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Global Poverty Part 1 Peter Singer and the duty to help

Global Poverty Part 1 Peter Singer and the duty to help

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Global Poverty Part 1 Peter Singer and the duty to help

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  1. Global Poverty Part 1 Peter Singer and the duty to help

  2. Facts

  3. 1/3 of all human deaths each year (18 million) are due to poverty-related causes and easily preventable diseases. • Poverty deaths since 1990: 324 million

  4. Death toll of wars, massacres and atrocities of the 20th c • Total: about 180 million

  5. 2) Extreme inequality: • Poorest 44% of mankind take up a meager 1.2% of annual global product • High-income countries: • 15% of global population, 80% of aggregate global income in 2001

  6. Poverty as a moral problem • Physical pain and sufferings • Attendant social evils: illiteracy, social exclusion, economic exploitation • Stunting of human development (ref. Aristotle) • Vulnerable to all sorts of unexpected happenings: an untimely rain, a mild illness…

  7. One notorious example: female homicides in Ciudad Juarez in N Mexico, across the US border of Texas. • 2007 “North America City of the Future” award of FDI Magazine • Conglomeration of assembly plants • Not only famous for its economic progress, but also something more sinister…

  8. From 1993 to 2003, 370 women have been murdered, with 130 subjected to sexual assault before death. • “Many of the women were abducted, held captive for several days and subject to humiliation, torture and the most horrific sexual violence before dying… Their bodies have been found several days or weeks later, hidden among rubble or abandoned in the deserted areas nearby.”

  9. What is our moral relationship with the distant poor? • Only a matter of charity or beneficence? • “Warren Buffett, the world's second richest man, has pledged $30.7bn of his $44bn fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. … According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, it is the largest charitable donation ever made.” ( June 26th 2006)

  10. In the World Food Summit organized by UNFAO in 1996, the 186 governments agreed that it is “intolerable” that more than 800 million people do not have enough to meet their basic needs. • Yet, the US government insisted that eradication of starvation is “a goal or aspiration to be realized progressively that does not give rise to any international obligations.”

  11. Do we have a moral duty to help the poor? • Peter Singer: YES!! University Center for Human Values, Princeton University (1946 - )

  12. Let’s start with our common intuitions with regard to rescue cases… • Peter walks past the lily pond on his way from CYM to the Philo Dept for the midterm test of PHIL1003. He notices that a boy is about to drown in the pond and there is no one nearby. • Does Peter have a duty to help? YES, even though doing so might cost him a good grade.

  13. Underlying principle: If we can prevent something morally bad from happening without sacrificing anything of comparable moral significance, we have a duty to do it. • If we choose not to give anything away, aren’t we, as affluent citizens, as morally bad as one who just let the poor boy drown?

  14. Possible objections 1) Presence of other potential helpers • Singer’s response: “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 asked this question to see the absurdity of the view that numbers less obligation.”

  15. Case of Kitty Genovese • “For more than half an hour 38 respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queens watched a killer stalk and stab a woman in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens.” (New York Times Mar 27th 1964 • Bystander effect: the greater is the number of bystanders, the less inclined is one to attempt to help

  16. 2) Priority be given fellow citizens • Singer’s response: why should distance be morally relevant? • Moral arbitrariness of nationality

  17. Bomb dropped by Singer… • Every time we indulge ourselves in luxuries, we are in effect saying that: “It’s terrible that you are suffering, and I feel sorry for you. While it would be nice for me to save you, you can’t blame me for not doing anything, just like you can’t blame Peter for not jumping it and hence letting the poor kid drown.”

  18. Radical implications of Singer’s principle • Extremely self-vigilant in our use of time • Not only luxuries are impermissible, Singer’s principle requires us to keep giving away our money till the point of marginal utility • This is because Singer’s principle is incremental.

  19. Richard Miller (Sage School of Philosophy, Cornell University) in “Beneficience, Duty and Distance” (Philosophy and Public Affairs 32 no. 4 2004): • We are entitled to the resources necessary for a meaningful pursuit of the goals that define who we are. • How can we strike a balance between living a meaningful life and fulfilling our moral duties in the face of massive sufferings?

  20. Principle of sympathy: We ought to have a sufficiently strong underlying concern towards others’ neediness so that any additional giving which manifests a greater underlying concern would impose a risk of making our lives significantly worse off.

  21. How does Miller’s principle avoids the incremental problem of Singer’s principle? • Disposition is not sensitive to small amount of donations at the margin. • If one is sufficiently concerned about others’ neediness, permissible not to give away what is sufficient to save yet another human. • Seems plausible: student A studies 18 hours a day. B studies 18 hours and 5 min. • Is B more hard-working than A?

  22. Hence, while morality requires us to give a sufficient portion of our wealth away, it does allow us to (occasionally) spend some money on birthday presents/movie tickets…. goals the pursuit of which are essential for our living a worthwhile life.

  23. Is our underlying concern towards others’ neediness indeed as coarse-grained as Miller suggests? • Seems to be so only when we view people suffering from poverty as a homogeneous mass. • Suppose A and B have the same income and have both given away 60% of their income. A: “I have already away so much, and giving away an extra $50 has nothing to do with whether I am a more caring person. So it’s morally okay for me not to give away the extra money.” B: “I have already given away so much, and I don’t want to any more. But since an extra $50 can save a few more lives… ok, I will do it…” • Why doesn’t this show that B has a greater concern for the needy than A?

  24. Do you agree with Peter Singer that the society can be better organised if we recognize that each of us are 'primarily responsible for running our own lives and only secondarily responsible for others'? Do you think that this is moral in a capitalist society? Can we still be moral if we take care of ourselves first and then consider the well being of others?