During moral capacity. What I will not mention
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 thesubject of hunger and world poverty, but enough to form a distinction betweenmoral obligation and moral capacity. What I will not mention is the fact thatPeter Singers outdated material (1971), though thorough in the sense ofsupporting his view on hunger and world poverty as well as examining this schoolof thought, is unconvincing to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 comebetween a civil war. Terrible things happen, innocent people are slain in thenames of either freedom or captivity, and land is destroyed, burned by theflames of either righteousness or wrath. But placing the burden of attempting toheal these wounds on the “well off” is not only immoral in itself, it iscrazy. To consider an act a moral obligation, it must have an end that fitswithin the realm of reason. If someone is obligated to do something, then thepurpose 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, anend 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 hungeris not a reasonable goal.
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Singer uses the term “morally significant”throughout his essay, citing that we our morally obligated to help others inneed to the point that what we have is morally significant to our well being. Hedoes 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 ofthought, that type of thought is considerably dangerous in the sense that iteliminates the right of individual happiness. This thought, which Singerattributes 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? DoesSinger honestly believe that the typical American citizen, after reading one ofhis manifestos, will turn down the 57″ projection television and opt for the13” one, and then send the money they saved to the African War Baby ReliefFund? Hell no. For all we know, Singer may argue that a television is not acomparably moral significant item.
And in todays society and culture, that isnot a reasonable end. Singer uses St. Thomas Aquinas (12th century Italiantheologian and philosopher) as a reference to his philosophical view, andalthough Aquinas was one of the foremost experts on religion and humanism, he isnot living in the 21st century. Singers views border a utopian society, andalthough 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 fromit (according to both Singer and Arthur). Saving the child, without risk ofpersonal injury, is the moral thing to do. Arthur even goes as far as to addthat it is morally acceptable to use a boat that is not yours to aid in therescue. He contends that duties to bring aid can override duties not to violaterights.
I contend that this is acceptable, but only if an immediate end is theresult. The saving of the drowning child, after all precaution are taken, iswell 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 casemay be, there are economic differences and some people have the power to do morethan others do.
It is called sacrifice. It does not require the end of owningmaterial goods for ones own pleasure, just simply limitations donevoluntarily to ensure the well being of the human race. If people choose not toparticipate, so be it. Are we supposed to get angry with them? What would thataccomplish? Limiting the consumption of meat products, while still a radicalidea, is an idea nonetheless.
Labeling such duties as moral obligations does nothelp the hungry and the poor, it just creates more.