In Peter Singer’s Famine, Affluence, and Morality, he critiques the way in which modern societies have grown accustomed to their ordinary thoughts about famine, affluence, and morality in general. Singer describes a situation in which nine million refugees from East Bengal are living in poverty, and it is the responsibility of the wealthy, and better-off nations to take immediate and long term action to provide for them and to end poverty overall. (Singer, 873) Through his essay, Singer envisions a new world where giving to those in need is no longer seen as charity, but rather a moral duty. He states that in the world we currently live in, it is seen as generous and partaking in a good deed when you donate money to charity, and no one is blamed for not (876). Singer proposes that excess money should be given to those in need, rather than spending it in “selfish and unnecessary” ways (876).
He comes to this conclusion through his un-satisfaction with the world we currently live in. Singer takes a strong awareness towards the impoverished and proclaims that that should not be the case when there are people living extravagantly. Singer writes, “We ought to give the money away, [referring to the money spent on excess goods], and it is wrong not to (876).” He gives an example of someone buying an unnecessary coat, when that money spent on the extra coat should have been given to the poor who cannot afford one coat.
Whether this argument is “wrong” or not is debatable, however one could place an argument against it proclaiming that enforcing such a strict moral obligation on society is unrealistic and could eventually lead to socialism which some object to. In today’s world, it is very common to find families ma...
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...alistic right now because that is not the “norm” we are familiar with (877). Finally, he would close by addressing the critique of it not diminishing the problem by saying that our society cannot hold off donating by mere foolishness thinking too ahead of the future. We need to address our current world problems without the thought of future ones.
In summary, Peter Singer that if a person is not donating all of their extra earnings than they are not working towards margin utility or being a good person. There is great debate on if Singer is right in his thoughts or not, but many conclude that his argument is unreasonable, and like utilitarianism, does not think of individual circumstances. There are other ways to help end poverty, such as donating time or used clothing, and a lot of pressure is placed on the thought of donating more than one is comfortable with.
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