Argument Analysis Essay

Submitted By tjfritz10
Words: 870
Pages: 4

“Famine, Affluence, and Morality” is an article written in 1971 by Peter Singer, a Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. In this article, Singer wrote about the lack of effort put forth by society to keep people in developing countries from starving, using the poverty crisis in East Bengal in 1971 as an example. Singer also writes about the moral obligation that society has to prevent and/or alleviate situations such as the East Bengal crisis. Throughout the article, Singer points out that the manner in which the affluent members in society is currently acting is unacceptable and unjustifiable, given the great needs that those in East Bengal had at the time. When Singer wrote the article in 1971, East Bengal was in a state of chaos and subsistence due to constant poverty, natural disaster, and civil war. Singer points out that even countries such as Great Britain and Australia, who had given more money than most other countries to East Bengal, still spent immensely more on projects that seemed of little importance when compared to the number of people dying halfway across the world. This brings him to the main point of the article, which is this: a person should do everything in his or her power to prevent bad things from happening, as long as they are not sacrificing something of comparable moral importance. He makes clear the fact that most of society does not share this same philosophy, or if they do they are surely not adhering to it. Singer than goes on to refute a couple reasons why people may disagree with his stance on the issue. The first counterpoint he brings up is the issue of proximity and distance. Should we do everything in our power to help others, even if they live on the other side of the world? Singer’s answer is a resounding yes. Although being in close proximity to a person may make us more likely to help them, it does not imply that we ought to help them over a person who lives 1,000 miles from us. If we as a society are to treat people with impartiality and equality, Singer says, this argument really holds no weight. In addition, the present age of globalization allows virtually instantaneous communication with people in all parts of the world, as well as ease of travel to get there. Today we are able to be a thousand miles away from a village one day, and standing in it the next. He then addresses the argument that an individual in society is just like millions of others, in regards to the East Bengal issue. Because of this, many argue that our need to help people is not as strong as if we were the only person available to help. Singer refutes this by comparing the East Bengal situation to a child drowning in a lake with many people standing around. The fact that a crowd of people is present does not make an individual any less obliged to help the drowning child than if they were the only person there. After refuting these two arguments, Singer wrestles a bit with the idea of supererogatory acts, or acts that are good to do but not wrong to not do. He argues that in most people’s eyes, refusing to do supererogatory acts is…