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La filantropía, ¿virtud u obligación?

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Peter Singer

Filósofo; lidera 'The Life You Can Save' (La vida que puedes salvar)

Peter Singer nació en Melbourne, Australia, en 1946, y estudió en la Universidad de Melbourne y en la Universidad de Oxford. Ha sido profesor en la Universidad de Oxford, la Universidad La Trobe y la Universidad Monash. Desde 1999 es Profesor “Ira W. DeCamp” de Bioética en el Centro Universitario para los Valores Humanos en la Universidad de Princeton. Desde 2005 también ocupa una posición de profesor “lauréate” en la Universidad de Melbourne, en el Centro de Filosofía Aplicada y Ética Pública.

Singer se dio a conocer internacionalmente con la publicación de Animal Liberation (‘Liberación Animal’. Taurus, 2011) en 1975. Es autor, coautor, editor, o coeditor de más de 40 libros, entre ellos: 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 con Jim Mason (‘Somos lo que comemos’. Paidós, cop. 2003), y el ultimo The Life you can Save. Sus obras se han traducido a más de 20 lenguas. Es autor del artículo principal sobre Ética de la última edición de la Enciclopedia Británica. En 2005 la revista Time, lo nombró una de las 100 personas más influyentes del mundo y en 2008 los lectores de las revistas Prospect y Foreign Policy lo votaron uno de los 100 intelectuales públicos más importantes del mundo.
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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