"Absence and the Unfond Heart: Why People Are Less Giving Than They Might Be,"
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"Absence and the unfond heart:
why people are less giving than they might be,"
Judith Lichtenberg successfully conveys her moral theory with many questions regarding her topics of abstractness, the sense of futility and ineffectiveness, overestimating our generosity, distance, the relativity of well-being, the power of shame, and the drops in the bucket. Using these practical and philosophical ideas she explains why we as a people should search to discover the obstacles that are preventing us from giving more, rather than the finding our charitable obligations and the amounts we should be giving. She leads us to the ideal of motivation and tells us to pay less attention to obligation, because without X being moved to do an act, does it really matter what the act was if X never induces the action?
Lichtenberg defends and develops her thesis by beginning with the statement that a successful argument is one that concludes its hearers to act, which leads into her opinion that Singer's argument fails to reflect this. She hits an important point that she calls "characteristically American thinking" that unless one has contracted an obligation from a previous agreement or action that one does not have any positive obligation to act. It is this type of thinking that allows for the "or else" condition of the moral obligation to be unmet. Lichtenberg simply puts moral obligation into practical terms when she says "If some people have less than enough to live decent lives and others have much more that is a strong prima facie reason for thinking that transfers of goods ought to take place." (82, TEOA).
Lichtenberg shows us how one obstacle is when people choose not to think about the topic of poverty and instead just put their head in a hole in the ground, forcing it not to exist to them. Also, with technology like TV we are able to get relatively good idea on how serious the problem of poverty extends to, but Lichtenberg brings to our attention that these virtual experiences my desensitize us to the poverty, because simply watching a starving child in the comfort of our own home is in no way like meeting, and truly understanding the significance of the problem. And perhaps the amount of sympathy that one does feel from watching poverty on TV can be accredited to the sense that in a different world, I might have been that starving child, and he would be the one watching me.