Aaron Finley


Peter Singer argues that when some fail to do their part in alleviating suffering, the rest of us must take up their slack. In response, L. J. Cohen, Liam Murphy, and David Miller argue that such a requirement would be unfair. No one, they contend, should be required to contribute more than she would be required to under full compliance. I argue against Cohen, Murphy, and Miller that we are obligated to take up slack left by noncontributors, but agree that we are thereby treated unfairly. Drawing on the literatures on group causation and moral responsibility, I argue that noncontributors wrong those they fail to help and those who take up their slack. I refer to the latter kind of wrong as “burden dumping.” Furthermore, I argue that my account applies whether we conceive of rescue duties as discretionary or nondiscretionary. One might think that if my duties to rescue do not require me to contribute to any particular rescue effort, I do not dump burdens on anyone when I do nothing. In reply, I argue that when I have a nondiscretionary duty to contribute to a particular rescue effort, I unfairly dump burdens on those contributing to that effort when I fail to do my part. Similarly, when my duty to rescue is discretionary and I do nothing, I unfairly dump burdens on everyone whose rescue efforts I might have contributed to. Using this apparatus, we can account for the force of arguments such as Singer’s as well as the idea that those who dump burdens are blameworthy for treating other rescuers unfairly.



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