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John Arthur

Introduction entitlemnts and desert in favor of Singer's

principle, arguing that in frct it would not.
What do those ofus who are relatively affluent
owe, from a moral standpoint, to those who are
hungry, sick, and may die lvithout assistancel A Duty to Prevent Evil?
Peter Singer claims that we ought to prevent
evil uhenever wc can do co wiLhout Som hx!e rrgued rhrt rhe iderl ol trearing
sonething of comparable moral significance. In people equally requires that we do much more
doingso, he argues there is n duty to provide aid to aid others thar is usually supposed. tuchard
whenever others are in $eater need and wil Watson, for example, emphasizes what he cxlls
suffer without our help.l Othc' phitosophers, the "p nciple ofquity." Since "all human life
relling on rhe principle rhrr rll hunran life i. is of equal vrlue," and difference in treatment
of equal valuc, have reached similar conclu- should be "based on frcely chosen actions and
sions.'? My first concern, then, is to assess such not accidents of birth or envirorment," he
arguments on their own terms, asking whether fiinks that we hrve "qual ights to the neces-
these arsumeflt do, in fact, establish I duty to sities of life."3 To distribute food unequally
give aid. I will argue, in response, that our assumes that some lives nre worth more then
moral "intuitions" include not only the com- others, an assumption which, he says, we do
mitments they emphasize, but also entitlments, nor accepr. Warson chims lhe "equil) prin
which suggests that people who deserve or hrve ciple" should not be viohted even to stop
rights to tbir earnings may be lowed to kep annihilation.
thcm. Is Watson conect that all life is of equal
But the fict that our accepted social mor value? Did Adolflr Hitler and Martin Luther
code includes ntitlcmenls is not r complete King, for example, lead equally valuable lives?
ansver, for it is possible that contcmporary Clearly one did far more good, the other far
moral .rnitudcs are mistaken *nd our current more harm: and who would deny that while
code is defective. So in the final sections I ask King fought for people's rights, Hitler liolated
\ hc(her ar "iJerl" moril codc $ould reicct them on a massive scalc? Nor are moral vitues

World Hunger
Famine Relief and the ldeal l\4oral Code
like courage, kindness, and rrustworthiness companble moral ihporrdn.e, wc oughr, nordt),
equally distributed among people. So therc are
ro deserve equal consideration. We are giving spe- ever, are ghts to recejve some benefit. I aglee
cial consideration to ourselves or to our group, to work for Jones. IfJones does then not pay
many important senses in which people ar.e not,
rnther like r racist does. Equal considention of me, then my right to receive a paycheck has
in fact, monlly equa| some lives are more valu- In other words, peoplc are entirled to kcep tjrcir
interests thus leads naturally to the greater been violated.
able to others, and some people ar.e just, gener- earnings only if there is no way for them to
prerent r greater cvil by giving rhem awtry_ morrl evil principle. Negative rights are also natural or human, that
ous and courrgcour wbile others.ue unjusr,
is, they depend on whatyou arc, not what you've
cheap, and cowardly. Providing orhrs .with food, clothing, and hous-
done. For instance, all persons have the right to
Yct all the same the ideal ofequality js olten ing would generally be of mor imporrance than
thought to b a cornerstone of morrlity and bu!ing luxuries. so rhe grerrcr mor.l evil prin-
Entitlments life. But any positive rights you have are not
natural in this sense. They arise because others
justice- But what does it man to say all peopl ciple now requires subsrantial redistribution oI Equal considration seems to rcquire that we have promiscd, agreed, or contracted to do
are "cqual?" It seems to me rhat we might have wealth.
should prevent harm to others if in doifig so something for you. Consquently, t! right not
in mind one oftwo things. First is an iden rhat Certainly few of us live by rhat principle,
we do not sacrifice anything of comparabl to be killed does not depend on anything you or
Thomas Jelferson e:rpresscd in the D?ttdrutnn although as Singer emphasizes thrt hardty
of Indelendence. "All men are created equal" shows w are /sr,rd in behaving that way.
mor'l importance. But there is also another anybody else has done; however, th dght to be
idea which Singer ignores: the ider of entitle- paid a wage arises only from prior agreements.
me,rnt, for him, thar ro man is the moml infer- We often f:ril ro live up to our own standards.
ior of another, that, in other words, there are Wh)' does Singcr rhinl oul shared moraliry
ments that I have rights or may iustly deserv- None of that is to say that rights, whether
ing something and these ale also momlly negative or positive, are beyond controversy.
