Analysis Of Singer 's Main Argument

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Singer’s main argument is built upon the “assumption that suffering and death from lack of food, shelter, and medical care are bad” (231). It is the duty of the utilitarian to attempt to relieve this type of suffering. His standpoint is that people should attempt to prevent bad things from happening: “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” (231). Singer contends that this is largely an uncontroversial principle since it only requires that people do not make undue sacrifices in order to promote the greater good. The example he gives to demonstrate his point is that of walking past a shallow pond and seeing a child drowning. To save the child, all that is required is for a person to get a little muddy or damp. For an immaterial sacrifice, something very bad is being prevented and therefore there should be no debate about a person’s actions.
He then extrapolates this onto a greater scale by first arguing that it would not matter if the child in question was someone who was known personally versus a stranger on the other side of the world. The duty to help the child in both cases would remain the same. Furthermore, he argues that it does not matter if someone else is capable of saving the child or not—that does not relieve anyone of their own duty to act. Additionally, he does not agree with any argument that allows for helping friends or those in

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