Moral Obligations to Strangers
Most developing countries suffer from food insecurity and cannot afford basic needs, such as clothing, food, and security. Food insecurity results in a high mortality rate induced by starvation, acute malnutrition, and inadequate safety measures. Several factors contribute to food scarcity in these countries, including high inflation rates, which increase the cost of living as it reduces the currency’s purchasing power. The third world countries’ government applies improper policies, such as high taxes of local businesses, which deteriorates the economic conditions. The agricultural sector’s dependence as the only source of income induces economic recession periods, associated with hunger, financial constraints, and unaffordable living standards. As a result, people in developed nations have better living conditions than other parts of the world. Such imbalances contribute to the question regarding moral obligations that the affluents have concerning improving the living conditions of those in extreme need. The problem has attracted two substantial arguments from the renowned philosophers, John Arthur and Peter Singer. The paper analyzes Singer’s ideas that death and suffering from hunger are dreadful, his principle of moral excellent over evil to Arthur’s argument on right and desert, and charity.
Singer’s article, ‘Famine, Affluence, and Morality’ raises a preliminary discussion regarding helping strangers and depends on the notion that death and suffering from hunger are dreadful and destructive to any human being. The author explains that it is wrong for people to suffer from a lack of shelter, food, and other essentials in life. Singer’s main point of reference is that the wealthy class in the economy or society should prevent such misfortunes like famine or death due to hunger among the needy (Singer 760). The author emphasizes that it would not help sacrifice anything with equal moral significance on the provision of relief. The author’s assumptions delegate the duty of maintaining other people’s wellbeing to the wealthy or the fortunate class in the economy. In his argument, the needy level does not play a role in offsetting or improving their living conditions. Generally, Singer assumes they should be dependent on others.
Secondly, Singer makes it morally wrong for the affluents to fail to care and attend to the needy. The philosopher views it as the affluent’s duty to prevent absurd situations to other community members, contrary to charity activities (Singer 765). Singer posits that the affluents should shun enjoying their luxurious lives at the expense of providing financial assistance to the poor. According to Singer, money allocated to purchasing luxuries or wants should help the less fortunate in other countries by offer shelter, clothing, and food. The obligation of assisting the less fortunate in society falls in the hands of the fortunate. The author claims that the levels of suffering continue to rise in most parts of the country, and anyone who has the privilege to afford the basic needs and beyond ought to work tirelessly to help alleviate poverty (Singer 765). He uses an illustration of a drowning child in a lake and advises that the best course of action an individual can take is to save the child from drowning if they can swim.
In contrast, Arthur presents a strong disagreement in his article ‘World of Hunger and Obligation’ about Singer’s assumption that affluents have an obligation of providing financial and other types of support to the needy. According to Arthur, providing any support to strangers is among the charitable activities where an individual does not expect any offer from the other party (Arthur 143). Making sharing an obligation signifies that the stranger has a right to demand support from the wealthy class as the third world countries rely on relief from the United States and other developed nations. An obligation turns charitable activities into a contract between the donor and the recipient of the grants, scholarship, and donations. Arthur contests that citizens have equal entitlement to state resources and money (Arthur 143). Affluents are entitled to invoking their rights as a rationale for not providing for those in need as no contract is binding them. Arthur proposes that affluents should be concerned about other people’s needs, though they have the right to invoke their rights of not giving.
Notably, Arthur expostulates that the wealthy have entitlements categorized as entitlements to rights and entitlement of deserts. Arthur continues to posit that some individuals deserve benefits based on previous actions and not future consequences. Moral rights are classified as positive rights and negative rights. Positive rights are recipience rights. For example, if two persons agree to share a business venture and one of them steps out of business, the person violates the other’s freedom. Negative rights are natural and depend on the nature of the person (Arthur 144). For instance, bestowing sexual favors or giving up a kidney or an eye to saving someone’s else life or sanity is a negative right. Foreigners have negative rights unless the affluent decides to share more. Entitlements of desert maintain that the wealthy have the right established on the past (Arthur,475). Affluent nations should first help their people and caution against the occurrence of suffering and poverty in the future before sending millions of money in the form of charity to take care of the basic needs in less developed nations (Arthur 144). For example, the United States of America should make sure none of its citizens is strapped in poverty before sending charity to other parts of the world.