certrin righrs which all men sharc equally, in- requires thnt we follow the greater moral evil
significant. For example, we could help others Rights come in a variety of shapes and sizes,
cluding life and liberty. We are entitled to pur-
is by giving away body parts. While your life and people olren diragree aboul borh their
sre our o\{n lires withour inrerference from I-Ie begins rvirh an analogy. Suppose you
may be shortend by the loss of a kidney or less shape and size. And while some rights are part
others, iusr as no pcrson is the natuml slave of a child drowning in a shaflow
enjoyable iflived with only one eye, those costs of our generally shared moral code and widely
Jnorher. Bur, rsJefferson also tnew. cqualiry in pond. Certainly we feet it woutd be wrong not
are probrbll not companble ro the loss crperi- rccepted. othrs arc conrroversisl lnd horly dis-
that snse dos not require equal distribution of to help. Even if saving a child meant we must
enced by a percon who will die without any puted.
the necessities oflif, only rhat we not interfere dity our clotbes, we would emphasize thrt
kidney or who is totally blind. Or perhaps Normally, then, we seem to think that a duty
with one another, nllowing instead every person those clothes arc not of comparablc significance
somebody needs to remain hooked up to you to help strangers in need is not based on any
the liberty to pursue his own affairs, so long as ro rhe child s life. Thc srerrer morJ crit prin-
for an extended period of time while awaiting a ngl,r that person has, but mther on the general
he does not violnte thc lights ofothers. ciple thus seems a natural way ofcapturing why
transplant.6 Howeuer. our code does not r.4rrfc duty all people have to aid those in need. The
Somc people, however., have somerhing dif- we think it would be wrong not ro jrelp.
such heroismj you are entitled to your second person would have a right to aid only if someone
ferent in mind when they spcak oI human But th argumenr for rhe greater moral evil
eye and kidny and to control who uses your had contracted or promised to protect the child,
equality. To develop this second idea, we will principle is nor limired ro Singer's (laim rhar rt
body, and that entitlemcnt blocks the infercnc lor instance, a baby sitter or lifeguard who had
tuln to Singer's aryument in ,,Famine, Afflu- explains our feelings about the drowning child
or that ir appears "uncontrovcrsial." Moral frorn the fact you could prevent harm to the asrced ro care for the child. If the child is
ence, and Morality." In that essay, Singer ar-
gues that two general moral principles are (qualirl also enrers rhe niLrure. in rhe folluuing conclusion you ought to lt others hav or use harmed, then the parent would be doubly
your body. wronged. First, th sitter, Iike cverybody clse,
widely accepted, and then that ihose principles way.s Besides the Jeffersonian idea that wc
We express tbese ideas in terms ofrights; it's should not cruelly or thoughtlessly let it drown.
imply an obligarion ro eliminat srarvdion. share certain rights equally, mosr ofus arc also
your body, you have a right 10 it, and that Second, unlike in Singer's example, the sitter
The fi$r of the two principles he thinks we attractcd to anothcr conception ol equality,
weighs against whatever duty you have 1o has rlso violated the child's rights since the
accept is that "suffering and death trom lack of nanely thir like amounts of suffering (or hap
piness) are olequal significance, no mdter who
help. To give up your right to your kidney for sitter promised to care for the child, and
food, shelter and medical care are bad.,' Soruc
a srmnger is more lhan nol required. ir i\heroic. hnce, assumed special obl; gations.
may be inclired to think rhat the mere exisrence is experiencing thcm. I cannoi reasonably say
that, whilc my pnin is no more sevele than Unless, of course, you have agred to let the In deciding whnt to do, we must consider
of such an evil in itself places an obligation on
person use your body, which brings us to the moral rights. Unfortunately, the greater moml
othels, but drat is,, the problem which yours, I .lm somehow special and it's morc
evil principle igaores them. But that is not all
Singer rddresses I trke ir rhat he is nor beggng objcctively importani that rnine be allevi:rtect.
