Saturday, July 31, 2004


8. As an ethical theorist what does Singer say about poverty, refugees and the environment? Explain his position in each of these area. Do you agree with his positions here....explain? If so (or for the sake of the argument imagine that you do) what can you personally do to "make a difference" in these areas. Explain in depth.

apparently the singer book i bought online was not the correct one. i did not notice this until now, because singer's discussions on animals, euthanasia, and abortion were all there. even the chapter on poverty was there also. but this edition of practical ethics stops at chapter 10. i have punched in the correct ISBN number, but apparently the person selling it was not being truthful about it. there is no edition number written on the book, but my guess is that this is definitely an older edition and not the 3rd. in this book, chapter 5 talks about animal rights, chapter 6 talks about abortion, chapter 7 talks about euthanasia, chapter 8 talks about poverty, but chapter 9 and 10 does not talk about any of the refugees or environment that is being asked. chapter 9 is titled "ends and means" and chapter 10 is titled "why act morally?" so i guess i would have to skip the question about refugees and environment.

on poverty however, i can say this much:

in a nutshell, singer argues that human beings are morally obliged to help prevent absolute poverty, as long as the sacrifice made to do such a thing is not something of comparable significance. singer harshly compares not helping to murder, by addressing five objections to his comparison. first, singer addresses the lack of identifiable victim: if a person KNOWS that not helping causes the death of some people, then deciding not to help will be the same as murder, despite there is no specific victim. second, singer addresses the lack of certainty that the money sent to help will actually be a help: for singer, this is a valid point in the argument, but still is not acceptable; he gives an example about a speeding motorist who does not harm any pedestrian, but the act of speeding itself is already unacceptable. third, singer addresses the claim that we are not responsible for other people starving since they would still be starving even if we didn't exist: this point is considered irrelevant to singer; he takes the notion of a consequentialist by saying that if someone starving is a result of us not sending our money to help, then we are at fault, regardless of whether we exist or not. fourth, singer addresses the claim that motivation of not helping and murder is different: again singer gives an example about the speeding motorist; his intention was of course just to feel the adrenaline rush from speeding. but if he ends up killing someone in the process, then he is held responsible, regardless of his intial intention. and the fifth, singer addresses the claim that it is easier to not kill than to save lives, since saving lives could probably mean lowering our standards to that below our bare necessities: this claim, for singer, is not sound because it takes into account our society, in which donating is done for the praise; he claims that praise or blame does not justify right or wrong. singer also argues that it is possible for us to help without lowering our standards to that of below bare necessity. he gives examples on things we can sacrifice to help prevent poverty, which is of greater moral significance: expensive dinners, overseas holidays, larger house, extra cars, etc. singer in "practical ethics" also brought up the objection from triage. the concept of triage says that we should not aid those who do not need aid and those to whom the aid will become useless. this is in a way similar to "lifeboat ethics" in which people in a lifeboat will not let those floating in the ocean to jump in because the boat will drown. singer disagrees with such a concept that claims the rich should not help the poor because the poor will drag the rich down with them. singer proposes different ways to handle different poverty type, but he insists that the poor should not be left to starve.


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