Friday, July 22, 2016

Singer and Saving Others in Peril

From guest blogger, Hannah.

In class, we discussed Singer’s idea that if we can prevent something very bad from happening to someone else without sacrificing something of comparable moral significance, then we ought, morally, to do so. This creates the idea that giving to charity ought not to be thought of as something supererogatory, but something that is a moral duty for each and every person. Arthur argued against this point, saying that people do not have to give their property to other people in need because they are entitled to goods and property that they have earned and that charity is supererogatory.

I propose a thought experiment in order to prove Arthur correct that there is no moral obligation to give hard earned goods to someone in further need. Suppose someone asks you for your homework in a class where you make sure to do all the readings and answer questions in order to prepare for class or to let them look at your essay after you’ve worked for countless hours on perfecting your argument. Generally, you follow a strict moral policy not to cheat or help others cheat because you work hard for your grades and deserve them and find cheating immoral. However, this predicament is more difficult because the other student tells you that this particular homework, paper or exam will determine if they pass the class, since after avoiding the other assignments they are close to failing. If they fail, their parents will not continue to pay to send them to this University and, in the eyes of consequentialists, could lead to much worse problems in the future for that student. This is a less extreme, more realistic version of the farmer who worked hard making the decision to keep his food from the lazy farmer.

I feel that according to Singer’s logic, he may say that because you have this extra information you are obligated to give some information to the student to help them succeed; however, Arthur would say that you worked hard and they were lazy, therefore you are entitled to decide to withhold the information from the other student. Do you find that it is moral to cheat in this situation in order to help the other student? If you were Singer, how would you counter this argument to avoid the permissibility of cheating?

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