There are two types of rights, negative and we need consider, for our moral code expects us
the qucstion in this obvious way and .will argrd But if we fail to sive to famine relief and
from the cxistencc of evil ro the obtigation ol instead purchase r new car when rhe old ore
positive. Negative lights are dghts against inter- to help people in ncel es o(ll dr to respect
ference by othe$. The right to life, fol example, negflive and posilive righrs. M1 ,:lairn here is
others to eliminate it- Bur how, exactly, does he will do, or buy fancy ctorhcs for a friend when
is a right not to be killed by othrc; the right simply that we are sometims entitled to invole
establish thisl He claims t}'e greatet moral e?it his or herold ones are perfecily good,,rr we not
against assault is a right not to be physically our own rights to iustify our inaction. It 1ve did
lmlcipb shows the connec.ion. That pinciple assuming that rhe relarively minor enioymcnt
harmed by others. Other negrtive rights include not promise to help, and are in no way respon-
we or our friends may get js as important as
the ight to one's body, to proprty, to privacy, sible for the pe*on's siturtion, then we ned
another person's lifc? And thar, it seems, is a
Ifir and to religious freedorn. These require only not ignore our own rights and give away our
is in our power to prcve.t sonerhing bd fton form of prejudice; we are acting as if people
hrppcning, witholl $erebl sacificing ,ny.hins of that others not interfere. Positive rights, how- savings to help distxnt strangers.
were not equal in the scnse that their interesrs

World Hunger Famine Relief and the tdeal Moral Code

A second form of enritlement are "j sr des- fact that equality and entitlements are both of an orgpnization, others, Iike lx!v, etiqutle rhe goals are somctimcs open to dispute. Some-
erts": sometimes people deserae to keep whrt part ofour moral code does not in itself jusiify and customs apply more broadly. times, for example, rules may be changed to
they havc acquired. Suppose m industious a person who relies on them, my more thm rhe Let's look at thse issues more closely, com- improv safety (c desiBn in auto rncing) but
farmer works hard and produces a surplus of Inct that our monl cod once condemned racirl p ing momlity with other rule-governed prac- fi other times the changes mry represeDt nt
food for the winter while a lazy neighbor spends mixing while condoning sexual discrimination ticcs like lxw and etiquefte. FiNt, as I suggosted, attempt to make the spol.t less safe but more
the summer relaxing. Must our hald working and sl3very rhould (on!ince ur tlur rlo,e pnn- thc form srnctions take v y among the differ- xcitingJ ol again, rules might be changed to
tarmer give the surplus away bccause ahat ciples are justified. We all assume (I trust) that ent types ofsocid practices.T while in our lgal rccommodate younger plalers, such as abolish-
neighbor, who refused to work, will suffer? In the more enlightened moral code the one we system transgressions are punished by fines, ing thc wnlk in kid's baseball.
some circumstances our normal moral attitudes now subscdbe to - is bene; in part just because jail. or even execution. $ e encouragc conformiry Rules of games and organizations, like legd
would djrcct the farmer to help - but not nc- it condcmns discrimination ,!nd slrvery. Be- to mordity and etiquette through informal md moral rules and principles, can chmge to
cessarily. We must consider not only suffering cause we know fie rules defining acceptable san\tions Iile praise. crrrieism. rnd o"tr:ci.m serve thir puryoses more effectively. However
and rights, but also iust dcserts. And even ifthe bchavior are continually changing, and some- Morcover, while violation ofa moral ptinciple is - rnd this is uucial since therc cnn be deep
farmer's just desed is outweighed in some cases times changinB for the better, we must allow alwnys a srious affair, this is not nccessarily so disagrement about the purposes of these Pmc-
by the greater need of x neighbor, being out- for tbe replacement of infenor principles with for violations ofhw, etiquette, or custom. Many tices, people nlly disagree rbout thc rules: about
rveighed is not the same as rveighing nothing! more rersonable guidelines (and must also allow of us think it uninportant whether a fork is on wllat the rules require, about when there should
the left side of r phte or whether an outmoded be exceptions and about when tie rules can be
Just deserts can be negative (unwanted) as wc the possibility that our current moml views are
well as positive (desired). Nazi war criminals mistaken). rn.l wide\ iFrorcd Sundal closing hu is vio- ignorcd. Disputes about rules governing a social
deuned punishment. In some cases other con- Viewed in this wiy, Singcr is urging us to lated. Bur we do nor lhink thar sorrteone\ vio- group, for instance, may rest on deeper, some-
siderations the fact that nobody will be de- rcform our current social moral code - to reject lating a moral principle is trivial. Indced, when times hidden disagreements about the Purposes
