Theblogogy - The Blog of Theology and Questions

The Blog of Theology and Questions

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Question of Drowning Children

Peter Singer has an article about a lecture he gives his ethics class. "On your way to class, you notice a child drowning in a lake. Do you have the ethical responsibility to jump in the water, ruin your shoes, and miss class to save this child's life?"

His class says yes.

"Why don't we go to the same effort and expense to save a starving child's life, then?" He goes on to talk about our "Global Ethic," but I encourage you to read the whole thing here.

The problem with this question is that is misses the real questions of morality and our responsibility to help people.

By jumping into the pond, you can literally save the child's life by moving them from the water to dry land. The same is not true of sending aid to a foreign country. Some nations have been at war for decades, making food a pressing need but not a resource that changes the position of the children living there. For that, we need a cultural change. Singer's question should be asked like this, "Do you have an ethical responsibility to dive into a lake and breathe into the mouths of a hundred children all day, every day, for the rest of their lives?


This is also why a "Global Ethic" is paralyzing. We may have a role to play in changing that situation, but the situation is the problem, the position. More on this to come.

Thanks for reading. Let's keep learning, together.


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