I am taking my third philosophy class and I have to say I am enjoying it very much. I like thinking about different moral issues and debating what I feel is correct. So here’s to issue #1, helping those in need, to what extent are we obligated, and are we obligated at all?
Peter Single in 1971 wrote an article called “Famine, Affluence, and Morality”. In this article he talks about this topic of helping people in need. Singer claims “If it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we ought, morally to do it”. For example: If you are walking past a pond and see a child drowning, you ought to go in and save the child. This will mean getting your clothes dirty, but that is insignificant, where the death of the child would be a very bad thing.
Singer claims it makes no moral difference whether the person you can help is a neighbor’s child or a child from a 3rd world country whose name you don’t even know. Singer also claims that there is no distinction between cases in which you are the only person who could do anything and cases when you are one in a million in the same position.
Singer believes a person should give till they reach marginal utility, where if they would give any more then they would cause harm to themselves.
Singer believes that there is no such thing as charity, but rather a person is required to give away money they would use to buy new clothes they don’t need, to help famine relief. Singer claims it is wrong not to give away the money.
1- Distance can make a difference. We always learn that Chesed starts at home. So I believe we should first help our family, friends, and those we care about, before we help strangers.
2- I don’t believe a person has to give so much that they are left with as much as the poor people have. A person needs an incentive to continue working, if they were to always give everything away, and not keep any for themselves then they would no longer work as hard, and then we would have to be asking for help.
3- I think there is such a thing as charity, we have tzedaka, where it’s a mitzvah to help someone out. Although 10% is required of us, we are not permitted to give more than a certain percentage. Even if Tzedaka is required of us to give, we still get acknowledged and rewarded for it, it’s still considered a moral act.