terred or that d1e criminal is old and harmless entitlements, at least when thy conflict \a,ith mornl principles lose their importance, thcy are of the orgmization, just as differcnces between
might weigh against punishing them. However, the greater moral evil principle. He is claiming "demoted" to mere custom. fundrmentalists and liberals over religious rules
thaa does not mean that iust deserts are irrele- that we cannot justify our prlctice ofeviluating Third, legal rules differ from moiality, cus- and principles cm reveal disegreements about
vant, just that we've decided for otier reasons nctions by looking baclward to rights and just ronr, Jnd cliquene in rhlr lhcl include conqti- the purposes of religious practices
ro ignore them in rhi\ ci.e. Bur agrin: r prin- desert, rather than looking forward to the con- tutional" rules governing how laws are to be This is cmcial for understanding disagree-

ciple's being ourweighed rs not the same as ;rs sequenccs of our action- Consequently, w created, modified and eliminated.s Under the ments about morality. Consider the moral rule
having no irnportance. should ask how we might justily the morai US Constitlrtion, for instance, if Congress acts that fbrbids homosexual behavior. If people
Olrt socirl moral codc thus honors both the rules and principles comprising a society's to change the tax laws, then the rules are eftect- could ngree that the rul serves no useful pur-
grenter moral evil principle and entitlernents. moral code. Then we can determine whethcr ivc as of th date stated in thc statute- Socinlly pose, but only increases the guilt, shame' and
The former emphasizes equality, that compr- ent;tlements are part ol an ideal rnoral code. accepted rules, etiquette, and customs social rejection borne by a significant Portion ot
able suffering is cqually significant. It encour'- may also change, of course, but not according society, then we would have good reason to
ags us to imparti. ly discern nll the effects of to any specified Procdure. abandon this rule condemning homoscxuality.
otlI actions, to be forward looking. Entitle- The Concept ofa Social Moral Code tlnt diffcrent codes
So far, then, lve've noted Howcver, others may think nlolality senes to
ments, though, djrct oul attention to the past. and stmdards of bchavior can vary widely, encourage behavior compatible with God's will
Whether we have rights to money, property, or I suggest that we understand a social molal code along a number of dimensions. Some apply or with "nntural" law. These people would
even our body depends on how we came to as a system ofprinciples, rules and other stand- narrowly, only to members of a specific orpn- likely oppose such a change and regard rheir
possss them. A thief may possess the money rrds designeJ Io guidr people's (onduLt. lL iq ization, while othcrs ettend broadly. And while attitudes toward homosexuality as waranted
h hns stolen, but that does not give him a right ahin to other systems of rules and standards, all codes include rules ot other standards to So I am 5uggcsling thxr thrrr is r conneclion
to it. Or perhaps a person has promised to trade like the rules of orgrnizxtions. Social clubs, guidc conduct, the sanctions that lre imposed btwen whlt we ought to do and how well 3
something, which would again (under nortral spolts leagues, corpomtions, bureaucracies, pro- by diffrent codes diffel widely, as do the ways code scrves its purposes. If \{e a$ee about the
circumstanccs) mcan loss of cntitleDrent. Like fessional associations, even 7r. Oryanization I rules chnnge and the importance $signed to purpose ofa practice, then we will have reason
rights, iust desert is dso bnckwardlooking, em- have standards governing the bchavior ofmen- violations of the different codes. to follow any ruie that srvs the gods of that
phasizing past effort or past transgressions that bcrs. These rules also serve ,r purpose, though Finally, standards and norms serve a pur- pl.actice. Conversely, il a lule frustrates rhe
responres suclr as rcrvard. grari- their functions will vary depending on the na- pose, although theil puryoses rvill vary with purposes ofan institution or prlctice, we should
tude, or punishment. ture of the organization. Sanctions will also the organization or practice in question- Ruls not support it! teach it, or to follow it Applying
I am suggesting, then, that in acknowledging vary: violation ofa university's code ofconduct governing games, for example, are often ihis to momlily, I can now state a concption of
both equality and entitlements m well as the lrds to one sort of punishment, while social changed, either informally among plnyers or a ight action: Any action is right ifand only ifit

importance of preventing harm to othe$ our clubs or the American Bar Association may by a govcrning organization lite the Nntiontl conforms silh an rdeal moral code for our soci-
social morai code pulls in different directions. impose diffcrent sanctions. And while some Footbxll Lergue. This is done to more effect- ery tsclore wr say prccitly uhat rhis requircs.
