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Paper Topic:

Famine,Affluence, and Morality

Peter Singer pointed out in his article Famine , Affluence and Morality that , . if it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening , without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance , we ought , morally do it

There are three possible objections that may be raised against this statement . These objections may be sourced out from the words : power sacrifice and moral importance

First is the word Power . People may have varied meanings of this word Some may define it as the ability to take control or dominate situations , individuals

or things . Some may equate it with manipulation Others may view it simply for selfish reasons like being able to survive , to work , to get what he needs and wants , etc in comparison with others . Surely , some people would say , The government is more powerful than I am , they should help the people in Bengal and not me ' Others would say , I do not have enough power to even help myself , why should I help others ' Identifying the power that everyone has is relative . A power may be enough just to support himself . Another person may possess it but there are limitations by which he can demonstrate that power

Second is Sacrifice . Sacrifice is something that is done willingly . If an individual is constrained to do something unwillingly especially if it means taking away something that is beneficial to him , he would feel violated . Sacrifice is traditionally not seen as a duty . It may be a charitable act . But in majority , there is always something in return that a giver may expect . In short , people do not readily sacrifice themselves even if they have material surpluses

Moral Importance - what is morally important for somebody may not be the same for another . As in the example given by Singer , buying new clothes for the purpose of looking well-dressed ' is insignificant compared to buying clothes to keep oneself warm (792 . One might as well give the money to famine relief as saving refugees from starvation is morally important than clothes that may just run out of fashion in time . This may not be the same for all people . Being well-dressed may be equal to self-esteem or sense of fulfillment . This may have a comparable significance to self and the community

It is , therefore , difficult to judge the morality or immorality of not giving to famine relief when you have the power and the readiness to sacrifice without affecting anything of moral importance . What is evidently unimportant may be important for others . For example , for the man who got muddy after saving a drowning child , he may have been able to save a life but in return he was not able to go to work and his family starved . It would be inconclusive to say that he was not a moral person if he had not saved the child . It is true that it is a moral obligation of everyone to share what he has to others in need but the circumstance...

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