Obligations to Starving People Peter Singer Famine Affluence

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Obligations to Starving People Peter Singer, Famine, Affluence, and Morality”

Obligations to Starving People Peter Singer, Famine, Affluence, and Morality”

Some Things You Should Know • Why do we focus on the premise we

Some Things You Should Know • Why do we focus on the premise we called “CMI”? • Why can Singer be viewed as a utilitarian? • What does Singer mean “we must redraw the line between duty and charity”? • Why does Singer quote Aquinas? How does Singer both agree and disagree with Aquinas?

Some Things to Know • What is controversial in Singer’s saying we are obligated

Some Things to Know • What is controversial in Singer’s saying we are obligated not to avoid causing harm but also to prevent bad from happening? • How much does Singer think we should all be sacrificing? • Why does Singer’s position not imply that we should all immediately reduce ourselves to poverty?

The Basic Argument • Suffering and death from lack of food, clothing, and medical

The Basic Argument • Suffering and death from lack of food, clothing, and medical care bad. • If it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening without thereby sacrificing something of comparable moral importance, we ought to do so. (“CMI”) • Therefore, if it is in our power to prevent suffering and death. . . without sacrificing something of comparable moral importance, we ought to do so.

The strong (“real”) principle and the more moderate (“weaker) version • (CMI) If it

The strong (“real”) principle and the more moderate (“weaker) version • (CMI) If it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening without sacrificing something of comparable moral importance, we ought to do so. • (Weaker) If it is in our power to prevent something very bad from happening without sacrificing anything of moral importance, we ought to do so.

“Without sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance” • Without causing anything else comparably bad

“Without sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance” • Without causing anything else comparably bad to happen • Failing to promote a moral good comparable to the bad we can prevent • “Doing something that is wrong in itself” -1000 +1000 I -1000

Three Kinds of Obligations Do what is good Create plus points Prevent what is

Three Kinds of Obligations Do what is good Create plus points Prevent what is bad Prevent minus points Refrain from causing harm Not create minus points Singer: “[My CMI principle] requires only to prevent what is bad and not to promote what is good. ”

Two controversial elements of CMI • Takes no account of proximity of distance •

Two controversial elements of CMI • Takes no account of proximity of distance • Doesn’t distinguish between when you are the only one who can help and when many others can help.

Duty and “charity” Singer: we must “redraw the line between duty and charity. ”

Duty and “charity” Singer: we must “redraw the line between duty and charity. ” • Duty or moral obligation: what one should do. If free choice, morally praiseworthy if you do, morally blameworthy if you don’t. • Supererogatory action (Singer’s “charity”) If free choice, morally praiseworthy if you do, but not morally blameworthy if you don’t.

Critic: “It’s too drastic a revision of our moral scheme” Singer: [the critic is

Critic: “It’s too drastic a revision of our moral scheme” Singer: [the critic is saying that] people do not ordinarily judge in the way I have suggested they should. “But given that I did not set out to present a morally neutral description of the way people make moral judgments, the way people do in fact judge has nothing to do with the validity of my [ethical] conclusion. My conclusion follows from the principle [CMI premise] which I advanced earlier, and unless that principle is rejected or the argument shown to be unsound, I think the conclusion must stand, however strange it appears. ” [my emphasis]

Critic: “But there must be something wrong somewhere” Singer: “I would like to quote

Critic: “But there must be something wrong somewhere” Singer: “I would like to quote a passage from a writer not normally thought of as a way-out radical, Thomas Aquinas: “. . . according to the natural order instituted by divide providence, material goods are provided for the satisfaction of human needs. . . Whatever a man has in superabundance is owed, of natural right, to the poor for their sustenance. ”

Arthur’s Criticism of Singer Entitlements and “Realistic Morality”

Arthur’s Criticism of Singer Entitlements and “Realistic Morality”

Singer’s “Greater Moral Evil” Rule • CMI: “If it is in our power to

Singer’s “Greater Moral Evil” Rule • CMI: “If it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening without thereby sacrificing something of comparable moral importance, we ought, morally, to do so. • Arthur calls this the “greater moral evil rule. ” We are entitled to keep our earnings only if there is no way to use them to prevent a greater evil.

Arthur: This Is “One Part of Morality” • Underlying idea: “Like amounts of suffering

Arthur: This Is “One Part of Morality” • Underlying idea: “Like amounts of suffering or happiness are of equal importance, regardless of who is experiencing them. ” • Arthur: This is one important part of ethics. • But it leaves out other parts. . .