But unless we are moral relativists, the rnere standards of conduct are limited to members ively achieve ih game's gorls, although even we must consider whrt, exlctly, an id?4/ mor,l

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World Hunger Famine Relief and the ldeal Moral Code

code is. fhat requircs lnow;ng what we hope to Moral rules thus prcmote our wellare by concerned not merely with our own happiness, also be workable and practical. That is, the idal
dcLomplish b) (reating, reat'hing anJ enlorcing discouraging acts of violence and other dam- but the happiness of all humanity. Given rhis code must be one that works for people as they
a social moral code- agirs behavor and by r rcrting arrd rnarnrarning universal sympathy for others, hc conch'les are, o! at least as they an be.ea.sonably encour-
val able social conventions. They also perform that it is nltural to understmd a social moral aged to become.
the same service for our family, friends, and code as promoting everybody's well-being.
The Ideal Social Moral Code indeed all of us. A socicty wholly oitiort legal But suppose thrt some people do rot sharc
and moral codes would likly deterionte into a the"e sympaLhits lor orhcrs Such an egohr Are Rights Part ofthe Ideal Code?
One possibility, aleady mentioned) is that mor- Hobbesian state ofnature in which life is "soli- might clairn that the best code would be one
ality's purpose depends on God th.rt morality tary, poor, nasty, brutish lnd shot." maximizing ils r,r,? welfare He might *iink Inirirlly, ir mighr sccm thar rtglrts and iu'r
serves to encourage people to act in accord with Many people will find this uncontrovenirl, that this "ideal" code, rvhich he would support, descrt would not be patt of an idcal code
God's will. However, I will suggcst, and briefly thinking that they hav reason to suppofl and would grve him absulule pow(r oler Ih lives Afrer ,rll, somc sould (lxi a code $hich in-
defnd, the view that the ided moral code is rhe follow a moral code that promotes the geDerd and property ofothers. I{ow should others, who cluded only fi grcater morxl evil prirciple
one that, when recognized and taught by mem- welfar. But rlhat more might b snid to thos think the ideal code is the one that would have would have, the best overall consequences l
bers of society, would have the best conse- who remain skeptical! One suggestion, from the best consequences for everybody, rcspond will argue, however' that the ideal cod would
quences. Br best ronsequences. I mln rhar ir David Hume, emphasizes the importance of to thxt person? One might simply acknowledge not ignore rights for two reasons' each ofwhich
$ould moqr effecti\elt prumore the .oll(dire scntiment and fceling in humin actions. Hume thrt \tc cannot reason with, lt ^lone refute' arises fr'om the fnct that the code must employ
wcll-being of those living under it. (It's worth claimed humans can be moved to rct only b) him. But it would be nice to have r further r;listic, accurate assumptions about human be-
noting that a religious pe$on need not riecr feelings and sentiment. On this view people are rcsponse. And we do. inss and our life in this world.
this lInceprion. She might rcason that God moral because human nature is not sinrply self- Suppose we asked this rational goist con- Recall the earlier discussion of sclf-love nnd
would want to promote the general well-being.) ish, but also exhibits a sertimentrl nttachmenr cerned only to secure his own welfare whther afiruism. {lrhough ldid suggecr, tollor-\rng
This ida that the code senes th purpose of to th wll-being ofothers. This is apparent, he he could &r/ir^, supPort a moral code benefit- Hume, that we ought not ignore people's rltru-
promotingwcll-being-seems central to both bw reasoned, from the fxct that we ing only himselP Could he xpect others to istjc side, it is atso imporlmt thrt we not assume
and momlity. Both /,Jcruragc mzny of the same accepr lhe iJci lhal soc;er! should rccogn;ze people are ma"c altruistic than rhev are Moral (or
acts killing, robbing, and beating while ,r- frequendy b6tow pFirc on vi,ruous lcrions, peF and teach i code se ing only his interest? legal) rules that would work only for angeis xte
.rrl4glrSolhcrrcl,ons rcpalingdcbr',teeping 'brmed in .crj J,rr-, rss rad r(mo,c.ounri.\' Would he be mrional Io spend Iime ad\ocrring notthcideal ones forhumanbcings Whilewe do
where the utmost subtlery ol imlgimrion would nor
importanr agrecments, and providing for one's thrt such a code be taught in schools, or advo care about others' well-bing, we care especially
discovr anv.ppedrane ofself-;ntdst, or find rny
children. The reason for rules discouraging kill- calinp. il lo olhers) Of cou'sc not {n rgoi't rborl thos wc lovei and we also (,rc deeply
ingand assault are clear enough;asociety withour
.unr.\ion q
'\ { r presen, hJpp,n$s rnJ:e.urirJ
Niih events so widcly separared from !s.t could not rationally advocatc such a codc. own lives. It will threiore be difficult' to
such les could nl,t survive let ilone provide N Thus, even the egoist would be driven torvard put it mildly, to gt Peopieto accept and supporr
