Peter Singer Famine, Affluence And Morality Analysis

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Preference Utilitarian Peter Singer maintains that it is a moral wrong for those in affluent countries to not do more to prevent starvation in other parts of the world. Singer formulates this argument in his paper ‘Famine, Affluence and Morality’. Singer argues from the side of consequentialism, in particular Utilitarianism; an ethical philosophy in which the happiness of the greatest number of people in the society is considered the greatest good. Several philosophers have countered Singer’s theory, claiming that our moral duties are lessened by the distance of those suffering in other parts of the world. Moreover, critics of consequentialism argue that it does not allow agents to act in accordance with their own needs. I will be arguing from …show more content…
Act Utilitarianism, a theory which Singer affiliates with, states that the right act is the one that produces as much or more happiness than the alternative act. Subsequently, we are morally required to donate our extra wealth to countries more in need than our own, as this will produce the greatest amount of happiness overall. To aid this assumption, Singer proposes an analogy. If one is walking past a shallow pond and they see a child drowning in it, they ought to intervene and save the child. This may make the persons clothes muddy, however this is insignificant, as the life of a child will be saved. Singer sums up this crucial point in his essay ‘if it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we ought, morally, to do it’. Peter Singer equates this to the moral obligation to save starving children by donating …show more content…
In the pond analogy, the child you are obligated to save is close to you, whereas those suffering in disadvantaged countries are across the world. John Arthur states in his essay ‘World Hunger and Moral Obligation: A Case Against Singer’ that to feel morally required to give large amounts of money to people we do not know goes against our psychological disposition. He also states that this goes against the idea of moral equality, as our suffering should be seen as equivalent to others. Another who offers this criticism is Corbett (1995), stating it is ‘a psychologically too strong a requirement for anyone to achieve.’ These criticisms cohere with the common objections to act utilitarianism, which claim that to expect that we always seek the most happiness is too demanding and not fully achievable.

However, Singer refutes these statements, pointing out the flaws in Arthur and Corbett’s arguments. Singer states ‘It makes no moral distance whether the person I can help is a neighbour’s child ten yards from me or a Bengali whose name I shall never know, ten thousand miles away’. Singer claims that there should be no connection between moral empathy and moral obligation. In other words, whether or not you know or have similar concerns as someone should not determine whether or not you are obligated to do what you

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