Distant Strangers: Ethics, Psychology, and Global Poverty

Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press (2014)
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Debate about the responsibilities of affluent people to act to lessen global poverty has dominated ethics and political philosophy for forty years. But the controversy has reached an impasse, with the main approaches either demanding too much of ordinary mortals or else letting them off the hook. In Distant Strangers I show how a preoccupation with standard moral theories and with the concepts of duty and obligation have led philosophers astray. I argue that there are serious limits to what can be demanded of ordinary human beings, but that this does not mean we must abandon the moral imperative to reduce poverty. Drawing on findings from behavioral economics and psychology, I show how we can motivate better-off people to lessen poverty without excessively taxing their moral virtue. And I argue that this approach is not just pragmatically but morally appropriate.



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Judith Lichtenberg
Georgetown University

Citations of this work

Demandingness Objections in Ethics.Brian McElwee - 2017 - Philosophical Quarterly 67 (266):84-105.
Überforderungseinwände in der Ethik.Lukas Naegeli - 2022 - Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter.
Cost and Psychological Difficulty: Two Aspects of Demandingness.Brian McElwee - 2023 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 101 (4):920-935.

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