisure items to Oxfam. spend 1,2 MP Obligations to Those in Desperate Need Justification for premise 1: If WP is true, then I morally ought to Justification prevent something bad from happening if I can do so without thereby sacrificing anything of moral significance at all. Leisure items are not of any moral significance, so sacrificing what I would have spent on leisure items does not count as sacrificing something of moral significance at all. So if WP is true and donating what I would spend on leisure items will prevent a tremendous amount of death and suffering from occurring, then I ought morally ought to do so. ought Justification for premise 2: It just is a matter of fact that given Justification what I have, donating everything that I would spend on leisure items would prevent a tremendous amount of suffering and death. death. Obligations to Those in Desperate Need What’s the upshot of Singer’s arguments? Singer’s Strong Argument - that we morally ought to donate Singer’s half of what we own to Oxfam half Singer’s Weak Argument - that we morally ought to donate Singer’s what we would spend on leisure items to Oxfam what NB: The conclusions are not that it would be a good not thing for each of us to donate. (No one (or not many, at least) would disagree with that.) The conclusions are that we morally ought to do so; or, in other words, morally it would be morally wrong not to do so. morally Obligations to Those in Desperate Need “The outcome of this argument is that our traditional moral categories are upset. The The traditional distinction between duty and charity cannot be drawn, or at least, not in the place we normally draw it. Giving money to the Bengal Relief Fund is regarded as an act of charity in our society. The bodies which collect money are known as “charities”. These organizations see themselves in this way - if you send them a check, you will be thanked for your “generosity.” Because giving money is regarded as an act of charity, it is not thought that there is anything wrong with not giving. The charitable man may be praised, but the man who is not charitable is not condemned. People do not feel in any way ashamed or guilty about spending money on new clothes or on a new car instead of giving to famine relief. (Indeed, the alternative does not occur to them.) This way of looking at the matter cannot be justified. When we buy new clothes not to keep ourselves warm but to look “well-dressed” we are not providing for any important need. We would not be sacrificing anything significant if we were to continue to wear our old clothes, and give the money to famine relief. By doing so, we would be preventing another person from starving. It follows from what I have said earlier that we ought to give money away, rather than spend it on clothes which we do not need to keep us warm. To do so is not charitable, or generous. Nor is it the kind of act which philosophers and theologians have called “supererogatory” - an act which it would be good to do, but not wrong not to do. On the contrary, we ought to give the money away, and it is wrong not to do so.” On Obligations to Those in Desperate Need An action, A, is morally supererogatory if and An morally only if only (1) (2) (3) Performing A is morally permissible, Performing A would have better consequences Performing than not performing A, and than It would not be morally wrong not to perform A. The ordinary language phrase for an action The that is morally supererogatory is “act of charity”. charity”. Obligations to Those in Desperate Need Note that Singer’s argument has no implications for a world in which Note no there is no suffering and death from lack of food, shelter, and medical care. medical So, if all of these evils were eradicated, Singer’s argument would not have the So, conclusion that we are morally obliged to give to those with less. conclusion “It follows from some forms of utilitarian theory that we all It ought, morally, to be working full time to increase the balance of happiness over misery. The position I have taken here would not lead to this conclusion in all circumstances, for if there were no bad occurrences that we could prevent without sacrificing something of comparable moral importance, my argument would have no application. Given the present conditions in many parts of the world, however, it does follow from my argument that we ought, morally, to be working full time to relieve great suffering of the sort that occurs as a result of famine or other disasters.” result Obligations to Those in Desperate Need Thomas Aquinas: “Now, according to the natural order instituted by divine Now, providence, material goods are provided for the satisfaction of human needs. Therefore the division and appropriation of property, which proceeds from human law, must not hinder the satisfaction of man’s necessity from such goods. Equally, whatever a man has in superabundance is owed, of natural right, to the poor for their sustenance. So Ambrosius says, and it is also to be found in the Decretum Gratiani: “The bread which you Decretum “The withhold belongs to the hungry; the clothing you shut away, to the naked; and the money you bury in the earth is the redemption and freedom of the penniless.”” is ...
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