Peter Singer focuses on the ideas regarding our interactions with others throughout his book The Most Good You Can Do, and he continually returns to the idea of how we value our life relative to the lives of our family members and the lives of those beyond our family. Singer argues that the effective altruist movement would not be able to spread if people did not have the ability to empathize with others, and if people could not find ways in which they recognized that all human life holds the same value.
Singer references Richard Keshen, a Canadian philosopher, to explain the ways that effective altruists may view other people in the world. “At the core of the reasonable person’s ethical life, according to Keshen, is a recognition that others are like us and therefore, in some sense, their lives and their well-being matter as much as our own.” Prior to this quote Signer quotes Keshen to explain that a reasonable person is someone who makes decisions and develops beliefs that are backed by evidence which can be defended. Their evidence may still be criticized and challenged by others, but the evidence can be used in a rational way to reach a real conclusion. The base mindset of a reasonable person is that their thinking is unbiased, and the unbiased nature of their thought means that it is not influenced by personal factors and takes a more objective view of the world.
As I write this I am absolutely able to understand the importance of viewing the lives of others as equal in value to our own, but I am conflicted with Keshen’s views of reason and do not feel as though they completely add toward the point he is making. I question whether or not we are able to take a truly objective view of the world regardless of the reason behind our thinking and regardless of how well we try to live without biases. While I agree that living with the principal that the lives of all members of society are equal in value, I feel as though there are personal biases that have pushed me in this direction. I have been guided by more than just rational thought, and I know that I am affected by my biases even if I don’t notice them.
I also wonder if the same argument presented by Keshen in support of effective altruism can be used to demonstrate the differences between the lives of those in society and ultimately used to show the importance of keeping wealth and resources within a close family unit. I do not argue with Singer’s main point, but I am conflicted with Keshen’s view of a rational person, and I am not sure that his definition helps us truly understand the thought process and identity of an effective altruist.