«Testing the Motivational Strength of Positive and Negative Duty Arguments Regarding Global Poverty»

Luke Buckland, Matthew Lindauer, David Rodríguez-Arias (FiloLab) and Carissa Véliz have recently published an article titled Testing the Motivational Strength of Positive and Negative Duty Arguments Regarding Global Poverty in the journal Review of Philosophy and PsychologyPlease find a summary of it below. At the end of the page, you will find a link to access the full article.

The idea that people who are well-off have a duty to fight against inequality and poverty has been debated. Some moral philosophers, like Peter Singer and Thomas Pogge, have supports this idea with different types of arguments. However, have these arguments the capacity of convincing wealthy individuals that this is indeed a real duty? To what extent have these arguments the capacity of generating change in their behaviour?

In defence of this idea of rich citizens having the moral duty to help those with fewer economic resources, two main philosophical arguments have been presented: on the one hand, the arguments based on a “positive duty” and linked to the idea of beneficence; on the other hand, the arguments based on “negative duty” and linked to the idea of non-interference. Peter Singer (Singer 1972) formulated the theory of “positive duty” and Thomas Pogge (Pogge 2002) did the same with the “negative duty” theory. These are considered two of the main renowned examples. Philosophers have made statements about the relative effectiveness of those arguments who support attitudes and behaviours in favour of easing the level of poverty. This article presents data collected from two empirical studies. Both analyse the aforementioned statements and suggest that both types of argument have a limited effect in the attitudes and behaviours of people in regard to their perception of global poverty. We have found, similarly to the latter article, that the concept of the negative duty has a significant impact, statistically speaking, on donations. The article will also discuss the theoretical and practical meaning of these results. Some potential avenues for research will be presented as well, centred on how much of an impact philosophical arguments can have on creating a sense of worry and make people take action for urgent moral issues.

You can access the article here.

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