Global Poverty

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Peter Singer, in his influential essay “Famine, Affluence and Poverty”, argues that affluent people have the moral obligation to contribute to charity in order to save the poor from suffering; any spending on luxuries would be unjustified as long as it can be used to improve other’s lives. In developing his argument, Singer involves one crucial premise known as the Principle of Sacrifice—“If it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we ought, morally, to do it” . To show that such principle has the property to be held universal, Singer refers to a scenario in which a person witnesses a drowning child. Most people, by common sense, hold that the witness has the moral duty to rescue the child despite some potential costs. Since letting people die in poverty is no different from watching a child drowning without offering any help, Singer goes on and concludes that affluent people have the moral duty to keep donating to the poor until an increment of money makes no further contribution. Richard Miller finds Singer’s conclusion unrealistically demanding. He approaches the problem differently and claims that we should instead accept the Principle of Sympathy. According to Miller’s Principle, what morality directly demands is a sufficiently strong concern towards neediness. One’s disposition to help the needy is “sufficiently strong” if expressing greater concern would “impose a significant risk of worsening one’s life” . The Principle of Sympathy differs from Singer’s Principle of Sacrifice mainly in two ways. First, the Principle of Sympathy is a moral code that concerns more with an agent’s disposition to give rather than the amount of money he end... ... middle of paper ... ... disposition to help those whom they have established personal contacts. However, one’s obligation over remote strangers is less demanding. To Miller, giving less aid to distant strangers because one is favoring those whom he is closely connected to does not fail to show equal respect. A person only needs to fulfill what Principle of Sympathy demands to be moral. Works Cited Pogge, Thomas Winfried Menko, and Keith Horton. "Famine, Affluence and Poverty." In Global ethics: seminal essays. St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 2008. 1-14. Miller, Richard W.. "Beneficence, Duty And Distance." Philosophy Public Affairs 32, no. 4 (2004): 357-383. Singer, Peter; Miller, Richard "“What Duties Do People in Rich Countries Have to Relieve World Poverty”." Debate, Singer-Miller Debate from Center for the Study of Inequality and the Atlantic Foundation, Ithaca, April 4, 2003.

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