In the article, “Famine, Affluence, and Morality,” written by Peter Singer, he elaborates on his views of the East Bengal emergency that took place in 1971. This assignment will discuss Singer’s goal and arguments supporting his position. Provide three counter-arguments addressed by Singer. Define his concept of marginal utility and how it relates to his argument. Then, explain how the ideas of duty and charity are different in Singer’s proposed world as opposed to how they are currently used in our society. Lastly, summarize my argument relating to his position.
Singer’s goals on the East Bengal emergency were the hopes of people coming together to provide aide, not just from the government, but every person around the world. He argued “…the way people in relatively affluent countries react to a situation like that in Bengal cannot be justified; the whole way we look at moral issues—our moral conceptual scheme—needs to be altered, and with it, the way of life that has come to be taken for granted in our society. (Singer, 1971)” Singer believed suffering from the necessities in life (food, shelter, and medical) were in essence immoral and wanted to think people agreed with his position. He thought if it were within a person’s control, they would help. Singer’s presentation of value used was to be walking past a pond and see a drowning child. Morally, he believed you see the child drowning and save the child. He correlated this to his position on the East Bengal emergency. He believed it was that simplistic of a thought that people should want to help people around the world, regardless of their location and/or distinctions, based on moral obligation.
Singer’s position on saving a drowning child is correct, provided an uncontroversial appearance. Most people would not think twice about saving a drowning child. However, it is deceptive as he stated. Where in his claim, (1) “ takes no account of proximity or distance…” and (2) globalization, “…makes no distinction between cases in which I am the only person who could possibly do anything and cases in which I am just one among millions in the same position” (Singer, 1971), and (3) support organizations, to receive charitable contributions, making it less understood by the people as to why they should contribute. Singer believed no matter how near or faraway, it was everyone’s obligation.
Singer’s view that numbers made a difference. He hypothesized if everyone contributed 5 Euro, that it would make a difference. The catch is that everyone should equally contribute to the Bengali Relief Fund. If not, then it would leave it open for some to not donate and others to donate more. Again making it to be the moral duty for all and coming to the realization that not everyone would be willing to do so. This defeats the purpose and continues to leave the Bengalis’ without food. So, in fact, Singer proposed everyone that were in a position to give as much as possible and even to the point that it affected their own well being to include their dependents—this would benefit the Bengalis’.
Singer’s distinction on duty and charity could not be drawn, due to it being outside of his scope. It is understood that giving money to a charitable organization is a generous act. If a person elects not to donate, then they are condemned. He believes people should feel guilty for spending money on themselves, outside of their normal necessities, and not donating to charity. In our society, “Individuals send contributions to charitable organizations when there is a humanitarian crisis, and then these organizations rush trained aid workers into the zone of danger and desperate need. But governments also send help, spending tax money that is coercively collected rather than freely given. (Walzer, 2011)” Although, if people do not donate, they are still not held to a standard nor condemned.