Motives to Assist and Reasons to Assist: the Case of Global Poverty

Journal of Practical Ethics 3 (1):37-63 (2015)
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The principle of assistance says that the global rich should help the global poor because they are able to do so, and at little cost. The principle of contribution says that the rich should help the poor because the rich are partly to blame for the plight of the poor. This paper explores the relationship between the two principles and offers support for one version of the principle of assistance. The principle of assistance is most plausible, the paper argues, when formulated so as to identify obligations that arise from the needs of particular identifiable members of the global poor, not from impersonal rules or values. Under that formulation, the principle can explain why knowledge of the circumstances faced by individual members of the global poor can have such a marked effect upon the willingness of the global rich to provide help, and can offer a better grounded motivational basis for helping the global poor. These are real advantages, the paper argues, and ones that cannot be matched by stories that focus upon the ways in which the global rich contribute to global poverty.
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Archival date: 2015-06-30
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