Famine, Affluence, And Poverty

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In his 1972 essay “Famine, Affluence, and Poverty”, Peter Singer tackles what seems on the surface to be a fairly simple debacle. He opens his essay by discussing the lack of food, shelter, and medical care in East Bengal. It is a given that every human deserves, in the very least, food, a place to sleep, and basic medical care. Singer claims that the problems involving poverty around the world is not an inevitable problem. He alleges that if we all pitched in what we can, these problems could be abolished. But unfortunately many people do not want to give up what they have for the sake of others. For these people, Singer put forth his seemingly obvious argument. It goes as follows: The lack of food, shelter, and medical attention is bad. If it is within our power to prevent something bad from happening, without sacrificing of comparable moral significance, we ought to do it. It is within our power to prevent this bad thing. We can prevent this bad thing without sacrificing anything of comparable moral significance Therefore, we ought to prevent the lack of food, shelter, and medical attention. To back up this argument, Singer gives a simple example. Imagine you are walking home one day and you see a young child drowning in a shallow pond. Singer obviously says that you ought to walk over to the water and save the child in danger. The only possible thing that could happen to you is your clothes getting wet or muddy, which is not anywhere close to having comparable moral significance. Therefore, you ought to save the child’s life. Singer says that if we were all to abide by this principle, “our lives, our society, and our world would be fundamentally changed”. One point Singer makes is that this principle does not take into accou... ... middle of paper ... ...reatment. What then? If this situation were to actually happen, the person who donated just put themselves in the same exact situation as the people they were originally trying to help. Corbett claims that following Singer’s absolutist principle is not a moral obligation, but quite simply decent human behavior. While I understand where Singer’s argument is coming from, I side more with Corbett. I do agree with Singer that if we are able to give to charity then we ought to, I do not agree with the severity of his principle. I do not believe that we should give to the point where we are almost at the level of the people we are trying to help. Rather, I agree with Corbett in that we must take into account the responsibility we must have for ourselves when deciding how much to give to charities. Life is very unpredictable, and we must have a fallback in order to survive.
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