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Are the absolutely affluent morally obligated to help the absolutely poor? Consider how Rachels and Nozick might respond to Singers argument.

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Chrystal Fortugno Philosophy 102 May 7, 2003 Q: Are the "absolutely affluent" morally obligated to help the "absolutely poor?" Consider how Rachels and Nozick might respond to Singer's argument. The question of who deserves what and who owes what to who is a philosophical question that people unendingly attempt to answer, never coming to a universal and workable conclusion. No matter what outcome is decided upon, someone is destined to be unhappy about it, as unhappiness almost seems to be the defining human condition, with someone always being unhappy about something. However, there are a few who have attempted to answer this question in a reasonable and moral manner, such as Nozick, Singer, and Rachels. Each of these people takes a somewhat different approach to answering this difficult question. To begin a comparative analysis of these theories, I will first go over the ideas that Singer represents in "Rich and Poor," going on to analyze what Rachels and Nozick would say in response to Singer's argument. ...read more.


To this idea, Singer responds by saying that in order to enforce something of this nature, we must consider the probability involved with each outcome that could possibly occur. Singer belies that those in a position of absolute affluence are morally obligated to help those unfortunate people who are victims of absolute poverty. Nozick has a rather different point of view on entitlement than Singer does. Nozick's "Entitlement Theory of Justice" has three basic principles to help decide if a distribution is just or not. The principle of justice in acquisition determines the legitimate ways to acquire things, such as investing one's labor into it, or finding previously un-owned property and claiming it for one's own. The principle of justice in transfer describes the legitimate means of transferring wealth to others, such as by giving gifts, or voluntary exchange. The principle of rectification determines the conditions in which wealth can and should be re-distributed, such as replacing someone else's property. If none of these principles are violated, the distribution is a just one. ...read more.


Rachels uses something of a Kantian justification in the idea that industriousness or the willingness to work is obviously not the same as actually working. In regards to Singer's ideas, Rachels position is a bit hard to decipher. It would seem that Rachels would agree with Nozick in that people deserve to do what they please with what they have acquired, if they deserved it and if those who it is being distributed to deserve it as well. However, Rachels also says that people may have received something based on right, when in reality, the most important factor is desert, and in that respect they should not have said object. Nozick and Rachels seem to have similar points of view in disagreeing with Singer's idea that those who have the means, should help those without. Each of these people brings up ethically relevant points about the nature of justice in distribution, despite their disagreement. There is certainly something to be learned from each of these articles in the unanswerable question of who deserves what, what constitutes that desert, and why they deserve it over another person. ...read more.

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