Good Samaritans, Good Humanitarians
Duties of beneficence are not well understood. Peter Singer has argued that the scope of beneficence should not be restricted to those who are, in some sense, near us. According to Singer, refusing to contribute to humanitarian relief efforts is just as wrong as refusing to rescue a child drowning before you. Most people do not seem convinced by Singer's arguments, yet no one has offered a plausible justification for restricting the scope of beneficence that doesn't produce counterintuitive results elsewhere. I offer a defence of this restricted scope by introducing the notion of unique dependence, a notion that is both intuitively attractive and theoretically grounded. It explains why your reason to rescue the drowning child is more stringent than your reason to contribute to humanitarian relief, while blocking the conclusion that we have no reason at all to aid distant sufferers.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506, USA
Publication date: August 1, 2007