Singer and Arthur share several similarities in their arguments, including acknowledging that millions of people suffer from lack or inadequate basic needs, such as food, leading to high mortality death rates. Both authors affirm that inequality is multiplying between the developed, developing, and third world countries, as it is evident in wealth distribution and concentration in these economies. Despite the developed nations being on the verge of inequitable wealth distribution effects, the citizens in these countries still have better living conditions than other parts of the world. Arthur and Singer agree that the world stands are facing unprecedented famine challenges, and many people are experiencing severe malnutrition and food insecurity levels, with some of them battling famine conditions and emergencies. Both of them conquer Americans, and people living in the developed nation have a vital role in helping the needy strangers in other countries. It is a moral obligation for developed nations to help offset imbalances in others’ living conditions as long as it does not cause harm to their ethical standards (Arthur 145). Singer believes they have a duty, while Arthur thinks it should be voluntary as charity activities. Individuals have a right to invoke and justify their rationale for not providing financial support.
Arthur and Singer apply the charity rules in judging an individual’s morality concerning voluntary activities. The pleasure or pain produced by a negative or positive action remains indifferent, as there is no distinction encompassing a particular action’s rightness. The two philosophers use pleasure and pain as the scale for establishing a given charity’s moral significance, indicating whether it is wrong or right (Arthur 145). Markedly, the resulting measure is applied in examining an individual’s morality, subject to acts of charity. Arthur denotes that an obligation oriented on helping a needy stranger would be referred to as a positive right as it would imply it is an agreement or a contract between the parties involved. Singer stipulates that preventing an occurrence of a bad situation or condition is an obligation to affluence (Singer 765). The more fortunate are responsible for providing basic needs to the less fortunate on the condition that it does not affect their morals. Arthur agrees that an individual should save a drowning baby’s life at the expense of dirtying their clothes as it does not negatively affect their morals and rights.
Arthur’s Argument Analysis
Arthur’s argument is right in recognizing that there is something more resulting from Singer’s opinion in the drowning child’s scenario. In this case, an individual can prevent the occurrence of a bad situation without having to sacrifice something of moral importance. Then the person has the moral responsibility to prevent the occurrence of a bad situation. Like in the scenario of a drowning child, an individual has to rescue foreigners when the individual can do so, and that is the moral responsibility of that individual. Arthur maintains that the deserts and the rights in the case of a drowning child are a focal part of our ethical canon founded on values such as justice, fairness, and respect. Based on Arthur’s point of view, there are two classifications of human rights, including positive and negative rights. The positive rights are referred to as percipience and are formed by agreements. Arthur’s point of view holds that a person is entitled to receive the right as long as there is a binding agreement. Harmful requests are referred to as non-interference rights and are rights free of individual interference. Additionally, the desert is an example of an entitlement that holds that a hardworking individual is entitled to receive a bounty yield and, on the other hand, a lazy individual is entitled to starving for laziness.
Singer’s Argument Analysis
Singer’s view on charity is somewhat interesting. The author believes that the more developed nations are obliged to a large portion of their wealth to help the distressed in other parts of the world. The view focuses on responsibility to other less developed parts of the world, ignoring the individuals suffering in the affluent countries (Singer 765). For example, the United States of America (U.S.A) government should take care of its individuals before extending the same aid to other areas. It is shameful to find people dying and starving in a developed country like the U.S.A., yet huge donations in financial and non-financial aids are disbursed to other parts of the world. All individuals perceive American society as generous, yet every day, the political class blames each other for the economic and health crisis without fixing the problems. The vast aid would benefit if used to fund local projects and cushion American citizens from occurrences like tsunamis, a family, or a neighbor losing a home or even life or an earthquake. The government should use the billions it spends on foreign scholarships to ensure accessibility to a college education by high school students.
Singer’s discussion is based on helping strangers with the notion that suffering and death from hunger is something terrible to any human being. He also makes it morally wrong for affluents or those with the ability to fail to care and attend to the needy and assumes that it is their moral responsibility. Arthur lays out a strong disagreement with Singer’s assumptions that affluents should help the needy. Instead, he views helping the needy as being more of a charity than a duty. Additionally, Arthur argues that the affluents have entitlements categorized as entitlements of rights and entitlement of deserts. However, both Arthur and Singer acknowledge suffering from poverty, and they both apply the charity role in judging an individual’s morality concerning voluntary activities. Arthur’s argument considers the individual to prevent the occurrence of a situation without having to sacrifice something of moral significance. At the same time, Singer obliges any affluent individual to avoid an event of the problem, which forms the basis of their differences. The entire paper analyzes Singer’s arguments that death and suffering from hunger is dreadful and the principle of more excellent moral over evil rule to Arthur’s opinion of charity, desert, and rights, and analyses of their arguments.
Arthur, John. “World Hunger and Moral Obligation: The Case against Peter Singer,” originally published as “Famine Relief and the Ideal Moral Code,” in Applying Ethics, ed. V. Barry (Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth, 1981): 142-145.
Singer, Peter. “Famine, Affluence and Morality,” reprinted in Vice and Virtue in Everyday Life, ed. C. Sommers and F. Sommers (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers, 1989): 758-768
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