Friday, July 13, 2012

Peter Singer

From the moral point of view, the prevention of the starvation of millions of people outside our society must be considered at least as pressing as the upholding of property norms within our society.  (Source)

Even at gunpoint?  Even if I do not agree?  An interesting set of categories:  Obligation, enforce by tanks and prison.  Duty, enforced by....what?  Conscience?  And finally, supererogation.  I am not obliged to give, but it is very good if I do.

Singer does make a good argument, though.  Not a perfect argument, but a good one.  If (suppose) we did all agree we had a duty to give, and consented.  But then we all notice that if just one person (me!) fails to give, the total amount of aid sent to Bengal (or wherever; this as 1972) will be pretty much the same.  Then it becomes an n-person PD, and we are all actually obliged not just to give, but to submit to (legitimate) coercion to give.


1 comment:

  1. It strikes me as somewhat odd for episodes of starvation to be met with calls for aid rather than for open borders.


Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?