World hunger has been a major human dilemma since the subsistence ofman. The dilemma derives from the “haves” as well as “have-nots”.The “haves” referring to those that are able to afford foodwithout a struggle, and the “have-nots” being those that struggleto survive. There is a widening gap between both groups, which makesworld hunger as a developing global challenge worse. The secureeconomic climates of industrious and developed countries like Americaand England appear to highlight the appalling hunger situationsfacing third world nations. There have been numerous contentioussolutions to the world hunger issue. Among the contentious solutionsis the Kantian and utilitarian approach to solving world hunger. Thearticle “A Kantian approach to hunger” by O’Neill supposes thatthe Kantian approach lacks the difficulties deriving fromutilitarianism. The paper explains the difficulties O’Neillassociates with utilitarianism, and the responses of utilitarian’sto the difficulties.
When dealing with the problem of finding what to eat, individuals areincapable of pursuing greater goals, or reflecting on fairness amidstequals. Scholars endeavor to link the problem of world hunger withindividual ethical codes. O’Neill uses Kantian ethical premise inexplaining her solution on famine relief. She assesses the demandsKantianism makes to starving persons as means and dealing with themas mere means. This causes one to question how the Kantianrestriction from treating people as mere means relates to solvingfamine. It prompts what roles human beings have in assisting fellowhumans starving in different nations and the difference fromsuggestions made through utilitarianism by scholars like Singer. Thegeneral rule of Kantianism involves acting in manners that treathumanity, not merely as a means, but as an end as well.
The main principle O’Neill advocates is that actions towardsjustice ought to be fulfilled, contrary to which individuals becomemere means (O’Neill 412). She notes that Kantianism does notexplain the moral condition of unintended action. The Kantianapproach urges individuals not to act unjustly. This applies to allconditions. For instance if it is a section of a hunger-strickencommunity having a rationing system, or if it is one like America inregard to Senegal, people ought to ensure justice. Justice isachieved by not taking advantage of the needy. Kantian theory urgespeople not to act in any maxim, which exploits others as mere means,by not lying or coercing. O’Neill explains that such conditionsduring famine are difficult to meet as the means of life are rare, itis easy to intimidate, and when the benefit from acquiring more thanwhat is due is greater. For instance, in the rationing system, peoplemust not lie to get more than their portion, as any lie uses othersas mere means (O’Neill 412). O’Neill further argues that justicemandates that during famine, people should progress in endeavoring toaccomplish their duties to others. For instance, despite there beingfamine an individual progresses to be accountable to providing fortheir dependents.
Another principle O’Neill mentions regards to the Kantian role ofbeneficence. This refers to assisting in supporting others’ ends,in addition to their capabilities of being self-reliant (O’Neill413). Beneficence should encourage others’ ends. There are numerouschances for beneficence. However, one sector where the fundamentalrole of advancing others’ capability in becoming independent ismore necessary is in regions experiencing immense hunger. This isbecause hunger makes it impossible for those affected to pursue otherends. Beneficence aimed at placing individuals in conditions wherethey seek whichever ends they might have has, a greater claim,according to Kant. The main argument is that it is better to shareends with persons that are incapable of meeting their needs, comparedto sharing the same with persons that have the capability to pursuetheir ends.
Contrary, utilitarianism assesses all possible resolutions to thechallenges people face in life, like world hunger, based on theaftermaths. This implies that the resolution resulting in the bestoutcome is ethical. Hence, when the happiness derived from an actionis more compared to what is lost, the action is right. The article“Famine, Affluence and Morality” by Singer Peter is anillustration of how utilitarianism functions. Singer demonstrates theissue of world hunger via East Bengal, a marginalized Indians area(Singer 229). He notes that the reactions of wealthy nations to theBengal problem are not justifiable. Singer commences the argumentwith an evident and unquestionable presumption that passing awaybecause of lack of basic needs is bad. This is because when peoplehave the ability to avoid such ills from happening, by not having togive up anything of moral relevance, then the action should bemorally done. To enhance understanding on his argument, Singer makesa comparison of the Bengal crisis to a drowning child. When walkingpast a drowning child, one is accountable to saving the child. Theaftermath of getting wet is insignificant to watching the childdrown. Singer concludes that wealthy persons must help the poor untilthey arrive at marginal utility (Singer 231). After marginal utility,the sacrifice results in more suffering.
Difficulties with Utilitarianism
O’Neill criticizes the utilitarian approach on the basis that it isimpracticable, which makes it difficult to apply in solving worldhunger. She argues that the methodology applied in utilitarianisminvolves the consideration of all probable outcomes to be in aposition of selecting the outcome, which leads in the maximum good(O’Neill 414). The difficulty is that when contemplating theintricacy and scope of the hunger issue, it is not probable for anindividual to become burdened with the responsibility of assessingall possible aftermaths. Such an assessment is impractical. O’Neillargues that in numerous manners Kantianism moral argument appearsless ambitious to utilitarianism. Conversely, the Kantian approachdoes not assert to assess all probable action instead, it provides amanner of analyzing the possible advantages or disadvantages of aparticular suggested action.
