Monday, March 30, 2009

Helping Those In Need

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.


Der Shygetz said...


Singer is completely off his rocker. He has said that there is no difference between humans and animals in terms of right to live and he also has some weird perspectives on post-natal abortion of babies.

Just another schmohawk looking for attention. And the academic world, which should know better, gives him said attention.

Jessica said...

Love your arguments to Singer's philosophy. I was actually thinking the same thing about chesed starting at home.

On a totally different topic... very cool that I can connect to this comment through my facebook, but I don't have the option to connect it to my tumblr blog :-(

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

yea, I read the link you shared and I'm not impressed with Singer's views at all.
True about helping those you know first.

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

Good point about it hurting yourself if you were to ignore those at home that you care about.
I hadn't known that people can give more than that percentage.

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

I don't think we are going to learn about Ayn Rand, o well.
very true, I'm appreciating Judiasm so much, that now I want to study the Halachos more.

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

Thanx. Haven't heard of Levinas before, I'll have to check him/her out.

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

That is true, that's one thing holding back people from giving to places far away.
But then we learned that when you make out a check to a charity organization, you can restrict the money to any cause you want, by writing it in the memo of the check.

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

I like that philosophy too. That's why fathers have an obligation to teach their children a trade, or give them an education, so that they can ensure the children will be able to provide for themselves and have a parnassah.

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

But not always do we know who needs it. Unless you do research.
Not everyone can work...there has to be a system built in accounting for all types.

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

lol, I can imagine what that was like, although I never had to write any kind of essays llike that.
I actually always pose the Jewish outlook to my professor, and I'm curious for their response. In core Phil we were learning about happiness. So I brought up the chazal that a happy person is someone who is happy with what they have, and my professor said there's a philosopher who says that too. Then now in my phil class I keep thinking of the Jewish outlook, and asking my professor about it, and she replies back. Like about pulling the plug, and other stuff. But not always is there time for her to call on me to hear what I have to say, so then I blog about it instead.
I guess it's just a matter of taste, I enjoy discussions of right and wrong, and what's moral, and all kinds of ideas.
yea, that's one part that I agree with.

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

I suppose that's true, that you have to give and help people no matter how you feel about them.
Thanks, that would be nice to think of people giving more to help out.

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

yea, I read the link Leora shared, and he does seem to be crazy.
yea, although my professor said she disagrees with him, and thinks he's going to far with his theories.

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

glad that you like the facebook part.
yea, it's not very blog identity friendly.

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