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Ethics and Hunger

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  1. Ethics and Hunger Sources: World Hunger and Morality (1996 Aiken and LaFollette) World Food Problem (2004 Leathers and Foster) The Elements of Moral Philosophy (1993 Rachels)

  2. Ethics • How do we know what is right and wrong? • Use ethical theories to develop ethical arguments • Ethical Arguments • Based on logical extension of ethical theories to address specific issues • a peaceful way to resolve conflicts in values

  3. Ethics is not • Bible or Religion • People have different religions • Ethics can transcend differences • Law • Some things are legal but not ethical • Some things are ethical but not legal • Customs • People have different ways of doing things • Ethics can transcend differences

  4. Ethical Theories • Natural Law • There are stronger and weaker among all things • It is natural and therefore right for the strong to win over the weak • Examples • Humans are at the top of the food chain and therefore eat animals and plants • Survival of the fittest • Social Darwinism

  5. Ethical Theories • Divine Command • What is right is determined by God • Jewish • Christian • Moslem • Aztec • Examples • Love thy neighbor as thyself • Thou shall not kill • Golden Rule • Compassion

  6. Ethical Theories • Virtue Ethics • Have good character and you will behave ethically • Example: Justice • One who develops the personal virtue of justice will treat other people in an ethically just manner Aristotle

  7. Ethical Theories • Categorical Imperative • Should be able to universalize what you do • People should not be treated as means to an end • Examples: • If some have access to the means of survival, everyone should have access to the means of survival • Exploitation is wrong Emanuel Kant

  8. Ethical Theories • Rights • There are protected privileges people deserve • Universal – should apply to everybody • Inherent for human beings (at least) • Examples • Right to life • Right to freedom • Right not to be tortured • Right to own property

  9. Rights • Right to water, air, food? • Right to livelihood?

  10. Ethical Theories • Utilitarianism • Seek the greatest good for the greatest number • Quantitate and optimize happiness in society while minimizing pain • Examples • Interstate highways through farms benefit the larger public

  11. Ethical Theories • Utilitarianism • Seek the greatest good for the greatest number • Examples • Increase distribution of wealth • Charity • Graduated Taxes • Labor Unions • Socialism • Land Redistribution • Increase access to land, water, credit, health, and education

  12. Land Redistribution • Jefferson thought the misery of Europe was caused by enormous inequality in land holding. • He proposed that land should be redistributed every generation. Thomas Jefferson

  13. Ethical Theories • Intuition • What is right is what resonates as the right thing for an individual • Based on • Feeling (irrational) • Thinking (rational) • Mysticism (spiritual) • Culture (societal values) • Example • Gut feeling (sense) that it is morally wrong for people to starve to death

  14. Ethical Principles • Non- Maleficence • Do no harm: stop hurting others • Beneficence • Do good: help others • Justice • Fairness: equality of treatment • Autonomy • Self-determination • Paternalism • Deciding for others

  15. Ethical Perspectives • Absolutism • What is right is universal, timeless, and absolute • Relativism • What is right may be different for different people or cultures • Nihilism • There is no right or wrong

  16. Fallacies in Ethical Arguments • Can’t cite the Bible or other religious authority as reason for another to accept your ethical position

  17. Fallacies in Ethical Arguments • Can’t cite majority or how we’ve always done things in history as an authority • still might be wrong

  18. Fallacies in Ethical Arguments “I do not see why man cannot be just as cruel as nature” Who said it? • Can’t condemn something because of who said it • Evaluate the merit of what is said Hitler Ghandi

  19. Fallacies in Ethical Arguments • Can’t equate a thing to something else that is easy to attack • and then attack the easy thing • (Strawman)

  20. Fallacies in Ethical Arguments • Slippery Slope: Can’t extrapolate into the future (domino theory): • if we allow this, then a terrible thing will happen later… • Example: Anti-Suffragist Argument • If women became involved in politics, they would stop marrying, having children, and the human race would die out

  21. Fallacies in Ethical Arguments • Must have sound reasoning and use factual information • Example: Fear about eating genetically modified foods: • Its eating DNA!

  22. Is Hunger morally acceptable? Arguments that hunger is not morally acceptable

  23. Is Hunger morally acceptable? • No, because: • People should have a rightto survive • Rights to • Food • Air • Water • Shelter • Autonomy • Self-sufficiency • Principle: Rights

  24. Henry ShueSubsistence Rights • “No one can fully, if at all, enjoy any right that is supposedly protected by society if he or she lacks the essentials for a reasonably healthy and active life. • Deficiencies in the means of subsistence can be just as fatal, incapacitating, or painful as violations of physical security. • The resulting damage or death can at least as decisively prevent the enjoyment of any right as can the effects of security violations”

  25. Is Hunger morally acceptable? • No, because: • Extreme disparities of wealth are unjust • Conquest and economic domination unjustly favor the wealthy • Principle: Justice http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Image:Jakarta_slumhome_2.jpg Jakarta, Indonesia Slum

  26. Is Hunger morally acceptable? • No, because: • Jesus said • love thy neighbor • Do onto others as you would have them do unto you • Charity to the poor is a pillar of Islam • Principles: • Divine Command • Beneficence Feeding orphans in Afghanistan

  27. Mother Teresa • “If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” • “Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.”

