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Famine, Affluence, and Morality

de Peter Singer

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In 1972, the young philosopher Peter Singer published ""Famine, Affluence and Morality,"" which rapidly became one of the most widely discussed essays in applied ethics. Through this article, Singer presents his view that we have the same moral obligations to those far away as we do to those close to us. He argued that choosing not to send life-saving money to starving people on the other side of the earth is the moral equivalent of neglecting to save drowning children because we prefer not to muddy our shoes. If we can help, we must--and any excuse is hypocrisy. Singer's extreme stand on our… (més)
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Famine, Affluence, and Morality centers on Peter Singer's 1972 essay of the same name, a classic in the area of applied ethics. This is one of those rare works by a philosopher that offers plenty of complexity with which to wrestle while also being accessible to a large portion of the general public. Revisiting this essay renewed my interest in applied ethics and may well kindle or rekindle the same in you.

The original essay was a response to a very specific situation but, as mentioned in the other pieces in the book, it is just as important today with the prevalence of extreme poverty. To (perhaps overly) simplify, can we who have enough live a moral life if we are not doing everything we can to alleviate hunger, poverty and sickness, particularly the many instances for which there are solutions? If we would do without for a situation close to home, should we not also do without for a situation in another part of the world?

My personal reading has always been a step short of the extreme version as put, quite well, by another reviewer. Namely that to follow this ideal one would need to sell everything and move to one of the poorest places and try to help the people. My understanding is that to follow the principle one should do without luxuries and superfluous material goods and use those resources, whether they be money, time or whatever, to help those in extreme poverty. I come to this position because carried to the extreme, everyone quits and sells everything (to whom if we have all become such people?) and then things grind to a stop and everyone ends up poor and hungry. So doing and giving more while also continuing to perform within the world seems a more pragmatic version of the ideas.

I would recommend this to anyone interested in ethics, applied ethics in particular, or anyone who questions what or how much one should do for the world as a whole and not just our immediate communities.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley. ( )
  pomo58 | Jun 16, 2016 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Singer, Peterautor primaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Gates, BillPròlegautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Gates, MelindaPròlegautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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In 1972, the young philosopher Peter Singer published ""Famine, Affluence and Morality,"" which rapidly became one of the most widely discussed essays in applied ethics. Through this article, Singer presents his view that we have the same moral obligations to those far away as we do to those close to us. He argued that choosing not to send life-saving money to starving people on the other side of the earth is the moral equivalent of neglecting to save drowning children because we prefer not to muddy our shoes. If we can help, we must--and any excuse is hypocrisy. Singer's extreme stand on our

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