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La filantropia, virtut o obligació?

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Peter Singer

Filòsof; lidera 'The Life You Can Save' (La vida que pots salvar)

Peter Singer va néixer a Melbourne, Austràlia, el 1946, i va estudiar a la Universitat de Melbourne i a la Universitat d’Oxford. Ha sigut professor a la Universitat d’Oxford, la Universitat La Trobe i la Universitat de Monash. Des de 1999 és Professor “Ira W. DeCamp” de Bioètica al Centre Universitari pels Valors Humans a la Universitat de Princeton. Des de 2005 també ocupa una posició de professor “laureate” a la Universitat de Melbourne, al Centre de Filosofia Aplicada i Ètica Pública.

Singer es va donar a conèixer internacionalment amb la publicació de Animal Liberation el 1975 (‘Liberación Animal’. Taurus, 2011). És autor, coautor, editor o coeditor de més de 40 llibres més, entre ells: Practical Ethics (‘Ética práctica’. Akal, 2009), The Expanding Circle’, How Are We to Live?, Rethinking Life and Death (‘Repensar la vida y la muerte’. Paidós, 1997), The Ethics of What We Eat’ amb Jim Mason (‘Com mengem’. Pagès, 2007), i l’últim The Life You Can Save. Les seves obres s’han traduït a més de 20 llengües. És autor de l’article principal sobre Ètica de l’última edició de l’Enciclopèdia Britànica. El 2005 la revista Time el va nomenar una de les 100 persones més influents del món, i el 2008 els lectors de les revistes Prospect i Foreign Policy el van votar un dels 100 intel•lectuals públics més importants del món.
Is charity a virtue or an obligation?

Hi, I’m peter Singer and I’d like to discuss the question ‘Is charity a virtue or an obligation?’
Let’s begin with the state of the world that we’re living in. We live in a world in which there are over a billion people in extreme poverty. That means they’re living on less than $1.25 per day. Because of that poverty, many of them die, especially many of their children die. More than 8 million children die every year; that’s over 22, 000 every day.
In the same world, we have over a billion people living in a very comfortable level of efforts. That is, this billion of us –and I include myself- can spend money on things that are by no stretch of the imagination necessities. We spend money on things like bottled water when the water that comes out of the tap is perfectly safe to drink. And we spend money, of course, on new clothes that we don’t need to keep us warm, on going out to restaurants, on the theatre, on vacations, on renovating our houses, on a whole lot of things we don’t need.
So, in those circumstances, I think it’s actually a mistake even to think of charity when we think of giving to help the poor, when we think of giving to organizations like Oxfam, or UNICEF, or Save the Children. This is something that we have an obligation to do because we are just so fortunate to have been born in those affluent countries and to have –maybe it takes some work, but in a fairly easy way- to have a comfortable, secure life. And the other billion or so, essentially, no matter how hard they work, they have great difficulty in escaping their poverty.
So, I think we ought to be doing something to help them and, if we don’t, I don’t think we can really claim to be living ethically. That’s what I mean when I say it’s an obligation. It’s a required part of an ethical life for the affluent to help the needy, the poor, to save the lives of some of those 8 million children when we can so easily do it.
If you want to know more about this, I have a website: www.thelifeyoucansave.com ; I also have a book with the same title ‘The Life You Can Save’. And in either of those places you can find a lot more information about what I think we ought to be doing, how much I think we ought to be giving, and which are the organizations to which I think we can effectively give, confident in the knowledge that our donations are getting to the people who need them and are really making a difference. And it’s in those circumstances that I think to give is an obligation, not simply a virtue. Thank you.
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