Duty and Distance

Journal of Value Inquiry 51 (3):547-561 (2017)

Authors
Conrad Heilmann
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Abstract
Ever since the publication of Singer’s (1972) article on ‘Famine, Affluence, and Morality’ have debates about duties to the distant needy been marked by a high degree of controversy. Most contributors discuss how duties are established or influenced by the fact that those in need of help can be geographically close or distant. In other words, they debate the problem of duty and distance from the perspective of duties. Here, we change tack and put the concept of distance at the centre of the analysis. We ask: what precisely is the definition and role of geographical distance in the different contributions? We argue that a distinction between empirical and moral disagreement over geographical distance clarifies several important aspects of the debate. The analysis also sheds new light on duties in the current European refugee crisis.
Keywords Distance  Moral Distance  Moral Duty  Peter Singer  Migration
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DOI 10.1007/s10790-017-9593-x
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