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The Overseas Case Poll
By S. Matthew Liao

The Overseas Case is from Peter Singer, as is the

The Pond Case: I am walking past a shallow pond and see a child drowning in it. If I wade in and pull the child out, my $500 suit will be ruined.

See, e.g., Singer, P. Practical Ethics. 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

These cases are here by popular demand (John Alexander and Tom Douglas). Comments on these cases are welcome here. See also Kamm Chapter 11 for some discussions of these cases. Happy voting.

Overseas Case: I know that there is a child starving to death overseas. To save him, I must send $500. Am I obligated to do so?

  • No (55%)
  • Yes (23%)
  • Not sure (22%)

Total Votes: 128

Vote

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Comments

  1. 1. Posted by Jussi Suikkanen | October 3, 2007 4:05 pm

    How much money do I have?

  2. 2. Posted by S. Matthew Liao | October 3, 2007 6:43 pm

    Contextually speaking (that is, judging from the associated Pond Case), you are someone who can afford and wears a $500 suit.

    Exegistically, Kamm says the following in a footnote:

    In picking the dollar amount, we must be sensitive to whether the demand is on an average person or a billionaire. I am assuming an average person in my examples.

  3. 3. Posted by Toby Ord | October 4, 2007 2:31 pm

    I would technically say No, as we can save lives for less than this and I think we are obliged to save those ones first (since we can save more of them), leaving no money for the $500 lives. However, the example seemed to be assuming that saving the life for $500 was the most effective way to do good with the money, so I voted Yes.

  4. 4. Posted by John Alexander | October 4, 2007 6:31 pm

    Jussi; that is the issue isn’t it? I am assuming that the $500.00 is something that I can afford to send without causing me any unjustifiable harm if I send it to save the child’s life. It would be interesting to know if any of the ‘unsure’ are so because they do not know the relative value of the $500.00 to the person sending it, or if those saying ‘no’ are saying so because they do not think the person can afford the $500.00.

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