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Charity Obligations - Kamm

You’ve suggested that there is some morally relevant difference between refusing to save the drowning child and refusing to give money to help someone dying from preventable causes far away.

Perhaps you think that it is distance that makes the difference: you should help the drowning child because he is right in front of you.

Frances Kamm is a prominent philosopher who has argued that distance can matter morally. From the perspective of a human being, what is close ‘looms larger’ than what is far away. Kamm argues that morality allows us to act from this ‘agent-centred’ perspective – and if we do we will acquire strong duties to aid those near to us.

As we’ve seen, Singer disagrees. He thinks that morality requires an impartial perspective.


Which view is more plausible?

1. Perhaps on reflection, you agree with Singer that distance doesn’t make a moral difference. You might then say that there are no morally relevant differences between the cases

2. Or you might agree with Singer that distance isn’t relevant but hold that there is some other morally relevant difference between the cases.

3. Finally, you might agree with Kamm and maintain that you have a stronger duty to save the child just because he is right in front of you.

Answer 1Answer 2Answer 3
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