On Poverty And Action Essay

1875 words - 8 pages

Peter Singer's paper “Famine, Affluence, and Morality”has made a drastic impact in modern applied ethics. The simple nature of the paper makes for an easy read, yet the point clearly set out by Singer is at ends with the targeted audiences' popular beliefs. Although most will object to Singer's idea by throwing away a basic principle of most moral theories, I wish to deny Singer's solution by showing that the ability to apply Singer's conclusion is not reasonable and does not address the problem's core.
Singer starts with the base of assumption that suffering and death from lack of the essentials of food, water, shelter, and proper medical assistance are bad. I find no problem with accepting this assumption as it is consistent with most widely accepted moral theories. Singer continues by stating “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, Pg.231). Like his first statement, this one is easy to swallow. No moral code, save for maybe ethical egoism or nihilism, would attempt to refute either of his premises. His final conclusion is that if it is in our power to stop suffering and death from lack of the essentials, without sacrificing anything of comparable moral worth, we are morally obligated to do so. This essentially removes the current definition of charity, making giving money to famine relief, not a supererogatory act, but a moral duty of all people who have the ability to do so. Singer admits that this would drastically change the way people live their lives. Instead of living with any disposable income, people would be giving money to those who are living under bad or unsurvivable conditions. But with two sound premises, how can Singer's conclusion be wrong? In short, it is not wrong. The way in which he applies the conclusion is where Singer loses ground.
Singer wishes to make sure that avoidable deaths are avoided. By avoidable deaths, I mean deaths that we have power, whether it be financially or by means of action, to prevent. He claims that if we, as in the people living in a better environment, have a more prodigal sense of duty, than we can avoid the needless death apparent in many other places in the world. In part, he is right. Some avoidable death would be averted with this sudden influx of money. This is not, however, the case when it comes to the bulk of the of avoidable deaths. Singer stops short of fully realizing his conclusion. A large majority of these deaths occur due to tyrants and warlords that abuse and control their population by controlling the food supply and taking away the bare necessities of human life. Prime examples of this are found all over Africa. The population of Somalia during the 90's experienced this through factions fighting one another and displacing residents of cities and villages. Rwanda is a similar case, but instead of warring factions, leaders used race to fuel...

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