Barnes theorizes end to poverty

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Pacific University philosophy major Sierra Barnes believes it is possible to combat the ever-growing poverty levels around the globe. 

Barnes not only believes this is possible, she also holds that all people have an ethical duty to help fight in the cause and support its efforts. 

She came to this conclusion through work on her senior capstone project and by merging the theories of two famous philosophers, Thomas Pogge and Peter Singer.

According to Barnes, in order to end global poverty, it is first important to recognize and understand the positive duties theory of Peter Singer and the negative duties theory of Thomas Pogge.

“The positive duties theory says we should do what we can to prevent suffering from happening as long as we do not have to sacrifice anything of comparable moral significance or anything morally significant at all,” Barnes said. “The negative duties theory says we should reduce severe harms we have caused and not take advantage of injustice at the expense of its victims.”

In simpler terms, the negative duties theory is advising that people recognize themselves as causes of the problem.

During her presentation, Barnes went on to explain that by combining the two theories, people would be able to donate money to help those who are impoverished while also remaining humble themselves. 

“Critics of this thought process might say that it would burn people out from helping,” Barnes said. “But we do not always have to donate our money to help the issue.”

Barnes said people could help simply by doing things they already enjoy, like seeing impactful and powerful movies which then promote better cultural understanding and awareness.


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