valuablc life for irs membcrs. This approach iq ,r cod( cquiring rhJ rhc) give as ay rheir
Hume's claim mrkes sense. We hrve evidence a conception ofthe ideal moral code that would '
further substantiated when we think about rhe that symp{rthy and concern for others' well- nor prumore nrcrely his own $ell-being lr\en or extra organs to a strangd simply bcruse
ways children are taught it is wrong to hit a baby being are a n:rtur al part ofoulbiological herita6.. thc egoist's conception of the ideal moral code doing so would nvoid substanrial vil. Many
brother or sister. Parents typically explain the Some biologists, for example, think altruism will look morc like thc one that other people peoplc would simply ignore this rulc Thev
rules in tems of rheir purposes: hitting brodrcr en(ouragcs lhc <ur\i\xl .l nFnJ h;ghcr rni- with mor normal, sympathetic feelings would cir too deePly xbouttheir own lives and wclfare'
hurts him. In short, ihese rules ofmorality and Other biologisrs clnim $'e icquire the find ideal, namely the one that would have rhc as lvelt as the welfare ofloved ones
larv function to keep people florn unjustifirbly \enl;menrs rlrrough learn ng. Benerolcnce oD- best consequences for cverybody 'fhat is b- More precisely, were the moral code to ex-
harming on another, and ultimately to promore ginates naturally, via classical conditioning: we cause a social moral code musib one that could pcct such saintliness, thre results would likely
the $ell-bins of people living undr them. Thit first experience our orvn pnin, and then associatc function in the world, rvhich requires that it be follow. First, sincc few lvould live up to drc
is why we teach these rules to children, and why it rvith the pdn ofotbers.rl ible to win genernl public supporr by peoPl rules, people would fcel gLrilty. Second, the
we follow them as dults. But rvhatever th explanation for sympxtby, who propose to teach and efforce the code for code would encoumge conflict between those
LilLuisc for rhc rulcs cncourrgrng ceflrin Hume concludes fiom this that we must re- society is a whole. who meet these mo{al expectltions and those
behavior. The lve{-being of oumelves. our nounce xny moral theory "which accounts fbr' \o$ we rre in the Positiun ro rs'css rhe $suc who do not. Finally, l realistic code that doesn't
friends, our family, and indeed, our society every noral sentiment by thc p nciplc of self- with which we began: Would an idcal moral demand too much might rctually result in more
dcpends on people generally kccping promises lovc. Wc must adopt a mor public affection, code include principles rspcting rights and giving. Considcr the following analogy People
and fulfillinB their .rgreemnts. Without iaws and ,rtlow, that the interests ol society are not, just deserts, or would it, as Singcr suggested, might well buy less candy if they .rre permitted
and moral rules to encourage this behavior, the even or their own account, indifferent to us."l2 reject thm completely in favor of the greatcr to buy it occrsionally - but ale praised for
institutions of promising and contracting would lloral app,nvJl ,rnd Londcmn ion, Hume;s mornl evil plinciplel The answer depends on spending on other things thrn if they are
likell be unsustarnrble, rnd qirhour those insri- claiming, rest finnlly on sentimenrs r-ather thnn the fact thrt an ideal morrl code must not only prohibiied from buying candy altogether' Wc
tutions, we would be much worse-off reason, and our sentiments lead us to be be one that can win public slrpport but must cannot assume that nrakine what is now beated

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World Hunger Famine Relief and the ldeal Moral Code

as charity into a moral requirement will always Recall the case of the farmers. Most of us feet then own or their family's welfare. Since most
encourage such behavior. By giving people the that while it would be nice ofthe hard worker ro people's savings accounts and nearlv every-
right to keep their property, yet praising rhose help out a lazy neighbor, the worker also has body's second kidney are not insignificant, n-
Initially I tried to show that our moral code is n
who do not exercise the dght but help others reason - based on his past efforr to refirse. As
bit schizophrenic. It pulls us in opposite direc- titlemnts would in those cases outweigh
instead, we have found a good balance. in the previous discussion of our ideal tions, sometimes toward helping people who are anotherJs ned. But if what is at stake is trdy
Furthemore. an ideal moral code must nor codc must be re istic and practical, and should in need and othff times towrd the view that trivial, ls dirtying one's clothes would normally
assume people are more objective, informed, and not assume people are more xltruistic, informed, rights and descrt iustify keping things we have be, then an ideal mord code uould not allow
unbimed than they :rre. People often rationalize or objctive than they are. F-or instance, we even if giving it awry rvould avert a greater evil. rights to ovrride the greater evil that can be
