Our moral conceptual scheme needs to be altered
P1: There are people currently dying in Bengal from lack of food, shelter and medical care.
P2: This suffering and death is not inevitable as human action can prevent it.
P3: Governments and individuals with the capacity to prevent it are not taking action, with governments instead prioritising domestic interests over the lives of individuals overseas.
P4: The response of affluent nations cannot be justified. C: Our moral conceptual scheme needs to be altered.
Our response to the suffering of those in Bengal is not justifiable
P1: Suffering and death from a lack of food, shelter and medical care is bad.
P2: If it is on our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we ought, morally, to do it.
P3: It is in our power to prevent bad from happening (as outlined in the opening description of the situation in Bengal).
C: Our response to the suffering in Bengal (and other situations similar to it) is not justifiable.
Our society would be dramatically transformed through the acceptance of this principle
P1: (implied) Proximity and distance, as well as the fact that we are ‘one among millions in the same position’ are common justifications for our refusal to act.
P2: (implied) In our society, these common justifications define (and indeed limit) our sphere of moral responsibility and obligation (to those geographically close to us and whose relief from suffering depends only on us).
P3: The acceptance of this moral principle does not take into account these common justifications.
C: Our society would be dramatically transformed through the acceptance of this principle.
There is no justification for discrimination on geographical grounds
P1: Physical proximity explains why we are more inclined to help someone, not why we should help them.
P2: If we accept any principle of impartiality, universality (etc) we cannot discriminate on the basis of proximity.
P3: While physical proximity may place us in a better position to assist or take action (and thus justify discrimination based on geography) globalisation and the subsequent developments in the response of famine-relief organisations render the argument obsolete.
C: There is no justification for discrimination on geographical grounds.
I have no obligation to give more than $5
P1: If everyone gives $5 to the relief fund (which will cover the necessary costs of those in famine) then I am only obliged to give $5.
C: Therefore, I have no obligation to give more than $5 (or, more broadly, we are only obliged to give a small amount).
It seems better if everyone donated as much as they ought
P1: Since it appears that very few people will give substantial amounts, it follows that I and everyone else in similar circumstances ought to give roughly to the point of marginal utility, where their wellbeing is roughly equal to those they are trying to help.
**Note: we can understand ‘ought’ or ‘should’ at this point on to mean ‘give roughly to the point of marginal utility’.
P2: However, if everyone does this, there will be more than required, and the sacrifice will have been unnecessary.
C: Thus, in this case it seems better if everyone does not donate as much as they should, or alternatively, if only some do as they ought, rather than everyone doing what they ought to do.
If people are unaware of actual circumstance the result of everyone doing what they ought to be doing cannot be worse
P1: The paradox arises only if people act simultaneously and unexpectedly, in error about the circumstances.
P2: If everyone is expected to give, then it follows that what each person is morally obliged to give is reduced.
P3: As some will give before others, those who give later will avoid unnecessary sacrifice.
C: Therefore, if people are aware of actual circumstances, the result of everyone doing what he really ought to do cannot be worse than everyone doing what he ought to do.
If it is within our power to prevent something bad from happening without sacrificing anything morally significant, then we ought, morallly, to do it.
P1: Neither our distance from a preventable evil nor the number of people who, in respect to that evil, are in the same situation as we are, lessens our obligation to mitigate that evil.
C: That if it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening and we can do so without sacrificing something morally significant, we ought, morally to do it.
We ought to give the money away, and it is wrong not to do so
P1: Our traditional moral categories draw a distinction between duty or charity, with charity (in contemporary society) being regarded as a supererogatory act (where one is praised for acting but not condemned for not acting).
P2: Under the accepted principle, the decision of an affluent man not to give to charity in order to save someone from starvation (when we are not sacrificing anything morally significant, such as buying clothes in order to be fashionable) cannot be justified.
P3: To give money to ease famine relief is not charitable or generous, nor supererogatory.
P4: The traditional distinction between duty and charity is no longer sustainable.
C: We ought to give the money away, and it is wrong not to do so.
The principle requires too drastic a revision of our moral scheme
P1: Most people reserve their moral condemnation for those who violate a moral norm.
P2: To condemn those who do not give to famine relief does not align with the way we currently judge.
C: The principle requires too drastic a revision of our moral scheme.
The objection does not hold
the manner in which people judge does not challenge the validity of his conclusion, thus the challenge does not hold.
Singer’s implied view here is that we cannot rely on the ‘is/ought’ fallacy or a realist argument to support our moral schema. Just because we are inclined to condemn people for certain things does not in itself provide a justification for not condemning them for other things. Our lack of condemnation is simply a reflection of our culture and values which, Singer argues, are not morally defensible.
We should not give to charity
1: Giving aid is a government’s responsibility
2. Giving privately allows governemnt and non-contributing individuals to avoid responsibility
C: We should not give to charity
The assumptions of both premises are unsupported. People who refuse to give to charities are not benefitting anyone.
Population is a serious issue, and if you feel that strongly about it give to those charities instead.
We should give to the point of marginal utlitity
P1: Giving to the point of marginal utility involves reaching the level at which, by giving more,I would cause as much suffering to myself or my dependents as I would relieve by my gift.
P2: The strong version of the principle (‘we are required to prevent bad things from happening unless in doing so we would sacrifice something of comparable moral significance’) seems to require reducing ourselves to the level of marginal utility.
P3: The moderate version of the principle (‘we should prevent bad things from happening unless in doing so we would sacrifice something morally significant’) does not entail the level of marginal utility, as sacrificing oneself or family could be considered moderately significant.
P4: There is no good reason to prefer to the moderate version over the strong version of the principle.
C: (Implied) We should give to the point of marginal utility.
A good philosophical life invloves the coming together of theory and practice and putting our conclusions into action.
P1: It is said that public issues require an assessment of facts.
P2: A common view is that on questions of fact, philosophers have no special expertise, and thus it has been possible to engage in philosophy without committing oneself to any position on major public issues.
P3: There are some issues of social or foreign policy where a genuinely expert assessment of fact is required before a position can be taken, but famine is not one of these, as the facts about the existence of suffering are clear and beyond dispute.
P4: The issue of famine relief is one faced by all affluent people, and thus must include ‘every teacher and student of philosophy in the universities of the Western world’.
P5: Philosophical discussion is not enough. Take conclusions seriously means acting upon them.
P6: While the philosopher will have to (along with all members of affluent society) sacrifice some of the benefits of consumer society, he will find compensation in a way of life in which theory and practice are coming together.
C (Implied): A good philosophical life involves the coming together of theory and practice, and putting our conclusions into action.
Famine relief merely postpones starvation
1: until there is effective population control, large-scale famine relief merely postpones starvation.
2: (implied) there is no effective population control
C: Famine relief merely postpones starvation and therefore it is in our interests to not offer it.
To deny our intrinsic “connectedness” on the basis of state boundaries is no longer plausible in a world characterised by globalization
effective in a quantitive sense as the lives of epopel who are suffering will be improved.
Allows us to rectify the imbalance in living conditions that is a resul of purely arbitrary factors
Singer’s description of consumer culutre as distorting does see accurate given the detrimental effect it is having.
Singer limitations: objective moral code
We need a moral code that is realistic and therefore likely to be accepted
Ought implies can, and his view is not realistic
Singer limitations: ignorance of the importance of autonomy to the good life
Intuition to promote our own projects
Good life is characterised by subjective well being, which takes feelings into account.
Singer Limitations: Responsibility
Are we equally responsible for the harm we fail to prevent, rather than the harm we cause? This could be the fallacy of negative responsibility.
We have an obligation to our families first.