Entitlements • Singer’s principle ignores an important part of morality: entitlements – Rights –

Entitlements • Singer’s principle ignores an important part of morality: entitlements – Rights – Desert • Rights: we have a right to our bodies even when giving up the right would relieve great suffering or create happiness.

Rights are Not Absolute • Don’t oversimplify Arthur. Just as he claims CMI (greater

Rights are Not Absolute • Don’t oversimplify Arthur. Just as he claims CMI (greater moral evil) rule alone is insufficient, he also claims rights/desert alone not enough. • Sometimes we are morally obligated to give up our rights, even to our bodies, but not “when the cost to us is substantial. ”

Desert • One “entitlement” is rights. The other is desert: some people deserve benefits

Desert • One “entitlement” is rights. The other is desert: some people deserve benefits (or punishments) not because of future consequences but because of past actions. • Example of industrious and lazy farmer. Even if better consequences by giving money to lazy farmer, the industrious farmer may deserve to keep greater wealth.

Like Rights, Desert Not Absolute • Arthur: “Perhaps [the hard-working farmer’s] deserving the product

Like Rights, Desert Not Absolute • Arthur: “Perhaps [the hard-working farmer’s] deserving the product of his labor is outweighed by the greater need of his lazy neighbor, or perhaps it isn’t. ” • Arthur: both important: CMI and entitlements. • Arthur a nonconsequentialist, but not absolute rights. Prima facie rights and deserts.

Our “Commonly Shared Morality” • Arthur: “our commonly shared morality requires that we ignore

Our “Commonly Shared Morality” • Arthur: “our commonly shared morality requires that we ignore neither consequences nor entitlements. ” (p. 775) • But is our “commonly shared morality” the right one? Arthur himself: “unless we are moral relativists, the mere fact that entitlements are an important part of our moral code does not in itself justify such a role [my emphasis]. ”

“Commonly Shared Morality” • Arthur: “Singer. . . can perhaps best be seen as

“Commonly Shared Morality” • Arthur: “Singer. . . can perhaps best be seen as a moral reformer advocating the rejection of rules which provide for distribution according to rights and desert. ” [YES!] • Arthur: at one time our “commonly shared morality” allowed slavery, so clearly it’s not always correct. • So why should we think it (rather than Singer) is correct now?

Arthur on Requirements of a Moral Code • It must be practical. • It

Arthur on Requirements of a Moral Code • It must be practical. • It must be able to gain the support of almost everyone. • It must not assume people are better than they are. (from p. 776)

Idealistic vs Realistic Morality • Should morality establish the standards we should strive for?

Idealistic vs Realistic Morality • Should morality establish the standards we should strive for? (Idealistic) • Arthur’s “realistic” or “practical” morality may be suitable for those recommending policies but not for pure moral philosophers. • What should be the role of moral thinkers and philosophers? • Maybe important to distinguish between personal morality and social policy.

What About the Rights of the Poor? • OK, imagine Arthur is correct about

What About the Rights of the Poor? • OK, imagine Arthur is correct about rights and entitlements. What about the rights of the poor? Aren’t they even more important? • Recall Aquinas (quoted by Singer, p. 416): “whatever a man has in superabundance is owed, as a matter of natural right, to the poor for their sustenance. ” [my emphasis]

Singer’s “Greater Moral Evil” Rule • CMI: “If it is in our power to

Singer’s “Greater Moral Evil” Rule • CMI: “If it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening without thereby sacrificing something of comparable moral importance, we ought, morally, to do so. • Arthur calls this the “greater moral evil rule. ” We are entitled to keep our earnings only if there is no way to use them to prevent a greater evil.

Arthur: This Is “One Part of Morality” • Underlying idea: “Like amounts of suffering

Arthur: This Is “One Part of Morality” • Underlying idea: “Like amounts of suffering or happiness are of equal importance, regardless of who is experiencing them. ” • Arthur: This is one important part of ethics. • But it leaves out other parts. . .

Entitlements • Singer’s principle ignores an important part of morality: entitlements – Rights –

Entitlements • Singer’s principle ignores an important part of morality: entitlements – Rights – Desert • Rights: we have a right to our bodies even when giving up the right would relieve great suffering or create happiness.

