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Living High and Letting Die

The subject of Professor Peter Unger’s book Living High & Letting Die is exactly as the name suggests the idea that people live high while letting other people around the world die.  The book is largely a book on the subject of ethics or maybe even more specifically morals.  Unger sees individuals as having a very lenient assessment of morals and the idea of right and wrong.  The Professor argues that people’s intuitions on most ethical cases are created not by moral values, but by certain distracting psychological dispositions that at many times prevent us from reacting in a morally appropriate manner.  Living High and Letting DieTo prove his point Professor Unger uses, as examples numerous cases, some of which will be discussed later.  Professor Unger divides ethicists into two separate ideas called preservationism and liberationism.  This paper will delve into these two theories of ethics and into Unger’s examples and ideas he uses to demonstrate his thesis.  To put it simply Unger’s main thesis would be that each individual’s moral duty is to sacrifice himself or herself or his or her property for any individual or animal for that matter on the planet.

To understand Professor Unger’s book and ideas, which will be described later, it is first important to get a small idea of some of his background.  Besides Living High & Letting Die Peter Unger has written several other books including Ignorance, Philosophical Relativity, and Identity, Consciousness, and Value.  Unger is Professor of Philosophy at New York University.  Some of his main issues of interest would have to be Metaphysics, Epistemology, Ethics, and Philosophy of Mind.  Much of Professor Unger’s research deals with ethics from very abstract ethical ideas to ethics in situations which the average individual face every day in their lives.

The classic example, which Professor Unger uses in order to illustrate his major thesis, is that of “The Envelope.”  In this example in a nutshell a person received a letter from UNICEF asking for one hundred dollars to help feed children which would help approximately thirty children live who otherwise would have died.  The recipient though throws the envelope away and those thirty children end up dying.

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