Living High and Letting Die: A Puzzle About Behavior Toward People in Great Need

Peter Unger

in Living High and Letting Die

Published in print October 1996 | ISBN: 9780195108590
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199868261 | DOI:
Living High and Letting Die: A Puzzle About Behavior Toward People in Great Need

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This chapter examines both the nature of our Basic Moral Values and the disagreement between Preservationists and Liberationists on when it is wrong not to aid. Basic Moral Values divide into primary values and secondary values: whereas the former specify what our moral motivations should be when we deliberate about what we morally ought to do, the latter point to our epistemic responsibility to know certain nonmoral facts about our situation when deliberating about what we morally ought to do. When our responses to different moral cases depend upon the conspicuousness to us of another's suffering, these responses reflect little about our Basic Moral Values. Our intuitions for such cases promote a distorted conception of our primary values. When this distortion is rectified, we may appreciate the Liberationist claim that it is as wrong not to alleviate distant suffering as it is not to lessen nearby or conspicuous suffering.

Keywords: aid; epistemic responsibility; moral intuition; motivation; value; wrong

Chapter.  16928 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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