Friday, July 22, 2016

Singer and Charity

From guest blogger, Michael.

In class we discussed Singer’s argument for why we should each live a more selfless life.  It seemed that we all generally agreed that he was right, and that we can and should do more to decrease the amount of suffering in the world.  And yet, it didn’t seem like we emphatically, as a class, were willing to alter our lifestyles significantly for the betterment of the world.  This phenomenon of rationalizing why we ought to perform a certain action, but still not feeling strongly compelled to perform it was very puzzling to me. 

We either must accept that we’re bad people or we must reject Singer’s argument.  Well, I personally cannot find any problems with Singer’s argument so I can logically conclude that I’m a bad person.  By enjoying the life I do I am morally responsible for a great amount of suffering in the world.  Despite this, I don’t really feel bad about it even though I’ve rationalized that I ought to.
This made me wonder if I am actually a rational being or not.  

Perhaps I just do what is rational when it conveniently coincides with my emotions.  I found this possible conclusion somewhat concerning, as I’d like to believe I’m a rational being.

1 comment:

Kara Rubashkin said...

This core contradiction that you point out, that you are a rational being happy as a (delicious) clam to keep on as you have been, as was our class, not putting your most charitable foot forward-is what undermines Singer's argument. He sets the bar too high. Giving everything extra to charity is a fantastic idea. If everyone did it, we could stop world hunger, provide shelter to all, and raise the global standard of living. However, as noted in a different blog post, if some are very charitable, others will be less charitable because they see someone else will do it.

Ideally, if everyone is a do-gooder and inspires their friends to be do-gooders, then we have the most amount of utilitarian good. But, I don't think our class is full of bad people. Rather, I think Arthur's argument about most of Singer's beliefs being supererogatory is a proper counter. We cannot be morally responsible to fix the wrongness of the world. Personal property carries a heavy weight against a formal moral obligation to help others.