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Solving a Puzzle About the Demands of Beneficence

Sung, Leora Urim; (2020) Solving a Puzzle About the Demands of Beneficence. Masters thesis (M.Phil.Stud), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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When it comes to our moral obligations to aid people in great need, a puzzle is generated: we have very different intuitions with regards to providing aid in emergency situations and donating to overseas charities. This is puzzling because it is surprisingly difficult to identify any morally relevant difference between providing assistance in emergency situations and providing it in the case of famine relief. My thesis attempts to answer whether there is a morally relevant difference between emergency cases and famine relief. If there is a morally relevant difference, this allows us to preserve the different intuitions we have regarding emergency situations and poverty alleviation. Before outlining my own response to the puzzle, I examine two potential solutions: David Boonin’s argument that the unique directness of aid is a morally relevant factor, and various consequentialist approaches which attempt to lessen the demands of beneficence. I argue that both attempts to solve the puzzle fail. I suggest that differences such as physical/temporal proximity and experiential impact are morally relevant factors, not because they are relevant in themselves, but because of their correlation with our ability to empathise with the suffering of others. Placing the role of empathy at the centre of our duties to the poor not only solves the puzzle about our different intuitions but it also is able to provide new solutions to problems associated with the demandingness of beneficence.

Type: Thesis (Masters)
Qualification: M.Phil.Stud
Title: Solving a Puzzle About the Demands of Beneficence
Event: UCL
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2020. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10100499
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