Famine, Affluence and Society Essay

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“Famine, Affluence and Morality” Tristine Morris PHI 208: Ethics and Moral Reasoning March 4, 2013 “Famine, Affluence and Morality” “Famine, Affluence and Morality” is an article written by Peter Singer in 1971 and published in Philosophy and Public Affairs in 1972. Singer’s main argument is that all people (particularly the affluent) have a moral obligation to donate all that we can to humanitarian aid. His essay specifically focuses on the starvation of Bangladesh Liberation War refugees, and uses their story as the example for his argument. It is Singer’s premise that the affluent are morally obligated to donate far more resources to humanitarian causes than is considered typical or normal by Western culture standards. While there are some objections to Singer’s position, the essay is critically acclaimed in the field of ethics. Singer brings to light the harsh reality of how little we really give, in comparison with what we are capable of giving to help those in need around the globe. His argument suggests that the “whole way we look at moral issues-our moral conceptual theme-needs to be altered”. Singer’s basic example involves the thought that starvation and other famine related deaths are forms of suffering. We have the capabilities to eliminate the suffering, however, we choose not to, which is morally wrong. In keeping with this thought, Singer proposes two principles; the strong Singer principle and the weak Singer principle. His strong principle states, “If it is in our power to prevent something very bad from happening without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance , we ought, we ought, morally, to do it.” In comparison, his weak principle states, “If it is in our power to prevent something very bad from happening , without sacrificing anything morally significant , we ought, morally, to do it.

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