Starvation by Peter Singer

Peter Singer puts forth the state of misery in Bengal..

Starvation by Peter Singer

Peter Singer puts forth the state of misery in Bengal due to poverty, cyclone, and a civil war, which can be avoided or mitigated by the aid of affluent countries. The main point or thesis of the writer here is that the affluent countries spend more on the jets and buildings rather than starving people. So the “moral conceptual scheme” needs to change. The writer argues about our obligation of prevention of misery “without sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance”. He refutes the idea of preference of the geographically closest for help, or being the only one to help. The shrinking of the world in to a global village has ended the question of distance. In the same way our moral obligations do not change if others are not doing their part. We need to clarify the difference between “charity” and “duty”. Charity becomes the matter of choice involving no sense of obligation or guilt. The writer believes that curtailing our lavishness for the destitute should be considered a duty.

The objection to the writers division of charity and duty is that the writer might be asking for a drastic and impractical change of moral attitude from a society with a self-interested and limited sense of morality, influenced by the expectations by the others. If thinking change the objections on the arguments will diminish. The strength of the writer’s argument is that he can assume and foresee the accusations against it and counter acts with valid reasons, standing fast on his ideas. He empowers them by philosophical and practical points. He refutes the first but false idea that private and unduly aid relaxes the government from its duty. He calls it an excuse for people’s escapist attitude towards their responsibility, though agreeing the importance of both public and private aid. The point that “population explosion can never end but only postpone starvation is valid but not a strong reason to refrain from giving help. The writer explains that we ought to give to the sufferers as long as the level of “marginal utility” is not overstepped and the economy of the country does not suffer, as taking out too much from the country’s gross domestic product will slow down the overall growth of the donor economy which may lead to a situation where the nationals of the donor country may start getting jobless and the burden on the economy start increasing just because of their humane act.

Peter singer considers famine to be a matter in which philosopher can also actively play their role as it is a matter of human suffering and means of minimizing it through aid and population control. But the vital thing is action; mere discussion sans action is futile. The philosopher who acts upon the writer’s ideals will sacrifice the luxuries but gain satisfaction of consummation of his believes. On a more realistic level the world food crisis remain serious due to vanquished grain results and expensive oil. But the recession has hit the developing countries harder than the western world as the poor of affluent country is better off than one in a poor nation, thus emphasizing the contrast between affluence and poverty. He gives a very cold but factual point that countries making tangible efforts to control their population deserve foreign aid more than those which are not. I, as a reader, agree with this point that population control requires not only aid in the form of contraceptives and methods of sterilization but also giving agricultural assistance, social and financial security to people specially in old age so that they do not have to rely up on a big family for sense of security.

Regarding “moral significance” peter Singer gives a strong principle and a weak principle as a fall back, but he personally prefers the strong principle as he inclines towards the utilitarian view. I feel his moral code is the cousin of utilitarianism as it is relax and flexible. He stresses on the need of impartiality and universalized ability for moral judgment. One weakness in his argument is the ambiguity he creates while defining strong and weak principles. His ideas tend to be overly demanding and in conflict with an individual’s personal preferences. He is also accused of desiring not equal affluence but equal poverty. I do agree to it from a common man’s point of view as he will prefer to spend his hard earned money on himself or save it for rainy days. But on the whole, the author’s intensions are sincere and heartfelt making his argument strong and humane that we as humans have a duty to end the misery of other human beings.



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