It was not I, it was the weapon

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Picture of the Confusian philosopher Mencius.
The Confusian philosopher Mencius (c. 300 BC)

There is nothing new about the idea that we have a strong moral obligation to help those in need.

Peter Singer in his book ‘The Life You Can Save‘ describes an account between Mencius and ‘King Hui of Liang’ who lived around 300 BC. Singer claims Mencius as second only to Confucius in influencing Chinese thought and regarded as the most authoritative interpreter of the Confusian tradition. On arriving in the king’s court, he made this statement about moral obligation to help the poor:

There are people dying from famine on the roads, and you do not issue the stores of your granaries for them. When people die, you say: “Is it not owing to me; it is owing to the year.” In what does this differ from stabbing a man and killing him, and then saying: “It was not I, it was the weapon?

Singer writes: “In one-on-one situations where rescue is easy, our intuitions tell us that it would be wrong not to do it. We all see or read appeals to help those living in extreme poverty in the world’s poorest countries. And yet most of us reject the call to ‘do unto others’.

2011: a year of new beginnings? If you are reading this, you probably already go that extra mile. How do we bring others on the journey so together we can make a bigger and lasting difference?

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2 thoughts on “It was not I, it was the weapon

    Catherine White said:
    January 1, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    A difficult subject argued with great eloquence Matt.

    Thank you for this thought provoking message.

    Catherine

      10citybridgerun said:
      January 1, 2011 at 6:53 pm

      Thanks Catherine- happy new year! When I first Singer’s book I missed a lot of his argument (I was reading with a preconceived bias at the time), so it has been good to return with fresh eyes!

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