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Peter Singer on Poverty

            Peter Singer states that it is unacceptable for people to endure suffering and death from poverty. Quoting the famine in Bengal, he shows the unsatisfactory response of individuals in affluent nations towards humanitarian aid. Singer contends that people in affluent countries should reconsider their lifestyle and ideas of morality. He believes they tend to be self-centred, choosing to spend on wants that are superficial and holds no equivalent moral importance to giving someone a better life, rather than performing their moral duty to alleviate suffering from poverty. Singer questions our vague distinction between 'duty' and 'charity', how society views giving as a supererogatory act- praising those who give to charities, simultaneously deeming inaction not morally wrong. He relates to when clothes are bought for the sake of making ourselves look attractive instead of keeping warm, we are depriving the needy of help they deserve. We can just wear the clothes we already own and spend maximally or more than we presently do on the act of giving. .
             Singer proposes two principles, a stronger one "If it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we ought, morally, to do it." being his main argument. Singer states people from affluent nations are morally obligated to give to a marginal utility if it does not cause them to encounter a similar situation as the one being salvaged. The weaker, "If it is in our power to prevent something very bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything morally significant, we ought, morally, to do it" (Singer, 1972, p. 231) claims that the amount one gives is what he/she considers morally significant and does not require going to a marginal utility. Singer focuses on the stronger principle, believing in giving to the level of marginal utility and explains by using an example of a child drowning in a shallow pond, that we should rescue the child even if it means getting our clothes dirty as soiled clothes are of a lower significance to the bad situation it would be if the child died.

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