  28. Thomas Aquinas13th Century Italian Philosopher • Whatever a man has in superabundance is owed, of natural right, to the poor for their sustenance • Principle: Natural Law

  29. Is Hunger morally acceptable? • No, because: • Pain suffered by the hungry outweighs pleasure enjoyed by the well off • Greatest good for the greatest number • Principle: Utilitarianism

  30. Peter Singer • If it is in our power to prevent hunger we have a moral obligation to do it • If we do not have to sacrifice anything morally comparable • Example: • If we walk by a shallow pond and see a child drowning, we ought to save the child rather than to save ourselves from getting wet and dirty.

  31. Singer’s Runaway Trolley • Suppose you own a classic Bugatti • it is your pride and joy • It stalls on a trolley spur line • A runaway trolley will hit and kill a child stuck on the main track • Unless you divert the trolley to the spur line • And destroy your Bugatti • How much is the child worth? • How much of your money should you give to help save the lives of children in developing countries? • Without doing comparable harm to you? • We earn much more than we really need http://www.motordesktop.com/wallpaper/supercars/Bugatti%20Veyron%202%20-%201024x768.jpg

  32. Is Hunger morally acceptable? • No, because: • Western Culture has contributed to and benefited from conditions that helped produce global hunger • Conquest • Colonialism • Imperialism • Global economic dominance • Aid to corrupt allies • Principles: • Non-maleficence • Justice Idi Amin received U.S. aid

  33. Thomas Pogge • The Global economic order causes poverty and entrenches the disadvantages of the poor • Example: • Dictators are allowed to sell the mineral and raw material wealth of their country • Profits are used to perpetuate repressive regimes. • The global economic order supports this. • The developed world benefits from low prices. • Example: • Dictators are allowed to borrow money to support repressive regimes • The global economic order supports this. • The first world benefits, developing countries suffer

  34. Thomas Pogge • “We must stop thinking about world poverty in terms of helping the poor. The poor do need help, of course. But they need help only because of the terrible injustices they are being subjected to”

  35. Is Hunger morally acceptable? • No, because: • When I see suffering people I know instinctively that it is wrong • Principle: Intuition

  36. Is Hunger morally acceptable? Arguments that hunger is morally acceptable

  37. Is Hunger morally acceptable? • Yes, because: • Well off people have a right to what they have earned and own • Principle: Rights

  38. Is Hunger morally acceptable? • Yes, because: • Jesus said the poor will always be with us. • Principle: Divine Command Beggar with leprosy, India

  39. Is Hunger morally acceptable? • Yes, because: • If we are not causing hunger, we are not responsible • Principle: Non-Maleficence

  40. Is Hunger morally acceptable? • Yes, because: • People deserve the circumstances they experience: • Caste system • God’s will • Original sin • Providence • Principle: Divine Command

  41. Is Hunger morally acceptable? • Yes, because: • There must be poor in an agricultural society to support the hierarchy • Principle: Divine Command

  42. Is Hunger morally acceptable? • Yes, because: • Survival of the fittest is a law of nature: we are not all equal: • individuals or • cultures • Social Darwinism • Principle: Natural Law Cecil Rhodes “I contend that we are the first race in the world and the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race…”

  43. Is Hunger morally acceptable? • Yes, because: • The poor countries will out-reproduce the wealthy countries, resulting in greater hunger in the future • Principle: Beneficence

  44. Garrett Hardin • Rich nations are like lifeboats and must limit the number of people aboard • If you think this is unfair you may give your seat to one of the poor • If we give money or food to the poor they will multiply, destroying the earth for all • This is a tragedy of the commons: abuses by some can destroy common resources for all

  45. Garrett Hardin • “We are all descendants of thieves, and the world’s resources are inequitably distributed. • But we must begin the journey to tomorrow from the point where we are today. • We cannot remake the past. • We cannot safely divide the wealth equitably among all peoples so long as people reproduce at different rates.”

  46. Questions

  47. Questions • How much of our culture’s ethical values about hunger are influenced by: • History of European Conquest and colonialism?

  48. Questions • How much of our culture’s ethical values about hunger are influenced by: • Cultural arrogance and racism?

  49. Questions • How much of our culture’s ethical values about hunger are influenced by: • American individualism?

  50. Questions • How much of our culture’s ethical values about hunger are influenced by: • Ideas of manifest destiny? George A. Custer