Peter Singer’s Sticky Situation Essay Example
Peter Singer’s Sticky Situation Essay Example

Peter Singer’s Sticky Situation Essay Example

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  • Pages: 4 (988 words)
  • Published: February 11, 2018
  • Type: Essay
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Peter Singer proposes a solution to world poverty in "The Singer Solution to World Poverty." He believes that instead of spending money on luxury goods, individuals should donate to charities that save lives in poorer countries. While this argument raises a moral point, it can lead to a dangerous moral precedent. Therefore, Singer's argument should be applied in a limited scope to determine the right action. His argument is based on the premises that poverty, malnutrition, and death are bad things, and it is immoral not to prevent them if possible. Donating excess income to charities overseas can prevent suffering without sacrificing anything important. Thus, it is concluded that donating to overseas charities is necessary; otherwise, it is immoral. Despite its simplicity, Singer's argument has attracted attention.Despite the fact th


at it is difficult to argue with any of the premises on face value, upon closer examination, many of us may question Premise 2 in Singer's argument. In his example, a man saves a life but ruins a new car by flipping a switch, highlighting the moral decision involved. Most would agree that saving a life is more important than a luxury purchase. However, Singer extends Premise 2 to situations where we can indirectly save lives by sacrificing luxury purchases for donations to charity. This premise prompts us to consider sacrificing lesser values for a greater cause, such as using our free time to work for a charity instead of indulging in leisure activities. Instead of relaxing, we can engage in minimum wage work and donate excess income directly to a charity that can save lives and end hunger. While there may be some unhappiness associate

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with giving up leisure time, it pales in comparison to the suffering prevented by saving lives.According to Singer, it is morally imperative to spend one's time assisting charities rather than pursuing leisure activities as this will make the world a better place. This argument can be extended to suggest that spending time on non-essential activities is morally wrong if basic necessities are not met. Critics argue that raising a family in America costs more than in Africa and therefore takes away money that could be used to save lives. As all lives are equal according to Singer, sacrificing the life of one American child to save twenty African children is morally justifiable, although it does require a significant sacrifice. Despite this, neglecting one's family in favor of helping strangers is generally considered a moral wrong in society.

As an American, I disagree with Premise 2. The examples of unsanitary conditions are just a few of the difficulties associated with it. Garrett Hardin calls it "Lifeboat ethics". Imagine being in a lifeboat with a capacity of 60 people, where 50 rich Americans are already present. Outside, 100 poor people are hoping to get in. We must decide what to do. Singer believes we should sacrifice the small chance of overcrowding to save a life. But treating all lives as equal and adding everyone will ultimately lead to death. To help those outside the boat, we must maintain our position inside it. We need to maintain our wealth and lives above necessity to be able to help those in need through donations.

We do assist those outside of our capacity in measure, but not excessively.

However, Singer's morality doesn't provide guidance on who to assist, and limiting ourselves to only the necessary may prevent us from aiding those in need in the future. Thus, adopting Singer's beliefs as a general principle won't solve world poverty. To salvage Singer's argument, we must distinguish between interpreting it as a general moral principle or as an application in certain situations. Utilitarianism is the principle Singer operates from, which maximizes utility (happiness and reduces suffering). Singer's examples show that maximizing utility results in reducing suffering, such as saving a life over preventing loss of property. Following this idea, utility can be maximized by addressing needs that cause suffering. For instance, some people overspend on unnecessary purchases, while others cannot afford necessities. Suffering arises when needs are not met.The argument presented states that reducing suffering is morally right, and if those who make excessive purchases give their money to those who cannot afford necessities, overall suffering would be reduced and a moral right accomplished. However, it is important to apply this argument in specific situations and in measured capacities rather than as a categorical imperative, as forcing sacrifices beyond its scope creates problems. Premise 4 maintains the original utilitarianism of the idea while Premise 1, 2, and 3 are implicit in Singer's problem, which highlights that saving lives in Africa is more beneficial than purchasing a new pair of shoes. Nevertheless, using this philosophy to force individuals into lives of bare necessity can be problematic. The argument allows for a moral right to be done when possible without placing undue weight on those who live beyond necessity. Additionally, this argument only applies to present situations

rather than being a general principle for the future. While giving money used for luxury purchases to a child in need can help overall utility in the short-term, there are long-term problems with this situation.

The consumption of luxury goods is a driving force of the American economy and plays a significant role in why Americans are well-off. Adopting Singer's argument on income and donation as a consistent action would drastically decrease consumption and economy size which would lead to an economic collapse and loss of wealth. While Singer's argument is effective for certain examples in applied ethics, it does not work well as a general principle. It is important to make individual decisions to help others, but adopting this principle as a widespread action would send us into a recession or depression. Thus, to help others, we need to maintain our current economic state. Empirical questions arise regarding this topic but are still important in applied ethics.

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