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Draining the pond: why Singer’s defense of the duty to aid the world’s poor is self-defeating

  • Anton MarkočEmail author
Article

Abstract

Peter Singer’s defense of the duty to aid the world’s poor by the pond analogy is self-defeating. It cannot be both true that you ought to save the drowning child from a pond at the expense of ruining your shoes and that you ought to aid the world’s poor if you thereby do not sacrifice anything of comparable moral importance. Taking the latter principle seriously would lead you to let the child in front of you drown whenever you could thereby save more children in the developing world. Though Singer can defend the duty to aid the world’s poor starting from consequentialist principles requiring you to make things go best in the impartial sense, he cannot have it invoking the commonsense judgment about what you ought to do in the pond case. There is no sound path from commonsense morality to Singer’s principles of beneficence .

Keywords

Peter Singer World poverty Pond analogy Beneficence 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The paper has immensely benefited from comments from Ivan Milić and an anonymous reviewer of this journal. I am grateful to James Plumtree for remarks on writing style and to the audiences at the Institute of Philosophy and History seminars at American University of Central Asia for helpful discussion.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of General EducationAmerican University of Central AsiaBishkekKyrgyzstan

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