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Poverty and the Moral Significance of Contribution

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The main thesis of the article is that one’s responsibility to render assistance is not affected by having contributed to the situation by causing harm. I examine ways in which contribution to need is morally significant. Although contribution is relevant with regard to certain features, such as questions of blame, compensation, and fair distribution of the cost of assistance, I argue that contribution should carry no weight when assessing our duty to assist people in severe need if we can do so at little cost. If this is true we have reason to suspect that it is redundant to know whether or not we have in fact contributed to the need of the global poor when assessing our duty to address global poverty.

Affiliations: 1: The Ethics Programme, University of Oslo, Norway, Email: gerhard.overland@filosofi.uio.no

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