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  1. I cannot think of an item which Singer would consider a “luxury” that I would deem more valuable than a child’s life, health, or wellbeing. When you break down the scenario through Singer’s reasoning, it seems absolutely ridiculous to suggest that a Netflix subscription or an expensive car would hold more moral value than a human life, especially one of an innocent and suffering child. However, I do think it’s important to take into account how different it is to build a life in modern (American, for the sake of this example) society than it was at the very origins of human existence. Singer argues that the only things humans need to “live” are items like food, clean water, clothing, shelter, and access to medical care; I think it would be more relevant to consider what the average person needs in order to function in society as a productive individual. This would entail items like a working car for transportation (not necessarily an expensive one), a working cell phone/laptop/tablet for communications, research, and work (again, don’t need to be expensive, just functioning), and things like Wi-Fi. These are items that connect us to the human world around us, and while they are certainly not necessary to sustain life, they are necessary to carry out a functional life within our society. I think that Singer’s reasoning seems very harsh to a lot of people because it’s hard to imagine going without things like modern technology, healthcare, and transportation, but if we changed up his reasoning a little bit in order to say that citizens of affluent countries should only be using their money for things that are necessary to function in society as well as fundamentally sustain life, then it seems a lot more reasonable. Personally, I would be more open to the idea of taking all the money that could have gone to expensive clothes, fancy cars and electronics, entertainment subscriptions, fancy food, etc etc and using that to help save suffering children and just make do with basic functioning versions of things like my phone or my car. This is still eliminating a vast sum of time and money that would go to frivolous things, while allowing citizens to stay connected to their society and still be able to work and live.
  2. I think you would be hard-pressed to find a person who would genuinely make an argument that it is absolutely moral to choose luxuries over human lives. That being said, we still do it. It’s an interesting phenomenon- we all say we want to help suffering children and no one would argue that their lives are worthless, but then when it comes down to actually changing your lifestyle to make that difference, we all shift around and make excuses. I’m owning up to it too, because we don’t feel so bad for doing this when everyone around us is doing the same thing. It seems like the norm to spend your money on luxuries, so that’s what we choose, but I think most people would agree that it leaves a bad taste in our mouths when we think about the fact that the money we’re spending on luxuries could have helped to save or improve the lives of those who have less- leading us to the conclusion that yes, it is immoral to be spending this amount of time and money on luxuries.
  3. As far as Singer’s responses to potential objections go, I think he did a great job of defending his reasoning in each case. If I were to critique the argumentative tact of his approach, the only thing I would say is to lean a little lighter on the ethos/pathos angle. While I agree with his stance, Singer spends a lot of time guilting opponents, writing very angrily, and generally adopting a rather preachy, holier-than-thou tone. For instance, one of the objections mentions that if people don’t think they have a moral obligation to donate to charities, that means that they don’t have the obligation. This sounds like a classic subjectivist take, and Singer turns it around by saying that to argue that one doesn’t have a moral obligation to do something just because they don’t think they have an obligation is akin to saying that the Earth is flat “because I think it’s flat.” He says that one person’s opinion on their moral duties does not define or cancel out those duties, and that the obligation still exists whether or not you choose to recognize it. This implies that Singer is the individual who has decided that everyone is morally obligated to donate, as he has not gone into the question of where these moral obligations originate from. Furthermore, the only real objection I would have with Singer’s conclusion (“almost every member of these affluent nations is terribly immoral”) is that it suggests that one immoral act defines whether or not a person is a moral person. I don’t believe that doing one immoral thing makes you a forever immoral person, nor do I believe that our every action is a perfect representation of our moral standing or our character as a human being. I’ve certainly done things that I was not proud of and that do not reflect who I am on the whole, and I know everyone reading this has as well. So in my opinion, while the action of spending time and money on luxuries instead of giving those resources to suffering children is immoral, that should not be the only deciding factor regarding the morality of every person who makes that choice.
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