Peter Singer is often regarded as one of the most productive and influential philosophers of modern times. He is well-known for his discussions of the acute social, economic, and political issues, including poverty and famines. In his “Famine, Affluence, and Morality”, Singer (1972) discusses the problem of poverty and hunger, as well as the way this problem is treated in the developed world. Singer believes that charity is inseparable from morality, and no distinction can be drawn between charity and duty. The philosopher offers possible objections to his proposition and relevant arguments to justify his viewpoint. The modern world does not support Singer’s view, treating charity as a voluntary activity, an act of generosity that needs to be praised in public. Numerous arguments are provided to support the view on charity as a negative phenomenon, which is not effective in reducing poverty and cannot benefit those in need.
In his work “Famine, Affluence, and Morality”, Peter Singer touches one of the most painful problems facing the modern world – the affluence of the developed world and the poverty and famine in developing countries. At the center of Singer’s philosophic argument is the question of charity and its relation to duty. It is no secret that, in 1971, thousands of people in Bengal were dying of hunger (Singer, 1972). Poverty, a civil war, and terrible weather conditions had turned citizens into displaced refugees (Singer, 1972). Singer decided to raise the question of morality in relation to charity, poverty, and famines.
One of the central points of Singer’s (1972) argument is that death, suffering, and the lack of financial resources and food are bad. The next point is that people have enough power to prevent the worst things from happening (Singer, 1972). However, if a person decides to prevent something bad from happening, this should take place without sacrificing something of similar or comparable moral value (Singer, 1972). In other words, providing somebody with adequate food resources at the expense of somebody else is neither acceptable nor moral (Singer, 1972). Singer (1972) argues that, once these conditions are met, charity becomes a moral duty. Neither distance nor the number of people in a difficult situation can justify a person’s reluctance to prevent or mitigate evils (Singer, 1972). Singer (1972) does not say that charity does not exist; rather, he argues that the accepted difference between charity and duty is not supportable. Here, the philosopher evaluates three objections to his argument and provides responses to them.
The first objection is that Singer’s idea of charity as duty is a dramatic revision of the existing moral schemes (Singer, 1972). These moral principles are shaped by society’s needs, and a common assumption is that the society does not need to provide help to external parties (Singer, 1972). Singer (1972) asserts that the existing distinction between charity and duty cannot be morally...