their behnvior when their intcrests are at stake. knou thar manl pcople do nor esp((ialty enio) This apparent inconsistency lcd us to ask ifour
For example, we might think we should encour.- rvorl,ing and earning a living: rhey would ofren emphasis on rights and deseri ffe renllv defens- That code might also plausibly distinguish
ag pople to break p.omises whenever doing so prefer to do something else. Yt we must wo*
ible. To pursue that question, I suggested we between cases in which the evil is dircctly pre-
would have the best consequences on the ground if we hopc to have a decent life. Therefor, the think about the idea of morai code and
a social sent (as in Ihe droxning child) and in lhosr in
that such a rule would lad to more well-being. idcal moral code should include incentives to the purposes it serves. last sections I
In the which it isn\ present (as with distant people)
Howc\er.llrrs ignores peoplc's lendency ro gi\ c work. A moral code can encourage hard work by a4ued that our culrnt code's mphlsis on The reason, ofcourse, is again practical: people
special weight ru rheir own welfarc, rnd rheir allowing people to keep a Iarge prrt of what they
rights and desert is defensible oncc we under- will be more likely to help those with whom
inability to be unbiascd whelr tracing the effects ellr, bolh by rspecting their righrs and ac- stand that the ideal moral code must be practic they have direct contact and can see immedi_
of different actions. So while an ideal codewould knowledging the principle ofjust descrt.
' ately the evil tiey will prevent thrn they arc to
for only then could it rcllly hrvc the overnll hest
not teach that promises musr never be broken no Suppose we eliminated th notion of deselv- consequences. Undcrstood in this way, th idezl
hclp dirtanr slrrngers So wh;le such I disrinc-
matter whattheconsequences, we also would not ing what we work for lrom our code, and asked codewould not reiect entitlements in favor oftle
rion mat ieem morally arbitrarv' \ie{ed fiom
wlnt to encourage breaking promiss whenever people to follow the $ater moral evil rule greater moral evil rule Our rnoml cod should th perspctive of an ideal moml code il miles
people can convince thcmselvs it would pro- instead. What might happenl There ffe rhrec good sense.
encourAge effort and should not fail by unrealis-
duce less evil to do so. possibilities. On is thrt they continue to pro-
r;c,rlly rssuming th.l Fople arc more dltruisric. Dcspile our code's unclerr rnd som(lrmes
Similar considelations apply to property. duce as before, only this rime motivated by the infomed, or objective than they are Hence, an schizophrcnic posture, these conclusions about
Supposc someone contemplates preventing an dsire derived from their social morrl codc ideal code recognizes people's rights and encour- the requirements ofan iderl moral code that we
evil to herselfor himselfby stealing from a large to prevent whatevcr cvil they cin, as long as rhe nges disbibution according to desert The iderl would be rational to support are in line with our
store where the objcct wouldn't be missed. Such cost to them is not: grenter evil. Bur that seeDs moral codc \tould thereforc not teach people to curent moral attitudes We tend to fault selfish
theft could eisily be rationalized by the sreater unrealistic. Although peoplc e not egoists, people who give little or nothing to chadty, and
seek the best consequcnces in cach case BLrt
moral evil principle. So rlthough a particular act neither are ttrey that altruistic. neither would nn idcal moral code allow popl expct thos with more to give more Yt we do
ofth[t ma] sometimes be u clfarc mavimizing. ir Conscquendy, rve could expect one of the to overlook those in desperate need by making not ask people to make large sacrifices of their
does not follow that ltincille like Singer's other outcomes. One is that peoplc $,ould srop entitlments rbsolute. own or theii family's well-being in ordcr to aid
should respect the right to properry. To recots- working as hard, feeling that ir is no longer But wherc would it dlaw the line? Although distant strangels. What Singer's argumenrs do
nize and teich rhat theft is righr whcnever the worth the eflbrt if they are morally required to it is hllrd to know the following seems a plaus- remind us ol however, is that entidements ate
robber is prevcnting greater evil, even to himself, give awny all but whrt they can use withour ible answer: lve should require People to help not absolute and we dll have some dutv to help'
would work only ifpeople were far more obiect- producing a greiter vil. For instance, suppose strargers when there is no irhrartrrl cost to But the grater moral evil rule expresses onlv
ive,less liabie to self-deception, and more hnow- the tax system took away all income rhar could rhemselves, IhJL i(, $hcn qhrt rhey are sacri part ofthe story, and is not necded to mrke that
ledgeable about the long-tcrm consequences of be used to pre\l:nr n grearer eril befalling firing uould nor mcin rrg,?rr'rrr reduction in point.
