(Pseudo-)Science Blog

Web log for PH 170: Philosophy of Science and Pseudoscience – – – – – – – – – – – Professor Peter Bokulich



Would you offer your coat to a shivering child?

By Peter Bokulich

An experiment/consciousness-raising stunt in Norway had a child sit at a bus stop without a jacket, to see how many people would offer him the coat off their own back to keep him warm.

It’s reassuring that many people did indeed offer him a coat or a sweater.

The point of the stunt is to draw attention to the fact that there are children who are Syrian refugees who are similarly in need of protection from winter weather. If we should help a child we see sitting at a bus stop, shouldn’t we also help children we don’t don’t see in a foreign country?

This, of course, is the point that Peter Singer makes regarding the drowning child. Clearly I have an obligation to save a drowning toddler, even if it means ruining my fancy shoes. But where the child is would seem to make no moral difference. So I have just as much of a responsibility to save a child who is dying in a famine in a distant part of the world.

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