Human Poverty in Works of Garrett Hardin and Peter Singer

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Picture living in a community where every minute of every day you were hungry, under-clothed, and afraid death because you are poor. A world in which child dies of hunger every 5 seconds. Now imagine waking up and your biggest problem was which sweater to wear with which jeans. Even though this seems hard to imagine, this life of poverty has been a reality for most people for ages. Before the1900s, few wealthy people would ever think about poverty. Two prominent authors were Garrett Hardin and Peter Singer, who wrote essays about human poverty.

They questioned whether to confront the issue of poverty or to ignore it. The first essay is “Life Ethics: the Case Against Helping the Poor” from the ecologist, Hardin who served as Professor of Human Ecology, and psychology today (1974). The second essay, “The Singer Solution to World Poverty,” published in The New York Times Magazine is from the Philosopher Singer, who is currently teaching as as Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University (1999). Hardin’s essay focuses primarily on the truth that we can either try to save everyone and die trying or save ourselves and let the flourishing live.

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He specifically discusses the different views on how to truly help the poor. Singer’s essay, on the other hand, contains a much more practical discussion arguing that individuals should donate money to overseas aid organizations to help the impoverished. He applied ethics and approaches the dilemma of poverty. Although both writers address the poverty solution, and both include examples of ethos, pathos, and logos, the differing degrees of these rhetorical strategies renders Hardin’s essay much more relatable than Singer’s more emotional essay.

First of all, the two authors establish ethos in different ways in order to gain the trust of their respective audiences. Hardin relies on a mixture of logic to get his argument across to his audience and provides vivid imagery to support it. He comes right out in his essay when he writes, “If we drive the world crudely into rich nations and poor nations, two thirds of them are desperately poor, and only one third comparatively rich, with the United States the wealthiest of all” which gives him obvious credibility to write on the subject of poverty (Hardin 1).

He also mentions, “50 people in our life bout” by asking us to imagine ourselves in a lifeboat (Hardin 1). There is room for sixty people on the boat, but there are only fifty sitting in there at the time. Near them are one-hundred others swimming in the water pleading to be in the boat. “Do we pick the best 10, first come, first served? And what do we say to the 90 we exclude? ” (Hardin 1). This shows metaphor of the fifty people in the lifeboat represents the rich countries and the others swimming in the water are the poor countries.

Singer, on the other hand, relies heavily on appealing to his readers hypothetical examples. Also, he is very straightforward and candid in the presentation of his argument. Instead, he focuses more on the short term. In the beginning, he opens with an example of a needy child saying, “The formula is simple: whatever money you’re spending on luxuries, not necessities, should be given away” (Singer 2). This means instead of upgrading your television, you can use the money to save the lives of children in need.

Therefore, the utilization of ethos by Hardin establishes credibility because his argument is more logical and plausible, making it more effective; whereas Singer pulls on the emotional strings of his hypothetical examples which make his argument unrealistic and offensive. Aside of establishing credibility, both of Hardin and singer use pathos to a certain degree to appeal to the emotions of their audiences; however, singer’s essay was more emotional than Hardin’s essay does. Hardin uses emotions much more judiciously by using the tool of language effectively and persuasively.

The use of metaphors is perhaps one of the biggest and strongest language strategies that Hardin uses to make his argument persuasive. At first Hardin’s ethics seem rude and selfish, but as you continue reading he makes it clear this may be the only way to save our world and have it become a better place. For instance, “on the average poor countries undergo a 2. 5 percent increase in population each year; rich countries, about 0. 8 percent. If the poor countries received no food from the out side, the rate of their population growth […]” (Hardin 4).

Hardin continues his piece explaining why rich countries should not help poorer countries that are in need. He believes a poor country that needs support needs to learn the hard way, even if that means losing resources or people. His words like “rich countries”, “no food” shows the use of a metaphor that Hardin is able to paint a visual illustration of his argument to his audience. This helps influence and persuade his readers because they are able to grasp the whole concept of Hardin’s argument. Hardin also spoke in his essay using the repetition of he words “we” and “us” is a language factor that persuades the audience to accept Hardin’s ideas because it implicates that he and his audience is of equal status. Here, the ethics he reveals in his essay have good reasoning. Helping someone in need has always been a moral in someone’s life. But now, Hardin proposes a new ethic, “lifeboat ethics”. Singer, on the other hand, often refers to the fact that nearly one-third of Americans spend their income on luxuries that they “desire” instead of donating the money to the innocent beings that are dying.

