2014 Book

Distant Strangers: Ethics, Psychology, and Global Poverty

Cambridge University Press, 2014.

What must affluent people do to alleviate global poverty? This question has occupied moral and political philosophers for forty years. But the controversy has reached an impasse: approaches like utilitarianism and libertarianism either demand too much of ordinary mortals or else let 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 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 demanding unrealistic levels of moral virtue. And I argue that this approach is not just pragmatically but also morally appropriate.

Chapter 1. Introduction
Chapter 2. Entanglements and the Claims of Mere Humanity
Chapter 3. Duties and Rights, Charity and Justice
Chapter 4. “Negative” and “Positive” Duties
Chapter 5. Oughts and Cans
Chapter 6. Why People Do What Others Do–and Why That’s Not So Bad
Chapter 7. Whose Poor?/Who’s Poor?: Deprivation Within and Across Borders
Chapter 8. Hopefully Helping: The Perils of Giving
Chapter 9. Motives and Morality
Chapter 10. Conclusion: Morality for Mere Mortals