Rights are Not Absolute • Don’t oversimplify Arthur. Just as he claims CMI (greater

Rights are Not Absolute • Don’t oversimplify Arthur. Just as he claims CMI (greater moral evil) rule alone is insufficient, he also claims rights/desert alone not enough. • Sometimes we are morally obligated to give up our rights, even to our bodies, but not “when the cost to us is substantial. ”

Desert • One “entitlement” is rights. The other is desert: some people deserve benefits

Desert • One “entitlement” is rights. The other is desert: some people deserve benefits (or punishments) not because of future consequences but because of past actions. • Example of industrious and lazy farmer. Even if better consequences by giving money to lazy farmer, the industrious farmer may deserve to keep greater wealth.

Like Rights, Desert Not Absolute • Arthur: “Perhaps [the hard-working farmer’s] deserving the product

Like Rights, Desert Not Absolute • Arthur: “Perhaps [the hard-working farmer’s] deserving the product of his labor is outweighed by the greater need of his lazy neighbor, or perhaps it isn’t. ” • Arthur: both important: CMI and entitlements. • Arthur a nonconsequentialist, but not absolute rights. Prima facie rights and deserts.

Our “Commonly Shared Morality” • Arthur: “our commonly shared morality requires that we ignore

Our “Commonly Shared Morality” • Arthur: “our commonly shared morality requires that we ignore neither consequences nor entitlements. ” (p. 775) • But is our “commonly shared morality” the right one? Arthur himself: “unless we are moral relativists, the mere fact that entitlements are an important part of our moral code does not in itself justify such a role [my emphasis]. ”

“Commonly Shared Morality” • Arthur: “Singer. . . can perhaps best be seen as

“Commonly Shared Morality” • Arthur: “Singer. . . can perhaps best be seen as a moral reformer advocating the rejection of rules which provide for distribution according to rights and desert. ” [YES!] • Arthur: at one time our “commonly shared morality” allowed slavery, so clearly it’s not always correct. • So why should we think it (rather than Singer) is correct now?

Arthur on Requirements of a Moral Code • It must be practical. • It

Arthur on Requirements of a Moral Code • It must be practical. • It must be able to gain the support of almost everyone. • It must not assume people are better than they are. (from p. 776)

Idealistic vs Realistic Morality • Should morality establish the standards we should strive for?

Idealistic vs Realistic Morality • Should morality establish the standards we should strive for? (Idealistic) • Arthur’s “realistic” or “practical” morality may be suitable for those recommending policies but not for pure moral philosophers. • What should be the role of moral thinkers and philosophers? • Maybe important to distinguish between personal morality and social policy.

What About the Rights of the Poor? • OK, imagine Arthur is correct about

What About the Rights of the Poor? • OK, imagine Arthur is correct about rights and entitlements. What about the rights of the poor? Aren’t they even more important? • Recall Aquinas (quoted by Singer, p. 416): “whatever a man has in superabundance is owed, as a matter of natural right, to the poor for their sustenance. ” [my emphasis]

Negative and Positive Rights • If someone has a right, someone else has an

Negative and Positive Rights • If someone has a right, someone else has an obligation? To do what? • To respect the right. • Negative rights imply negative obligations; positive rights imply positive obligations. • A negative obligation is an obligation NOT to do something; a positive obligation requires doing something.

Negative and Positive Rights • What are some examples of negative rights? • Remember,

Negative and Positive Rights • What are some examples of negative rights? • Remember, these can be respected by doing nothing. • What are some examples of positive rights? • Are there positive rights? Aquinas claims giving to the poor is a natural right that the poor have.

Moral Rights and Correlative Moral Obligations - Negative rights Negative obligation Duty to refrain

Moral Rights and Correlative Moral Obligations - Negative rights Negative obligation Duty to refrain from torturing Right not to be tortured Duty to refrain from stealing Right to property Who has this obligation? Duty = Obligation

Moral Rights and Correlative Moral Duties - Positive right Positive obligation Right to adequate

Moral Rights and Correlative Moral Duties - Positive right Positive obligation Right to adequate medical care Duty to provide these Right to enough food to eat Who has this obligation? Right to decent education Duty = Obligation

Arthur on Rights • Disagreeing with Aquinas, Arthur claims that the only natural rights

Arthur on Rights • Disagreeing with Aquinas, Arthur claims that the only natural rights we have just because we are human beings are negative rights. • Arthur: positive rights come about only through contracts or commitments. • This is a crucial debate in understanding issues of economic justice in our own country.