PHIL 102 003
Singer’s Paradox: To what extent can we give or save?
Question #1: Singer stresses the need for everyone to donate funds, time, expertise, etc. and help people from starvation and death (Bengal), to what point should you give away your time and money to struggling people in other countries, that you have never known or will never know? Is it once both of you are at the same level? How much are you, individually, willing to sacrifice?
Relation to philosopher #1:
Pgs/Readings: Famine, Affluence and Morality by Peter Singer, paragraphs 1-10
Quotes: “My next point is this: 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. By “without sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance” I mean without causing anything else comparably bad to happen, or doing something that is wrong in itself, or failing to promote some moral good, comparable in significance to the bad thing that we can prevent. This principle seems almost as uncontroversial as the last one. It requires us only to prevent what is bad, and to promote what is good, and it requires this of us only when we can do it without sacrificing anything that is, from the moral point of view, comparably important.”
In answering this question, it is important to acknowledge that many people are in danger of starvation and various other problems across the world. Many people in developed civilizations refrain from donating to the poor simply because they do not see these effects first hand. However, I believe that any moral person would donate to the struggling populations if they saw their circumstance in person, rather than just hearing about it on the news. That being said, it is conclusive, as discussed in our discussion group, that most people would give until they had just a little more than the originally poor person. In sum, give until you have just a slight edge over the other person(s) as you have indeed earned your wealth and deserve that slight edge. Singer advocates to live minimally and give as much as you can and I believe that this is what our answer supports, to live a minimalistic style with just the basic needs and give the rest away to people who need it. It is in all humans to give, but only to a certain level of comfort, then it becomes too extreme; in other words, there is a limit to giving and donation.
Question #2: Taking a turn from the child drowning in a pond example: If you saw a person struggling to stay afloat in the ocean would you go in and swim after him/her knowing that you would get wet? What if you had no lifeguard experience as sometimes drowning people can drag you to death along with them? What if you couldn’t swim?
Relation to philosopher #2:
Pgs/Readings: Famine, Affluence and Morality by Peter Singer, paragraph 6
Quotes: “An application of this principle would be as follows: if I am walking past a shallow pond and see a child drowning in it, I ought to wade in and pull the child out. This will mean getting my clothes muddy, but this is insignificant, while the death of the child would presumably be a very bad thing.”
As a connection from Singer’s original dilemma of the small child in a pond, this question plays on the factors of morality, utilitarianism and personal beliefs. When asking this question, I received a lot of contradiction between my discussion group as some people would still go in and save the drowning person and some wouldn’t, which is what I expected. I noticed that most answered yes to helping the person from drowning if they could swim, despite risking their own life, as many drowning incidents have more than one victim. However, many were hesitant to help the drowning person if they could not swim, playing on factors of utilitarianism. Again, this question can be answered with a yes, but to a certain extent. The world does need our help, yes, but there is only so much the wealthy or privileged can give until it is dangerous for them. Singer oversimplifies this dilemma with the child in the pond, making it seem obvious to help the child, but when it is put into another context, like this question, the answers become much more varied.