Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details


Philosophische Zeitschrift der Kant-Gesellschaft

Ed. by Baum, Manfred / Dörflinger, Bernd / Klemme, Heiner F.

4 Issues per year

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2015: 0.162
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2015: 1.061
Impact per Publication (IPP) 2015: 0.203

See all formats and pricing
Select Volume and Issue


A Duty to Be Charitable? A Rigoristic Reading of Kant

Peter Atterton
  • San Diego, California.
Published Online: 2007-08-19 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/KANT.2007.007


To be beneficent, that is, to promote according to one's means the happiness of others in need, without hoping for something in return, is every man's duty. Immanuel Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals

Almost everyone agrees that we have a moral duty to pull out a drowning child from a shallow pond even if this means getting our clothes muddy. But what are the limits of the duty of beneficence? In “Famine, Affluence and Morality”, which first appeared in 1972, Peter Singer attempted to specify those limits in terms of the following principle: “if it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we ought, morally, to do it.” Singer went on to use this principle to argue that we ought to be doing all we can to prevent Third World hunger. At the same time, he challenged the well-established Western moral viewpoint that makes it an act of charity rather than a duty for a relatively affluent individual to give money to help feed the world's poor. Singer left open the question of whether the traditional distinction between duty and charity should be redrawn or abolished altogether, although he insisted that giving to others who are starving, even at the cost of giving up luxuries such as new clothes or a new car, is not an act of charity, but a duty.

Published Online: 2007-08-19

Published in Print: 2007-07-20

Citation Information: Kant Studien. Volume 98, Issue 2, Pages 135–155, ISSN (Online) 1613-1134, ISSN (Print) 0022-8877, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/KANT.2007.007, August 2007

Citing Articles

Here you can find all Crossref-listed publications in which this article is cited. If you would like to receive automatic email messages as soon as this article is cited in other publications, simply activate the “Citation Alert” on the top of this page.

Paolo Diego Bubbio
International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 2013, Volume 73, Number 2, Page 97
Wim Dubbink and Luc van Liedekerke
Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 2009, Volume 12, Number 2, Page 117

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.