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Peter Singer: Charity and Duty - Essay Example

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Peter Singer’s essay, “Famine, Affluence and Morality,” was written in 1971, in the context of Bangladesh’s war for independence from Pakistan, and the ensuing refugee crisis, compounded by a devastating famine…
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Peter Singer: Charity and Duty
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Peter Singer: Charity and Duty

Download file to see previous pages... The essay attempts to change prevalent moral stances, is addressed to an inclusive audience, and is an indictment of consumerism. Singer’s purpose is to draw attention to the deficiency of the currently accepted tenets of morality, according to which contributing to famine relief is ‘supererogatory’: it is good to give, but there is nothing wrong in not giving. Singer firmly holds that “This way of looking at the matter cannot be justified” (8). He argues that when it within the capacity of the affluent to alleviate suffering, and prevent death from famine, the affluent have a binding moral obligation to contribute money. Failure to do so is not just falling short of being charitable: it is an unambiguous moral failure. It is amoral. Giving money to alleviate human suffering is an unavoidable duty of the affluent. Singer admits that his stand is “contrary to contemporary Western moral standards” (10), but justifies his position, and calls for a revision in prevalent moral standards. Through his essay, Singer attempts to rouse the conscience of the affluent, and instigate them into giving money to those less fortunate. Originally published in Philosophy and Public Affairs, “Famine, Affluence and Morality,” is obviously intended mainly for teachers and students of Philosophy. Singer points out that the issue of famine and suffering is a public affair which does not require an expert assessment of facts and, as such, it is well within the ambit of philosophers, who are members of an affluent society, capable of taking some form of political action. Singer exhorts students and teachers of philosophy to engage in debate on his call for a revision in Western moral standards, and to alter their attitudes. This will give them “the satisfaction of a way of life in which theory and practice” (12) can be harmonized. Transcending the profile of the intended readers of this journal, Singer enlarges his audience to include every individual and all governments in relatively affluent society. He criticizes the policy of governments to prioritize infrastructure and defense needs over the moral obligations of aid and censures the British government for valuing “a supersonic transport more than thirty times as highly as it values the lives of the nine million refugees” (Singer,5). He categorically states that no individual in affluent society can abdicate his responsibility to contribute money to the needy. Inaction is inexcusable on any ground. Singer’s essay is an open indictment of contemporary consumerist society. He goes to the extent of candidly asserting that it is desirable that “the consumer society, dependent as it is on people spending on trivia rather than giving to famine relief, would slow down and perhaps disappear entirely” (Singer,12). He goes on to say that “the consumer society has had a distorting effect on the goals and purposes of its members” (Singer, 12). He admits that the philosophers who accept his positions will have “to sacrifice some of the benefits of the consumer society” (Singer, 12). Singer connects the moral stands prevalent in contemporary society to the consumerist lifestyle which is now the norm. He regrets that the moral importance of giving money to the starving is not acknowledged to be superior to individual desires for luxuries. Singer explicitly condemns “ ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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The topic of "Peter Singer: Charity and Duty." is quite popular among the tasks in university. Still, this example opens a new perspective of seeing the question. I’ll use the style for my own paper.
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