Famine, Affluence, and Morality author Peter Singer emphasized the importance of benevolence and generosity toward those who were impoverished and destitute. I’ll start by going over the basics of Singer’s arguments in this paper. Second, I’ll attempt to evaluate Singer’s arguments in terms of moral considerations. Following that, I’ll defend my position on Singer’s omission of the aforementioned moral considerations. Principally, in the article, Singer argues that the affluent in the society should give away their wealth until such a point when by giving more they would be causing as much suffering to themselves and their dependents or such a point until they will be compelled to sacrifice something that is morally important to them. He prevails that one of the fundamental duties of the human beings is to extend a helping hand to the others in the community who may be in need. However, he issues a caveat with regard to beneficence in stating that generosity should be extended “without sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance” (Singer 231). Essentially, Singer predicates that human beings have a moral duty to extend help to victims of famine. It should therefore be a matter of necessity rather than choice. The basic principle in these assertions is that, the affluent in the society act immorally by choosing not to share significant portions of their wealth with individuals who face famine and poverty.
In forwarding his sentiments, Singer overlooks the moral consideration that constant benevolence is self-defeating. Just because the affluent have the resources that would enable them to extend help to the starving, it is not necessary that this is the decision that they should engage. Recent times have seen an increase in the reinforcement of the self-defeating effect of generosity. To begin with, individuals who are the subject of constant generosity, tend to become unproductive. The premise engaged in such circumstances alludes to the development of lethargically-inspired actions which further negate the wellbeing of the suffering in the society. Essentially, people became more comfortable with their situation s when they are assured of help in the event of a famine. Therefore, aid negates initiative which is far more detrimental in the long run. To promote the balance of happiness, it is necessary for each and every individual to be working towards their own sustenance (Singer 238).
Overall, aid becomes ineffective if it only serves to temporarily mitigate famine in a given region. Thus, instead of allowing continued beneficence to the poverty-stricken, such initiatives should be curtailed in order to encourage the afflicted individuals to determine ways through which they can prevent the recurrence of the same in the future. This premise is aligned towards the notion that famine relief funds do not solve the problems of the afflicted but rather postpone the manifestation of the same in the future. It is most likely that by extending relief to the victims in Bengal, they will only be encouraged to solicit assistance rather than channel their efforts towards the complete eradication of the famine from the region. Intrinsically, this argument provides a succinct explanation for the continued cases of famine in the regions that have been facing such a challenge for the past 20 years. Famine in regions such as Sudan have been a common feature of the given society since independence but up to date comprise one of the major causes of death in the regions. This attests to the negative implications of aid in regions afflicted by famine. It is therefore a plausible explanation that the reason behind the manifestation of such occurrences has its roots in the constant aid that is extended to such individuals.
Indeed, recurring famine comprises a common feature in developing countries. Such countries have, for a long time, been the beneficiaries of foreign aid from developed countries as well as international relief organizations such as the United Nations (UN). However, these countries continue to grapple with famine. Principally, 20 or 30 years later, such countries have not been able to determine policies that specifically address the recurrence of famine in the regions. This is a consequence of the lethargy that the leaders and residents of the afflicted extend towards famine mitigation efforts. Given their awareness of the availability of aid when they require it, many of the residents do not take it upon themselves to collectively determine frameworks that will eradicate famine in their regions. Aid in such regions serves the purpose of curtailing famine at the given moment. However, this is merely the postponement of famine in the regions for without proper prevention mechanics, famine will continue to beleaguer the residents.
Conclusively. Singer’s argument overlooks basic moral considerations. In reinforcing the need to give until such a point when one would be subjecting themselves and their dependents to harm overlooks the implications of such an initiative on the afflicted. An increase in aid, curtails the initiatives and willingness of the poverty-stricken to fight their circumstance. In the knowledge that they will be extended help when they are in need, such individuals do not feel the need to work hard to alleviate their penurious situations.
Singer, Peter. “Famine, Affluence and Morality.” Philosophy & Public Affairs 1.3 (1972): 229-243.