The Problem of Poverty in Famine, Affluence, and Morality by Peter Singer

1112 Words Jul 11th, 2018 5 Pages
Peter Singer is often regarded as one of the most productive and influential philosophers of modern times. He is well-known for his discussions of the acute social, economic, and political issues, including poverty and famines. In his “Famine, Affluence, and Morality”, Singer (1972) discusses the problem of poverty and hunger, as well as the way this problem is treated in the developed world. Singer believes that charity is inseparable from morality, and no distinction can be drawn between charity and duty. The philosopher offers possible objections to his proposition and relevant arguments to justify his viewpoint. The modern world does not support Singer’s view, treating charity as a voluntary activity, an act of generosity that needs …show more content…
Singer (1972) is convinced that affluent societies should give away within the limits that do not slow down their economic and social growth. Here, the concept of marginal utility comes into play. According to Singer (1972), marginal utility is “the level, at which, by giving more, I would cause as much suffering to myself or my dependents as I would relieve by my gift” (p. 241). In other words, it is a fragile boundary between being a moral person and a person, who makes his dependents suffer for the sake of saving some distant communities from poverty. Marginal utility is a measure of balance, which implies that bad things are prevented without causing other bad things to happen. Singer (1972) does not say that affluent societies should limit themselves to marginal utility, but they should avoid causing something significantly bad to their families. Certainly, the world presented by Singer (1972) differs considerably from the real order of things. In the real world, charity is not considered as a moral duty. Rather, it is a voluntary act of generosity, which is subject to public approval and praise. This position favors many society members, who can use charity as an instrument of manipulation to achieve their own purposes. Meanwhile, a consensus is emerging that charity is a negative phenomenon, which does not allow changing the situation from within. According to BBC (n.d.), charity deals with the symptoms, rather than causes, of poverty and famines. It
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