Responsibility in an Interconnected World

International Assistance, Duty, and Action

  • Susan P. Murphy

Part of the Studies in Global Justice book series (JUST, volume 13)

About this book


This monograph opens with an examination of the aid industry and the claims of leading practitioners that the industry is experiencing a crisis of confidence due to an absence of clear moral guidelines. The book then undertakes a critical review of the leading philosophical accounts of the duty to aid, including the narrow, instructive accounts in the writings of John Rawls and Peter Singer, and broad, disruptive accounts in the writings of Onora O’Neill and Amartya Sen. Through an elaboration of the elements of interconnection, responsible action, inclusive engagement, and accumulative duties, the comparative approach developed in the book has the potential to overcome the philosophical tensions between the accounts and provide guidance to aid practitioners, donors and recipients in the complex contemporary circumstances of assistance.

Informed by real world examples, this book grapples with complex and multi-dimensional questions concerning practices and the ethics of aid. The author judiciously guides us through the debate between deontological and consequentialist moral theories to arrive at a sophisticated consequentialist account that does justice to the complexity of the problems and facilitates our deliberation in discharging our duty to aid, without yielding, as it should not, a determinate answer for each specific situation. Researchers, students, and practitioners of international aid will all find this book rewarding.

Win-chiat Lee,

Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy, Wake Forest University

Susan Murphy’s book offers us a sophisticated exploration of the philosophical basis for aid. It is grounded in a full understanding of the complexities and pitfalls of the aid industry, but its particular strength lies, mainly through an extensive discussion of Singer, Rawls, O’Neill and Sen, in a comparison of consequentialist and duty-based approaches, eventually endorsing a broad non-idealised, situated consequentialist account in what she calls an interconnected ethical approach to the practice of assistance. For anyone wanting to think carefully about why we should give aid, this book has much to offer.

Dr Nigel Dower

Honorary Senior Lecturer, University of Aberdeen

Author of World Ethics – the New Agenda (2007)


Action and ethical reasoning Affluent citizens in affluent states Conceptualisation of the duty to aid Conflict and non-conflict zones Contemporary practical ethics Contemporary practices of assistance Duty and obligation Duty-based ethics Enormous levels of harm and suffering Humanitarian and development assistance John Rawls Moral guideline Multiple aid efforts Peter Singer Practical applications of moral duty Practical ethics Practical philosophy Responsibility in an Interconnected World Widespread practice of giving aid

Authors and affiliations

  • Susan P. Murphy
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Natural SciencesTrinity College DublinDublin 2Ireland

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