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The Life You Can Save Essay

1212 words - 5 pages

In this paper I will begin by explaining Singer’s utilitarian argument in “The Life You Can Save” regarding the obligation of affluent nations to give in order to alleviate global poverty. Secondly, I will analyze one objection to Singer’s argument that opposes charity. Thirdly, after examining the objection to Singer’s argument, I will present Singer’s noteworthy reply. Finally, after offering both an objection to Singer’s argument, as well as Singer’s rebuttal, I will offer my own view on whether or not Singer’s refutation is convincing.
In discussing Singer’s argument, it is important to explain his definition of global poverty. Singer clearly states that extreme poverty is “not only a condition of unsatisfied material needs” but also a “degrading state of powerlessness” (6). Singer’s argument asserts that citizens of affluent nations are behaving erroneously because they fail to contribute to the end of poverty they know to exist in impoverished countries. He postulates that the common person has the ability to point fingers at others, while he or she nevertheless ought to do as much as they can. Singer's argument is a direct criticism of a capitalistic system where extreme wealth exists next to extreme poverty. For Singer, the ethical call to assist in eradicating poverty rests in a person’s ability to help another. In his full argument, Singer considers three premises. The first is common knowledge that suffering and death is inherently bad. Singer’s argument for the Golden Rule is encapsulated in this premise: “doing unto others, as you would have them do unto you” (16). No sane person would like to suffer; therefore, it is only moral to help those who are suffering. Singer contends in the next premise that individuals have the obligation to alleviate global poverty by sacrificing small commodities such as bottled water, clothes, etc. He articulates that with having the power to prevent poverty, it is our duty to do so. Finally, he believes it is a moral imperative to give to a reliable charity as most people in the developed world live admittedly better than King Louis XIV of France and can afford such an expense without sacrificing anything “nearly as important” (Singer 15). Singer proposes that “nearly as important” is a vague statement. It connotes that a person cannot say, for example, saving one’s child is more important than saving the lives of multiple children in another country, as a hardened fact. It is perceptibly more important for someone to save his or her child, while to a third party observer more lives saved is morally more important. Therefore, “nearly as important” allows some wiggle room in order to allow people to be honest with themselves about right and wrong. Essentially, Singer says that if an individual has the ability to give, there is no substantial reason not to do so. It is not a question of whether or not to give, but how much.
Singer offers many objections to his argument, but I will focus on the most...

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