A different difficulty O’Neill associates with a utilitarianapproach derives from Singer’s excessive financial demands (O’Neill414). Kantianism as presented by O’Neill entails the obligation ofpreserving life in different senses. One is that individuals oughtnot to be denied their life. Second, it is necessary to preserve thelives of other people in manners that permit them ample physicalenergy, psychological space, as well as social security to act. TheKantian approach argues that acting in typical manners that humansare able to, we ought not to only be animate, but lead a life. Thisimplies that if the wealthy individuals donate to the needy to theextreme they almost place themselves in the similar economic placethe globe retreats (O’Neill 413). People need to endeavor todevelop socially as well as economically, by advocating forindependence. O’Neill argues that solving the world hunger comparesto the saying “if you give a man a fish he eats for a day, if youteach a man how to fish he eats a lifetime”. The overriding premiseis that we need to concentrate on nurturing a feeling of autonomy, inaddition to a sustainable structure of self-dependence amid thehunger stricken countries.
O’Neill progresses to argue that the utilitarian approach valuescontentment and the lack of suffering. A utilitarian must dedicatetheir life to attaining the best probable balance of bliss againstmisery. When one’s life is unclear, the reason derives from thelack of a clear means to end (O’Neill 414). However, when thecausal tendency of an action is not apparent, utilitarianism will becapable of differentiating the actions they need to engage in toenhance the globe’s balance of contentment over misery. Thedifficulty with such actions is that they are dauntingly long andnever-ending. Another difficulty is that they may at times mandatesacrificing happiness, or live to attain more contentment. As thepower over means of protecting human life enhances, there has been anincrease in analogous problems for the utilitarian approach.Illustrations of these dilemmas include whether we should protectlife when there is no possibility of consciousness, and if triagerules because they might increase the figure of survivors, beemployed in validating those that must be left to go hungry. Theissues may be fitted in utilitarian approach.
The answers are that human contentment mandates forfeiting ofunwilling lives. In addition, for many utilitarian’s there is nodisparity when the unwilling sacrifices entail unfair actions towardsthose who lose their lives (Singer 232). Utilitarianism does notrefute the probabilities, although the ambiguity of the knowhow ofaftermaths frequently distorts the theory’s repercussions. Lookingpast the ambiguity, it becomes apparent that through the utilitarianapproach, lives might be sacrificed for the objective of more goodeven when the individuals whose life is sacrificed are not willing.It is not wrong to use other people as mere means, as argued inKantianism. However, using the person must result in a happieroutcome. Contrary, in the utilitarian approach individuals are notends, rather are treated as means to the creation of contentment.This means that utilitarianism comprises of a paradoxical approach invaluing human life. Living humans are important for utilitarianism toexist, yet it is not their lives rather consciousness, which isvaluable. Thus, the perfect outcomes of utilitarianism mightnecessitate losing lives, through whichever manners, to ensure thecomplete contentment and eradication of misery.
When dealing with the issue of world hunger, utilitarianism respondsthrough arguing that assisting those in need will enhance worldhappiness in general. However, most individuals will have to deprivethemselves totally. Since, utilitarianism involves actions thatresult in the best benefit, a perfect utilitarian approach becomeshelping as much as probable, only when it is doable. This means thatindividuals are only mandated to help others when they have themeans, and do not have to sacrifice their happiness in helping theneedy. Thus, if an individual has more than enough but feel that byhelping a needy person, they deprive their happiness, then it is notcompulsory to help the needy person.
It is not possible for utilitarianism to provide the best solutionto the issue of world hunger. Utilitarianism mandates that in everyaction, the results are calculated and alternatives suggested priorto settling on executing an act, or not. This is because it isimpossible to determine all the possible outcomes of helping otherpeople. The best approach to world hunger is Kantianism. The approachadvocates for not just helping people, rather ensuring that those inmisery become independent. Kantians want individuals to promote theidea of autonomy. It enhances an environment of self-enhancement inplace of reliance. The expected outcome is that when individualsbecome independent they are capable of working towards eradicatingtheir hunger, and eventually stop depending on donor assistance.
Possible refutation to the personal view is that Kantianism compelspeople to help the needy. The approach defines morality as actionsthat respond to the needs of others, in which case the action doesnot necessarily benefit both parties. The utilitarian approachsuggests helping when the action benefits all parties involved. Thus,utilitarian’s would argue that people should only help whenguaranteed they will also benefit from the actions. Anotherrefutation is that it is important to measure the value derived fromassisting others to ensure maximum good for all parties. WhileKantians view this as an impractical action, utilitarian’s view itas a necessity prior to helping other people. Utilitarian’s viewdetermining the outcome of every charitable act important, to ensureaid actions only result in the anticipated outcomes. In addition, itacts as a determinant of if people should progress with thecharitable act or not.
O’Neill, Onora. A Simplified Account of Kant’s Ethics pp.411-415. Web. 25 Feb. 2015 http://myweb.facstaff.wwu.edu/nmarkos/Zola/ONeill.pdf
Singer, Peter. Famine, Affluence and Morality. Philosophy andPublic Affairs, 1.3(1972): 229- 243.