Peter Singer's "Rich And Poor": A Reflection Trinity University Intro To Ethics Essay

708 words - 3 pages

Throughout “Rich and Poor,” Singer describes the moral obligation one has to give back to his or her community. He begins with aggregating poverty statistics with wealth. People living in absolute poverty, “a condition of life so characterized by malnutrition, illiteracy, disease, squalid surroundings, high infant mortality and low life expectancy as to be beneath any reasonable definition of human decency” (Singer, 128) do not meet the biological standard for needs such as shelter and food. On the other hand, those facing absolute affluence, “affluent by any reasonable definition of human needs...have more income than they need to provide themselves adequately with all the basic necessities of life...able to spend money on luxuries” (129) are not ethically obliged to help one another. Although people fortunate enough to live in developed countries are provided with ample resources to live comfortably, they are not forced to give to those who are consistently hungry. Robert McNamara, President of the World Bank, referred to this situation as relative poverty, “some citizens are poor, relative to the wealth enjoyed by their neighbors” (127).
The correlation between poverty and wealth relates to the obligation to assist. There is a strong connection between someone who “ought” to help and someone who “can” help, yet the two present deceptive appearances of moral significance. “Ought” implies “can” because acting on what is right is similar to acting impartially. By rejecting judgements, the basis by which one acts on his or her utmost moral beliefs is held to help those who can not help themselves. It is within the power of those who can help to reduce poverty, but it is not wrong to admit that one is not morally obligated to help those who can not help themselves. Singer concludes that “we ought to prevent some absolute poverty” (135) but according to the ethical view one accepts, affluence can solely contribute to helping someone obtain their basic necessities of life.
Singer also raises the issue of the moral equivalent of murder. He comments on the duty of avoiding killing and murder; if permitting someone to die is not innately different from murder, how...

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