Hunger And Poverty During the course of this particular essay, I will prove to you many points. Maybe not to the extreme that it will change ones thought processes on the subject of hunger and world poverty, but enough to form a distinction between moral obligation and moral capacity. What I will not mention is the fact that Peter Singers outdated material (1971), though thorough in the sense of supporting his view on hunger and world poverty as well as examining this school of thought, is unconvincing to say the least. As our recent past has shown us, using Somalia and Rwanda as models, no amount of money or time on earth can come between a civil war. Terrible things happen, innocent people are slain in the names of either freedom or captivity, and land is destroyed, burned by the flames of either righteousness or wrath. But placing the burden of attempting to heal these wounds on the “well off” is not only immoral in itself, it is crazy.
To consider an act a moral obligation, it must have an end that fits within the realm of reason. If someone is obligated to do something, then the purpose of that action holds meaning, therefore making the act a meaningful act. A characteristic of a meaningful act is a justifiably important end, that is, an end that which holds a higher purpose than the action against the obligated act. One can argue, using history as an example, that ending world poverty and hunger is not a reasonable goal. Singer uses the term “morally significant” throughout his essay, citing that we our morally obligated to help others in need to the point that what we have is morally significant to our well being. He does not attempt to provide if, ands, or exceptions to this rule, which I find, at the least, “morally unconstitutional.” Granted this is only a school of thought, that type of thought is considerably dangerous in the sense that it eliminates the right of individual happiness.
This thought, which Singer attributes to the fact that we are all part of the “global community,” provides little reasoning to make a person honestly consider the act of help. Who is to say what is considered to be of comparable moral significance? Does Singer honestly believe that the typical American citizen, after reading one of his manifestos, will turn down the 57″ projection television and opt for the 13″ one, and then send the money they saved to the African War Baby Relief Fund? Hell no. For all we know, Singer may argue that a television is not a comparably moral significant item. And in todays society and culture, that is not a reasonable end. Singer uses St.
Thomas Aquinas (12th century Italian theologian and philosopher) as a reference to his philosophical view, and although Aquinas was one of the foremost experts on religion and humanism, he is not living in the 21st century. Singers views border a utopian society, and although they sound good, they prove impossible. John Arthur, whos essay “Rights and the Duty to Bring Aid,” looks to disprove Singers theory and, at the least, provide an alternative that would satisfy the demands of the time. This is where the line between moral obligation and moral capacity is drawn. Now, the case of the drowning child, while seemingly obvious, is very far from it (according to both Singer and Arthur).
Saving the child, without risk of personal injury, is the moral thing to do. Arthur even goes as far as to add that it is morally acceptable to use a boat that is not yours to aid in the rescue. He contends that duties to bring aid can override duties not to violate rights. I contend that this is acceptable, but only if an immediate end is the result. The saving of the drowning child, after all precaution are taken, is well within a capacity.
This is something that is accomplishable immediately, and if not immediately, within a reasonable time frame. Capacity. Capability. All things that people, regardless of economic status, can do. But as the case may be, there are economic differences and some people have the power to do more than others do.
It is called sacrifice. It does not require the end of owning material goods for ones own pleasure, just simply limitations done voluntarily to ensure the well being of the human race. If people choose not to participate, so be it. Are we supposed to get angry with them? What would that accomplish? Limiting the consumption of meat products, while still a radical idea, is an idea nonetheless. Labeling such duties as moral obligations does not help the hungry and the poor, it just creates more.