Utilitarian Perspective

Coming from a utilitarian perspective (which is explained in the lecture), the controversial philosopher Peter Singer feels that people need to be made uncomfortable in order to raise their awareness. One of the ways he does this is to argue that we are all obligated to donate the extra money we have to help those in poverty in poorer nations. In his NY Times article linked in the module, Singer discusses the example of a rich man named “Bob” who would rather save his car than save the life of a child. Although it is easy to see Bob as immoral, Singer quickly makes an analogy to the common American who could donate $200 to save a child’s life but does not do so. What is really the difference between us and Bob? Singer asks. The only difference, he says, is that Bob is the only one who can save the child, whereas hundreds of thousands of Americans can save the lives of children in poorer countries. You may answer that with Bob, the life and death situation is more immediate, but then Singer would reply that it’s exactly the same with a child in another country; as he points out, why should how far someone is away from us matter to whether we should help them? Singer’s original 1972 article is linked in the module as well and discussed in the lecture. Today, Singer is at the forefront of what’s called “effective altruism”–that is, actually helping people and not just virtue signaling (virtue signaling is explained in chapter 8). After doing the Singer readings and watching the lecture, please also watch his TED Talk  (Links to an external site.) .  As your response to this discussion, first paraphrase at least one of Singer’s central ideas (but not Bob, because that’s mentioned above)–the child in the shallow pond, his point about the myth of Sisyphus, his reevaluation of duty and charity, and so forth. Then, give your opinion on Singer’s ideas relating to charity. Do you think his arguments are strong or weak? If you think they are weak, what objections could you give to Singer that he does not already address in the provided readings and TED Talk? Before you present any objections to Singer, please also listen to this podcast  (Links to an external site.)  with a philosopher and a psychologist (from time 7:20 to about 15:00) where they discuss the “stages of Singer” that students typically go through when first learning about his ideas. Which stage are you in? Just to be clear, you will lose points if you present objections that Singer addresses. Also, when you respond to other students, you do not have to paraphrase their analysis of Singer, just their opinion. Discussion grading reminder: did you read and follow the rules for essay discussions from the syllabus and the Discussion Grading Criteria, including paraphrasing, posting after Thursday, and more? Remember that all of your posts on this discussion should be much more in depth than your posts on regular discussions: not only must ideas from the reader be fully explained (paraphrased), but you must paraphrase other students’ posts as part of your replies.  Are you going to link to an outside source or page? If so, have you followed the Rules for Linking Sources?

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