I give a critical analysis of Peter Singers claim that we have a duty to help the distant needy. Singer defends a principle that demands us to give up our present moral thinking and way of living. Central in my argument is a distinction between negative and positive duties and rights, a distinction which I partly defend. I claim, however, that we don’t only have natural negative duties (duties not to harm), but also natural positive duties (duties to help others). Nevertheless, I think Singer’s principle cannot be defended. Its demands seem endless, and from the perspective of common sense morality we would say that a person who is living according to this principle acts beyond duty. Singer, however, blurs the distinction between duty and charity. In his later writings also Singer finds the principle too demanding, as it is cutting «strongly against the grain of human nature». Still, he defends the principle as such. Singer suggests a distinction between two moral levels, an ‘intuitive’ and a critical level. He proposes a less demanding principle at the intuitive level (the level of common sense morality), while defending the principle at the critical level. I argue that this solution is flawed as it does not give a satisfactory account of common sense morality.
In current mainstream economic theory human motivation is characterized in very narrow terms. Yet it seems clear that, as for instance Amartya Sen has pointed out, we act out of all sort of reasons, including practical-political ones. So why doesn’t the representatives of mainstream economic theory just recognize that they have been mistaken? Why do they insist on upholding their narrow characterization of human motivation? Critics of mainstream economics tend to treat these questions as rhetorical questions. In this paper, however, it is argued that whereas there are some very good reasons to criticize the established view, there are also some very good reasons to uphold it. The reason as to why this is so, it is argued, is that whereas mainstream economic theory is based on methodological individualism, its critics, on the other hand, base their points of view on methodological collectivism. This implies that just as the critics can argue that the methodological individualism of mainstream economic theory is mistaken empirically (i.e. that our interests, desires and needs are not «ours» but the result, rather, of external, social structures) the representatives of mainstream economic theory can, with equally much right, argue that it simply isn’t possible to account for social phenomena as such without presupposing the individual’s own, distinct point of view.
In modern moral philosophy, appealing to so-called considered intuitions or beliefs remains a central part of accepted methodology. One tests a theory through thought experiments, paradoxes, or examples generating considered beliefs; if a claim cannot fulfill the requirements the results provided by the thought experiments, paradoxes or examples, this is considered sufficient reason for rejecting it. In other words: in order to justify a theory it must by necessity (in addition to being internally consistent) be consistent with considered beliefs. Any moral theory attempts to find a reflexive equilibrium between the two levels of intuition and theory, but this has up to date been a major challenge in the problem of future generations. I approach this challenge on the basis of the so-called Non-Identity Problem, which has been central in intergenerational ethics for a long time. It suggests that the indeterminate identity of future persons makes difficult a rights-based consistent claim that we have a responsibility for their well-being.
What do we imply when we state that some-»thing», or a phenomenon, is given? The task of exploring such a question is the decisive momentum in the writings of the French philosopher Jean-Luc Marion (1946). He has more than anyone set out to explicate a coherent philosophy, or more precisely – a phenomenology of Givenness. Through a critical reading of Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger he proposes a somehow radical phenomenology that holds a potential of illuminating the full range of the phenomenal world we all are a part of. In this article we try to achieve a better understanding of this contribution to philosophy and phenomenology. As both an exemplary entry- and finishing point to such a reflective process, we will call attention to phenomena such as pain and tiredness/fatigue which we consider to be basic human conditions
The article draws attention to the significance of distance in Martin Bubers philosophy of dialogue. As the trustful interpersonal relation between human beings is seen as Bubers major contribution, the article argues that also distance plays a constitutive part in the I-Thou-relationship. Furthermore, it elaborates how the interrelation between distance and nearness forms an answer to Levinas’ critic of Buber, claiming that Bubers encounter violates the other in favour of an egocentric formation process.