Global Obligation of Poverty


When determining an ethical answer to any question, the most important thing is to identify the ethical framework by which one determines how to look at the issue. Different ethical frameworks will define what actions are moral and immoral. For the issue of the global obligation of poverty, the question is whether one has a moral obligation to help those in other areas of the globe who are suffering from poverty. This paper will use the virtue ethics framework to answer the question in the affirmative: one does have a moral obligation to help others around the world because doing so helps to develop ones own habit of virtue.

Ethical Framework

Virtue ethics is an ancient and universal ethical system that has been utilized in both the east and the west for millennia (Gong, 2010). Its focus is on the individual development of the human character so that people achieve happiness through right conduct that enables them to better themselves. The fundamental idea at the heart of virtue ethics is that when people conform themselves to a high standard of morality, they will act in a way that is beneficial for all of society. The system of virtue ethics posits that the best moral action is that which will develop a persons character for the better (Holmes, 2007). The moral character of the individual person expresses itself in the development of virtuous habits. The conformity of the individual will to an objective value or ideal, such as empathy, patience, charity, or humility, is what the system of virtue ethics recommends. This system is perfectly applicable today for as Gong (2010) states, virtues are a moral resource for modern people to resist modern evils…

255). The main challenge in applying the virtue ethics framework is that it requires the formation or education of the character (Kristjansson, 2014; Lickona, 1993). Unless the moral character of the individual is educated about what constitutes, objectively, the values that should be pursued and held in esteem, virtue ethics cannot be applied.


The first reason one has a global obligation to help those suffering from poverty is that charity is a reasonable and logical virtue to possess in a world where one is in a position to help those less fortunate. Charity helps to alleviate the suffering of others, builds rapport among people, and sustains a balance. As virtue is a disposition, one who is disposed to help others demonstrates the virtue of charity to the degree that he actually provides assistance. Therefore, a person who claims to be virtuous but who does not offer help to others who are in need cannot be said to be fulfilling the tenets of virtue ethics.

The second reason one has a global obligation to help those suffering from poverty from the virtue ethics standpoint is that practical wisdom demands it. In practice, one may help ones neighbors whether they are in ones own community or across the world in another country. Globalism has enabled a greater integration of peoples all over the world so that it is possible and practical to provide assistance to impoverished people on the other side of the planet by giving to charities and organizations that have been set up for that very purpose. Were such organizations not in place, it might be impractical to consider a global obligation to fight povertybut that is not the case in the modern age where everyone is connected through various networks making it easy to provide support in this manner.

The third reason one has a global obligation to help those suffering from poverty according to the framework of virtue ethics is that the point of virtue is happiness and well-being. It is posited within this framework that the good life is achieved when a person is virtuous, for virtue is what leads to happiness. From a target-centered perspective, a virtue is simply a disposition…


(USA, AUS, UK & CA PhD. Writers)


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