Hardin’s essay relies on pathos to a degree, but he harnesses it well, not becoming overly emotional. Singer’s language is effective in the sense that he is able to extract emotions from his readers which in turns makes them take notice of what he is writing about. Singer’s use of the word “luxuries” and the repetition of it is a central element to his argument. He is able to place a negative connotation on a word that is primarily looked upon as positive.

Therefore,when writing about luxuries such as, ” going out to nice restaurants, buying new clothes because the old ones are no longer stylish, vacationing at beach resorts,” Singer makes them sound like such a horrible thing to have or do when compared to helping others in the world who are less fortunate (Singer, 533). Another instance of pathos deals particularly with singer’s audience who would feel guilty if they perceived themselves as living luxuriously. Singer says, “the money you will spend at the restaurant could also help save the lives of children overseas!

True, you weren’t planning to blow $200 tonight, but if you were to give up dining out for one month, you would easily save that amount” (singer 4). This explains why children are exposed to deprivation of food and shelter and others die of lack of medical care. Although these are irrefutable facts, they may also cause a stir of emotion in wealthy readers which leads to the moral question is raised: shouldn’t the wealthy ones make an effort to make a difference? In fact, Singer was able to extract the emotion of guilt from his audience, but from this guilt resulted an anger.

This anger that his audience felt perhaps came from the fact that not only was Singer judging them for their lack of helping others, but he was also trying to make them feel guilty for it. Essentially, Singer undermines his position and comes across as being too emotionally involved to the point of appearing biased. Logos is another rhetorical strategy that both essays share, and Hardin uses this tactic much more than Singer. Hardin attempts to be logical when she says, “since the natural increase of the resident papulation now runs about 1. millions per year, the yearly gain from immigration amounts to at least 19 percent of the total annual increase, and may be as much as 37 percent if we include the estimate for illegal immigrants” (Hardin 6). Here Hardin provides concrete evidence and uses many statistics to argue his points, but her overly emotional approach undermines her attempt to present a logical point. His only flaw is that he doesn’t consistently cite the sources that he attained the information from when he is describing examples.

However, he use a lot of examples of logos that he does not taint with emotion, “we must recognize that needs are determined by population size, which is determined by the rate of reproduction, which at percent is regarded as a sovereign right of every nation, poor or not” (Hardin 2). He provides statistical numbers to describe population rates he uses these numbers to tell the consequences that can occur in the future. Hardin’s argument is based on inductive premises because the evidence he does provide is based on facts and are more logical.

In contrast, Singer appears based on hypothetical examples and not hard statistical numbers in his argument, based mainly on the way he frames the argument itself. He primarily relies on hypothetical examples to support his argument. His examples that may be emotional for wealthy to read should appeal to logos, “i accept that we are unlikely to see, in the near or even medium-term future, a world in which it is normal for wealthy Americans to give the bulk of their wealth to strangers” are unarguable facts which leads his argument to be based on deductive premises and assumptions (singer 5).

Singer’s argument is not supported by hard facts, in consequence, his credibility is not established. He also seeks to appeal less logically when he states, “hypothetical examples can easily become farcical,” providing hypothetical examples range from the story that occurs in the Brazilian film Central Station to the story of Bob and his beloved Bugatti. yet he provides no other kinds of evidence to support his claims (Singer 3).

Here, he is trying to assert logically that he provide strong evidence to support his argument proves to be yet another flaw in the presentation of his argument because his audience cannot take his claims seriously. Thus, the solutions that Singer prescribes are not based on logic and are not realistic. In conclusion, even though both of these essays discuss the issue of poverty, Hardin has a much more balanced use of ethos, pathos, and logos than Singer, which makes Hardin much more reliable and believable.

Although both authors who acknowledge the subject, Hardin’s argument is a mixture of both emotion and logic that as his only means of conveying credibility as does Singer. Also, Hardin seems to use a small, adequate amount of pathos whereas Singer uses too much and becomes emotionally biased. These emotions bleed over into Singer’s argument who is primarily emotional and who his intentions are to appeal to the emotions of his readers, hoping that this will persuade them and make them take action.

However, Hardin is able to remain open-minded and presents logical facts that readers in different levels should be able to agree on. Therefore, Hardin’s essay addresses the issue much more mixture of logic and emotion, that combined with sound evidence is what defines successful and effective rhetorical strategies. Work Cited Hardin, Garret. “Lifeboat Ethics: The Case Against Helping the Poor. ” psychology today. (1974) Print. Singer, Peter. “The Singer Solution to World Poverty. ” The New York Times Magazine. The New York Times Magazine. 05 Sept. 1999. web. 10 Oct. 2012

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Human Poverty in Works of Garrett Hardin and Peter Singer. (2016, Nov 13). Retrieved from

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