Is the Singer Solution to World Poverty too demanding?Philosophy of ValueDepartment of Philosophy, University of NottinghamV7DVALSachin Nandha
Is the Singer Solution to World Poverty toodemanding?
In this essay, I will be concerned with the Singer solution to world poverty. I willanalyse the Singer proposal through studying two examples that he uses in his paper,one of which he borrows from Peter Unger. I will highlight the ethical distinctions between the examples Singer uses and their relation to the people he is addressing,namely, the people in the developed nations of the world. In order to understand theSinger solution, I will have to understand the paradigm from which it stems – aconsequentialist theory called Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is the ethical theory that promotes actions as moral if it increases overall ‘happiness’ and classifies actions asimmoral if they reduce ‘happiness’. Within Utilitarianism there are two forms that Iwill consider in the essay, namely, act-utilitarianism and rule-utilitarianism. Act-utilitarianism is the doctrine that applies actions directly, so that an individual actionis right if it increases happiness more than any alternative. Rule-utilitarianism is thedoctrine that holds one ought to act in conformity with a code of rules and conformitywith these rules by everyone would maximise utility. By utility, I mean the basic unitof desirability or happiness (Blackburn, 1996). I will clearly show the limitations of both the Utilitarian forms and relate them to the Singer solution, concluding with six points as to why the Singer solution is too demanding.The Singer Solution is composed of several fictitious examples, which he uses tomake several striking points about ones duties and what one ‘ought’ to do. His firstexample is that of a
‘Retired schoolteacher who makes ends meet by sitting at the train stationwriting letters for illiterate people. Suddenly she has an opportunity to make$1000. All she has to do is to persuade a homeless 9-year-old boy to followher to an address she has been given. She is told that a wealthy family will adopt the boy. She delivers the boy and gets the money, spends some of it ona new television set and settles down to enjoy her new acquisition. Her neighbour spoils the fun, however, by telling her that the boy was too old to beadopted – he will be killed and his organs used for transplantations.’