Tag Archives: global poverty

Shelly Kagan

Those readers troubled by the fact that millions of people will die this year, who could have been saved for a few dollars each, might want to consider making a contribution to Oxfam. In the United States, the address is: Oxfam America, P.O. Box 4215, Boston MA 02211-4215.

Shelly Kagan, Normative Ethics, Boulder, 1998, p. 316

Thomas Pogge

When Hume’s reflections confronted him with the baselessness of all human reasoning and belief, he found it most fortunate that “nature herself” ensures that he would not long linger in such dark skepticism: “I dine, I play a game of back-gammon, I converse, and am merry with my friends; and when after three or four hours’ amusement, I wou’d return to these speculations, they appear so cold, so strain’d, and ridiculous, that I cannot find it in my heart to enter into them any farther.”

When Parfit’s reflections led him to a reductionist view of personal identity, he found it unfortunate that one cannot long maintain this view of the world, which removes the glass wall between oneself and others and makes one care less about one’s own death. Focusing on his arguments, one can only briefly stun one’s natural concern for one’s own future by reconceiving oneself in accordance with the reductionist view.

Our world is arranged to keep us far away from massive and severe poverty and surrounds us with affluent, civilized people for whom the poor abroad are a remote good cause alongside the spotted owl. In such a world, the thought that we are involved in a monumental crime against these people, that we must fight to stop their dying and suffering, will appear so cold, so strained, and ridiculous, that we cannot find it in our heart to reflect on it any farther. That we are naturally myopic and conformist enough to be easily reconciled to the hunger abroad may be fortunate for us, who can “recognize ourselves,” can lead worthwhile and fulfilling lives without much thought about the origins of our affluence. But it is quite unfortunate for the global poor, whose best hope may be our moral reflection.

Thomas Pogge, World Poverty and Human Rights: Cosmopolitan Responsibilities and Reforms, Cambridge, 2002, p. 26