Peter Singer, the author of Famine, Affluence, and Morality, attempts to distinguish between obligation and charitable motivations. He tries to show that wealthy people should do more to help the people of the world who are needy and suffering from famine. Many people think that giving to famine relief is a good deed, but is optional. Singer believes it is mandatory and morally justified for the fortunate to help the deprived as much as possible. Although he presents many sound arguments, the reality of his proposals are admirable but impracticable and will never exist.
First, it is very important to determine who decides what we ought morally to do and what we are obligated to do. If one has the resources to donate to a charitable cause, are they absolutely obligated to do so? According to Singer, who claims, "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," the answer to this question is yes. If true, then anyone who has ever had the means to help a charitable cause but chose not do so, has neglected the interests of humankind.
Before reading Singers essay, I had no idea about what was going on in Bengal, or in any other third world country for that matter. Needless to say, I do not think many other Americans know about these countries and their conditions. It's not because I do not care, or that most other people do not care, it is the fact that we, as citizens of the United States, have our own priorities and hardships. Singer states that "It makes no moral difference whether the person I can help is a neighbor's child ten yards away from me or a Bengali whose name I shall I never know, ten thousand miles away." Most people are visual persons and need to see something to believe it. The people who have the funds to support a cause are much more likely to give to a charity within their hometown, state, or country. They are not going to support...
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