tbcir actions than we are. So here again, includ- others. People would likely work less and pro-
ing rights in ourmoral code set'ves a useful roie - duce fewer uscful cornmodiries. with the result
itdiscoumges the tendcncy to underestimate rhc that cveryone's well-being would decline. The Nots
harm we may cruse to others and to exaggerat other possibility is tlrlt
peoplc would f:rjl ro
the benefits that may accrue to ourselves. foilow thc moral code. This would lead ro wide- This is a slishtly abridsed fcsion oi an arlicr paper bv sincd iko olte$ i Nerk" vdsion ol thk prirrcille
spread guilt nmong those rvho don't contlibute, rhe eme nrmt C.p'righr d lqoo h' John Arrhur a*i t" -., i' -. *.ak Itrcqu ess'vrnsid
rhe g,ft is of no nurrl5isnific'nG to the giler'
and heightened resentmenl bv thosc (fe$?) \rho
IsJust Dsert Part of the Ideal Moral I Pcter singe!, "Fioin, Affluenc, ind Moralitv," llnr since e\en minor enbrrosment or smrll
do follow the code. In eithcr case, replacing the rnouts ol lnh.ppines are not @mpletcl) witholt
Code? Phito'apb aan Puhtic AJlatu t/3 (1972)' 22943'
principle of just deserr with the greater moral monl importancc, this wcrk princiPlc would inplv
2 For exrnPh Richard Watson, "R@ton aDd Nloralitv
evil principle would lead to worce conse- in a World of Limited ! ood" h william Aikcn ind no obliaatrot ro d, even to rhc dLuqnins rhild
.Sjmilar practical considerrtions suggest rhe quences. Like rights, rhc principle ofjusr desert Hush LaFollette, cds , t/,r|l Ha ser |nd MM I Ob- seeSLn-eer's."Postsmpf' ro Frmine,Amucncean'l
ideal moral code would also include just desert. is also palt of :rn ideal code. M-.1"; in Ails and LrForlc(e uon'| Hrh| "
laari,, (Enslcwood Cliffs, NJ: Prcntice-Hdl' 1977)'
I lbid., pp. 117_18. atul Motul O|liptioi, P.36.

@ @D
World Hunger

6 Judith Jdvb Thomson, "A Defens of Aborr;oa" 9 D^lid }fffie, An Enqr;ry Cohenins th. Pincipte'
Pnibsoth! axd Psbk Alla6 I /l (1971\. of Mot4ls, S*r. \ , Ptt t, l7s.
7 H- L- A. Hdt, rhe Cosdpt of Ldo, znA edinc4 l0 StephmJay Gould, "So Cleverly Kind an Alimrl'
(Oxford: Oxford Uaiysity Pr$, 1995). n E E Sii.. Datuir (N* York w. W- Norron
8 But Ronald DworLin has .rpen inter?ret-
that lcgd C., 1977).
atiotr is p
dy DoFl md normative, maLins tbis ll Richdd B. Bnndt,.,{ TheorJt of the Good aan &e
.laim more diffrcdt to tuke u that @trtert.
Se, R Srr (Nev Yorh Oxford University Prs, lg79).
lot d nple, InD\ Ehti/. (Gnblidsq Harvdd 12 Htmq A" Enqlir! Coidnins the hkcitLs of
Univmity Pi6s, 1986), clB. 2 dd 7. fiora&, Sct. V, Pa.t II, 178.