© 2016

Responsibility in an Interconnected World

International Assistance, Duty, and Action

  • Examines the interplay between different types of moral obligation within the complicated, contemporary circumstances of international assistance

  • Uses case studies focusing on some of the most complex and troubled regions of the world to links theory to practice

  • Develops a practical framework to guide actions and evaluate outcomes in complex and uncertain circumstances


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

  1. 1.School of Natural SciencesTrinity College DublinDublin 2Ireland

About the authors

Susan Murphy is the Assistant Professor in International Development Practice with the School of Natural Sciences, Trinity College Dublin and programme coordinator for the joint TCD UCD Masters in Development Practice (MDP).  Susan lectures on Gender, Social Inclusion, Climate Justice, human rights and Development. Her research interests are in applied normative international political theory, issues in global justice and development, human rights and climate change, gender and social inclusion. Since completing her PhD in the School of Politics and International Relations UCD in 2012, she has published in national and international peer-review journals on matters related to international development and normative political theory including Irish Studies in International Affairs, The Economic and Social Review, The Journal of Global Justice: Theory, Practice, and Rhetoric, and the Journal of Global Ethics. She is currently leading baseline research projects on gender and

education, and the gendered dimensions of climate change in East Africa. Susan is also a member of the steering committee of the Trinity International Development Initiative (TIDI), School of Natural Sciences Research Ethics Committee, and INTEGER Natural Sciences Committee. External roles include non-executive Director - Oxfam Ireland Council; committee member of Future Earth Ireland; Visiting lecturer to the School of Politics and International Relations UCD; and Visiting fellow with REPOA, Policy Research for Development, Tanzania.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Responsibility in an Interconnected World
  • Book Subtitle International Assistance, Duty, and Action
  • Authors Susan P. Murphy
  • Series Title Studies in Global Justice
  • Series Abbreviated Title Studies Global Justice
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016
  • Publisher Name Springer, Cham
  • eBook Packages Religion and Philosophy Philosophy and Religion (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-319-31443-3
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-319-62644-4
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-319-31445-7
  • Series ISSN 1871-0409
  • Series E-ISSN 1871-1456
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XXXVI, 173
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Political Philosophy
    Human Rights
    International Relations
    Political Theory
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


“In Responsibility in an Interconnected World, Susan P. Murphy aims to provide a practical approach to charitable giving that is grounded in the moral duty to assist. … Responsibility in an Interconnected World is commendable for pushing us to think more holistically about the duty to assist.” (Ethics & International Affairs, Vol. 31 (3), 2017)

“Susan Murphy’s book provides an excellent analysis of the philosophical underpinnings of development-aid assistance. … The structure of the book is very reader-friendly, with an abstract for each chapter. It is particularly helpful for readers interested in different aspects of the book, either the philosophical underpinnings, or the more practical aspects of the arguments.” (Nita Mishra, The European Journal of Development Research, 2017)