Explain how it is morally wrong not to alleviate the suffering of another person when individuals have the power to do so. Explain using several examples, including one from Peter Singer’s paper...

Explain how it is morally wrong not to alleviate the suffering of another person when individuals have the power to do so. Explain using several examples, including one from Peter Singer’s paper “Famine, Affluence, and Morality.”

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gsenviro | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Peter Singer made a very strong argument in favor of utilitarianism in his famous paper "Famine, Affluence and Morality." He argues that the affluent should aid the needy to the point of marginal utility, i.e. when a marginal incremental aid would put them in the same misery as the needy person. He further argues that a somewhat softer version of this theory should be followed where the affluent should aid to the point where there is no morally significant variation. 

Singer compared the cost of the Concorde project to the aid the UK gave to alleviate the famine affecting millions in India. He presented examples to argue that the developed world or the affluent are putting a higher price on luxury than human life.

We can find similar examples in modern times. Consider that an A-list Hollywood movie star (say Tom Hanks or Angelina Jolie) is paid $20-30 million per movie, while the same amount may be used to provide clean water to hundreds of thousand people in Africa. A famous sports person (say Tiger Woods or Roger Federer) makes over $100 million a year in endorsements and donates a pittance (about a few thousand dollars) when they could donate millions each year and help provide better sanitation to South East Asia or Africa, where millions die each year from water-borne diseases. Many more examples can be found in our daily lives. Just think about the annual profit of a Fortune 500 company, probably $30-40 billion (for Apple, Shell, etc.), and how much they spend on foreign aid.

Since we no longer have the geological barriers to foreign aid, and since money can be donated to an agency working in a needed region, we have no right to deny the aid (if we can spare it) to the needy.

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