Poverty is the state of people who do not have a certain amount of income to achieve the basic needs. Peoples buying power is not enough to pay their basic need from food. In the article Peter Singer’s to ground the conclusion that it is morally wrong not to donate time and money to aid agencies. In Singer’s analogy it is stated that not saving a child who is drowning in a shallow pond, given that the sacrifice one has to give is relatively small, is morally analogous to not donating time and money to aid agencies that save the lives of the global poor. Because most people have the intuition that not saving the child is wrong then not donating time and money to aid agencies is also wrong.
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An important consequence of this restatement of the argument is that we avoid the discussion of the validity of the life-saving analogy: The discussion of whether we can actually liken the two cases in the analogy together. Much of the writings on the analogy have revolved around the question how analogous and disanalogous the two cases are. One of my aims in the paper is to show that we do not need to answer that question in order to reach the conclusion that it is morally wrong not to donate time and money to aid agencies: We do not need the analogy at all. If we show that we can annul the analogy then we are free from the problems and the vagueness which are a consequence of the use of analogical reasoning.
If the universal moral principle in the deductive argument above is reasonable then we owe it to the global poor, who are dying by the millions every year, to state the argument which grounds our duties to them as simply, directly and convincingly as possible. The hope is that by redesigning the argument for this conclusion then the citizens of the affluent world will rather be convinced to act according to the conclusion of such an argument than to the conclusion of the argument which contains the lifesaving analogy.
All of which raises a question: In the end, what is the ethical distinction between a Brazilian who sells a homeless child to organ peddlers and an American who already has a TV and upgrades to a better one – knowing that the money could be donated to an organization that would use it to save the lives of kids in need? Bob’s situation resembles that of people able but unwilling to donate to overseas aid and differs from Dora’s situation.
The author Singer is like his name conveying beautiful and kind ideas and theories to people in this world. However, maybe he forgot to realize that Siren’s song also pertains to singing. As there are different kinds of human beings in this planet, each with a unique personality and growth environment, we thus could not judge everyone in a same standard and could not ask everyone to perform the ways you want them to act. Let alone, the so-called standards and the principals are all created and manipulated by men.
Singer’s conclusion is unprecedented and encouraging but is lack of cogency. His conclusion was obtained under an ideal situation where human beings could “evolve” themselves of their own accord. According to what he said, under the ideal situation, we people care others first (to some extent equals to selfless and generous); keep abstinent, especially be moderate in eating; and sacrifice ourselves in order to help others, all of which in my point of view could be treated as virtue of “Sage”.
Singer holds that if we value the life of a child more than going to fancy restaurants, the next time we dine out we will know that we could have done something better with our money. For this statement, I have got two points to contend. Firstly, how come would people be aware of donation? It is because those who would like to contribute their money are the ones who do not need to care too much about their food, their shelter, their cars and their spiritual world. Those people are always the main force in charity industry. But what is the motivation of these kind acts? Some of them are because of redemption, like there are churches setting up service wholly for rich men: if they could donate a big sum of money, they would be logically forgiven by the God. Some of them are due to faces, since the public always criticize the rich for not being so generous to the poor. The rest are unfeignedly on account of kindness because those wealthy men all bear a heart that cares the whole world.
But no matter from which starting point, the essence of their donation is because that they are rich and that they donate is because that all of them could still keep their living standard. Yes, living standard. Singer also referred to this phrase when he mentioned how much money one should give away in their donation. Here comes the second point of my judgment. So how much on earth should we donate? Is it the percentage that a person should save for donation matters? Or is it the number $20,000 really matters?
Indeed, they are just all simple numbers. Provided we abandoned the prejudice and expected the most ideal state that everyone attempts to share some of his income with the poor, the base increased, then we really don’t need to worry about the number exactly cause we have got much more people and their money is in anyway sufficient. In this way, with a large number of people joining the base, the problem is solved. Thus, we could draw the conclusion that it is whether people would do that matters but how much money they would like to give away decides.
People are not sage. To err is human. People are born in distinct ways. People in different levels (here levels means the amount money different people own) have imbalanced desire. We are all familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. “Maslow used the terms Physiological, Safety, Belongingness and Love, Esteem, Self-Actualization and Self-Transcendence needs to describe the pattern that human motivations generally move through.” (Wikipedia) thus, before we are about to plan, there is also a process, which happens to be the pyramid of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, for people to go through. Thus, we can tell that people always firstly meet their physical requirements such as cloth, eating, shelter, sex and so on. As for donation it pertains to the highest level-self-actualization. From the first level to the highest level, there is a long distance and area to cover. People must conquer all the difficulties in order to actualize themselves. So it then becomes easy for us to understand those rich people “The more sweet he or she has already tasted, the less money he or she would donate.” This is because $20,000 is nothing to rich people compared to that of the same money in a middle-level family. Especially for rich people, their living habits have been developed and are hard to change. Plus, seldom rich people would change their current habits in order to save more children.
As for those relative poor people but rich than those Slum kids, their problems are always concentrated on roles. The most common mental state of those people is collective guilt. People in that level would always argue that “I am poor myself and those donation things are for the rich. Rich people are obliged to give away more.” Collective guilt is a very dangerous behavior in every society throughout the history. Not only German but Japanese as well, the good thing is that the former confessed crime in public. We have seen some horrible news everyday via different media about people commit crime as a group, such as rape by turns, Amway returning of goods and so on. In “The Singer Solution to World Poverty”, Singer didn’t employ the same word collective guilt but showed us another less severe phrase-crowd ethics. Since we couldn’t judge those people who don’t donate as collective guilt, but to some extent it is about crowd ethics. In recent years China, we have seen many cases referred to crowd ethics. We have seen people passing by a dying kid hit by a car; we have seen people turning a blind eye to thieves and we have seen officials being irresponsible. All these people are not guilt but all lack of sympathy. Donation is alike.
We have talked much about the groundless of Singer’s conclusion to the poor. But it is still undeniable that Singer is a great man. He is few in number person whose actions always follow their words. He contributes a great deal to morality research and paves ways for animal protection as well as promotes the world’s ethic levels. Although it is hard to build up a world as Singer has described in the article:
If that makes living a morally decent life extremely arduous, well, then that is the way things are. If we don’t do it, then we should at least know that we are failing to live a morally decent life – not because it is good to wallow in guilt but because knowing where we should be going is the first step toward heading in that direction.
But in every era, Sage would eventually appear. There are people even in a few numbers who themselves live under poverty but still donates their limited money day and night and there are people who help each other when confronted with catastrophe. Human beings are strange Higher Beings, but are educable. Only under the leadership of great people like Singer and educating human beings in a correct way, can we eventually live a morally decent life.
Singer, Peter. “The Singer Solution to World Poverty”. 1999.
Wikipedia writer. “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs”.