Gerhard Øverland

Strength and Vulnerability - The Entailment Dilemma of the Principle of

Torsdag, 25. September, 14.15-16.00
Sted: P.A. Munchs Hus, seminarrom 1


“Two principles are commonly invoked in support of the view that the affluent in the developed world have a strong responsibility to address global poverty. The first is based on the idea that because the poor are in severe need and we are in a position to alleviate such need at moderate cost, we have responsibilities to do so  the principle of assistance. The second is based on the idea that because the poor are in severe need and we have contributed or are contributing to their need we have responsibilities to alleviate it  the principle of contribution. But why invoke something like the principle of contribution? After all, to provide a clear account of just what contributing to global poverty can plausibly be claimed to consist in is not an easy task. The strength of the duties generated by this principle must therefore be the reason. If one didn¹t think contribution increased the strength of one¹s duties as compared to the duties generated by the principle of assistance, it wouldn¹t be much use in making the additional effort of trying to establish a causal link between the affluent and the circumstances of the global poor. In this paper I investigate whether there is another important entailment of contributing to harm. Namely whether by contributing in such a way that it implies a particularly strong responsibility to address the consequences, then this very same contribution also gives rise to a corresponding permissibility on the part of the victims to help protect themselves with force, or for third parties to use force on their behalf. If there is such a second  force-related  entailment of contribution we may be unable to establish contribution-based responsibilities on part of the affluent to address global poverty without at the same time indicating that the affluent in the developed world would be legitimate targets of significant force, perhaps even lethal force, in order to secure necessary improvements for the global poor.”

Gerhard Øverland is research fellow at Centre For Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics (CAPPE), University of Melbourne.