Morality of Giving

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How much money is one morally obligated to give to relief overseas? Many In people would say that although it is a good thing to do, one is not obligated to give anything. Other people would say that if a person has more than he needs, then he should donate a portion of what he has. Peter Singer, however, proposes a radically different view. His essay, “Famine, Affluence, and Morality,” focuses on the Bengal crisis in 1971 and claims that one is morally obligated to give as much as possible. His thesis supports the idea that “We ought to give until we reach the level of marginal utility – that is, 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” (399). He says that one's obligation to give to people in need half-way around the world is just as strong as the obligation to give to one's neighbor in need. Even more than that, he says that one should keep giving until, by giving more, you would be in a worse position than the people one means to help. Singer's claim is so different than people's typical idea of morality that is it is easy to quickly dismiss it as being absurd. Saying that one should provide monetary relief to the point that you are in as bad a position as those receiving your aid seems to go against common sense. However, when the evidence he presents is considered, it is impossible not to wonder if he might be right.

Singer's argument appears to be mainly an appeal to logos, in his argument he reasons why he thinks it is morally required of people to give for famine relief and other needs. However, his argument relies heavily on pathos as well. The main thrust of his argument is this “If I am walking past a shallow pond and see a child dro...

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... of morality built into us. People have been living thousand of years where the only thing we knew of was near them. Even if someone had wanted to help people in need who were far away, it would have been impossible. It was not until very recently that the ability to help people anywhere in the globe came about . With the creation of companies who provide relief, such as the Red Cross, people are able to give as much as they have. So perhaps the morality that civilization has been living with since its beginnings has changed.

Works Cited

Singer, Peter. “Famine, Affluence, and Morality.” Current Issues and Enduring Questions. 8th ed. Eds. Sylvan Barnet and Hugo Bedau. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2008. 7-15. Print.

Wong, David. "What Is the Monkeysphere?" - America's Only Humor & Video Site Since 1958. 30 Sept. 2007. Web. 29 Mar. 2011.
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