Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Charity or Duty?

Yesterday evening I read a very interesting paper for today's Critical Thinking tutorial. The author proposed a somewhat controversial idea I thought I'd share with you. It has to do with how much money affluent people and governments are obliged to give to those less fortunate. The argument goes something like this:

Premise one: We all probably agree that death and suffering are bad things. Suffering in this case is all the negatives that go along with famine and starvation and so forth.

Premise two: If we have the power to stop something bad from happening or continuing to happen, we ought, morally, to do it. He presents an analogy for this premise: if you witnessed a child drowning in a pond, you would be morally obligated to help them. Ignoring this would be morally wrong.

Conclusion: Therefore, if you are aware that there are people dying in the world due to poverty, and your affluence provides you with more than your basic needs, you are morally obligated to give them money.

To sum up: Giving to charity isn't just a nice thing to do. Not giving to charity is wrong. The author goes on to say that one of the problems with our society is the light in which we tend to cast giving to charity. He insists that we should stop viewing donations to charity as being generous, and start viewing it as fulfilling duty.

Now, this posed some problems for my class because, naturally, when somebody says you ought to do something on moral grounds, you want to rebut. Doing so, however, is something myself and the rest of my class found challenging.

For the sake of interest, I published the whole paper online here. It's a longish read, but if you have an hour to spare and think you might be interested, it's there for the perusing.


At 3:00 PM, Blogger Sarah said...

I don't think that's all that controversial... I guess I'm rather of the same opinion myself. But then, I have a guilt complex so I may be an exception.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home