Informal Assignment 1: Examined Life

Astra Taylor’s Examined Life features thought provoking thinkers discussing some kind of idea that they have obviously contemplated very deeply. Each host has their own topic and range from a large spectrum. The host that resonated with me most was Peter Singer.

In Peter Singer’s Examined Life, he raises the question of whether people should see a moral problem with what they spend their money on. I think what he is getting at is that should we feel bad for spending large sums of money on things we don’t need when people in other parts of the world or even some in America don’t even have enough to feed themselves or provide shelter for their family. Is it moral for people to be able to acknowledge the less fortunate yet live ours with such gusto? If we are able to afford ipods and cellphones for even young children, then shouldn’t we be able to look after our own kind? The moral questions that spawns from Peter’s thoughts are so real because they apply to just about everyone who owns anything more than he or she needs in order to survive. There are only three things man needs to survive: food, water, and shelter. So the question is do people have a moral obligation to take care of others? If so, then where does it end? Should one be so selfless that he or she gives away all of his or her possessions away so that they may help others with financial needs? Is there a point where one can say that he or she has help enough  strangers and is free from these stabs of guilt? Does this mean that no one is allowed to have any fun or leisure until everyone else in the world has the same exact opportunities? These are some of the questions that were ignited while thinking about Peter’s question.

Peter brings up a scenario near the beginning of his scene. He says to imagine that there is a child drowning in a pond. The first thing that comes to mind is to save the child. But what if you were wearing five hundred dollar shoes. Surely those shoes would lose their worth if you were to immediately dive into the pond. Still, a person’s life cannot be measured by money so the obvious choice is to forgo the shoes and jump in. However, think about how the value of the shoes and what that money could be used for instead. Well, half a grand can buy some medicine to treat simple disease that kill many other children in poorer parts of the world. Now the dilemma has been tweaked. Should you have even bought those shoes in the first place? They could save lives, but it is your money, you earned and so you can spend it however you want.

Peter’s thought comes across in my mind as should our society in America be able to live comfortably while people in third world countries are simply struggling for a basic need such as clean water. In America, water can be found just about everywhere. Water is also being wasted just about everywhere so is this something we can justify?

To me, this resembles a drop in a bucket problem where everybody has the ability to help aid change in the world one way or another but will it make a difference? Furthermore, what obligations do we really have and to who. But to me, what I wonder, is how much of our time and money should we allocate to others either in our society or to strangers. Do we have to completely devote our lives to other people or is it acceptable to spend most of our time improving our own lives rather than those around us?


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One Response to Informal Assignment 1: Examined Life

  1. Apryl Berney says:

    Your response is quite good and clearly engages with Singer and the ideas that he puts forth in the film.

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