At this moment, many people around the world are starving to death. Should we help them? Do we have a moral obligation to provide aid? People have very different views on this topic. An examination of essays by Peter Singer and by John Arthur gives insight into two of the many different opinions concerning the responsibility the affluent people have to the much less fortunate people. Also, these philosophers give explanations of the moral responsibility of society.
In “Famine, Affluence and Morality,” Peter Singer persuades people to help the people in need around the world.
He explains that the wealthy people spend a great amount of money on trivial possessions, and this money could help to save lives. Singer explains, “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 (Singer 836).” Consequently, John Arthur argues that we have rights in “World Hunger and Moral Obligation.” Arthur explains, “It seems to me, then, that a reasonable code would require people to help when there is no substantial cost to themselves, that is, when what they are sacrificing would not mean significant reduction in their own of their families’ level of happiness (Arthur 852).” The difference in the two arguments is the extent to which we should give of ourselves. Singer believes that we should give until we reach the level of marginal utility, the level at which by giving more, we would cause more suffering than we would be relieving by the gift.Order now
Since we are extremely wealthy people compared to the poorest people of the world, much aid would be given before the level of marginal utility is reached. On the other hand, Arthur believes that we should only when doing so has no significant effect on our family or us. Consequently, giving until the level of marginal utility is reached would greatly impact any family.
One analogy is used in both essays to strengthen their arguments. Singer says, “If I am walking past a shallow pond and see a child drowning in it, I ought to wade in and pull the child out (837).” Of course, by saving the child one’s clothes would get muddy.
However, muddy clothes are insignificant when a child’s life can be saved. Singer applies this principle to world hunger. The trivial things we cherish are insignificant when we could save lives by sacrificing these things. Conversely, Arthur agrees that the child should be saved, but he does not believe that the principle can be applied universally. Arthur explains that we could also save a life by donating a kidney or an eye, and by doing so we would not be sacrificing anything of moral significance. However, one’s life can be shortened by the donation of an organ.
We have a right to not lose an organ and to not have an unhappy life. Arthur explains, ” The reason for this is often expressed in terms of rights; it’s your body, you have a right to it, and that weighs against whatever duty you have to help (849).”
Another disagreement between the two philosophers concerns the duty we have to those on the other side of the world. Singer feels that we have the same responsibility to our neighbor down the street as we do to a Bengali whose name we will never know. ” The development of the world into a global village’ has made an important, though still unrecognized, difference to our moral situation (Singer 837).” He believes that we can just as easily help a refugee thousands of miles away as we can someone next door in our modern society.
Observers and supervisors sent out by famine relief organizations can direct aid to where it is needed. Adversely, Arthur believes that the starving people around the world are not our responsibility at all. He explains that we have not signed a contract or made a promise with these people, therefore, they do not have the right to receive aid. If we do help, it is simply due to our charitable spirit, not our moral responsibility.
Singer’s argument is an appeal to the altrusive, compassionate aspects of .