Cassidy, Lisa, and . Starving Children in Africa: Who Cares?

2005, Journal of International Women's Studies 7 (1): 84-96.

Abstract: The current state of global poverty presents citizens in the Global North with a moral crisis: Do we care? In this essay, I examine two competing moral accounts of why those in the North should or should not give care (in the form of charity) to impoverished peoples in the Global South. Nineteen years ago feminist philosopher Nel Noddings wrote in Caring that ‘we are not obliged to care for starving children in Africa’ (1986, p. 86). Noddings’s work belongs to the arena of care ethics – the feminist philosophical view that morality is about responding to, caring for, and preventing harm to those particular people to whom one has emotional attachments. By contrast, Peter Singer’s recent work, One World, advances an impartialist view of morality, which demands that we dispassionately dispense aid to the most needy (2002, p.154). Thus this question needs answering: am I obliged to give care to desperately poor strangers, and if so, which moral framework (Singer’s impartialism, or feminism’s care ethics) gives the best account of that obligation? I argue that as an American feminist I should care for Africans with whom I will never have a personal relationship. However, this obligation can be generated without relying on the impartialist understanding of morality.

Comment: This text responds to Peter Singer and Ned Noddings on the question of global poverty (though, one need not have read either previously as she provides an overview). It would be useful in a course that focused on questions of economic justice, poverty, care ethics, or charity.