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The Drowning Child

Published on September 3, 2015        Author: 

If you haven’t already – read, look, and weep. Then reflect, perhaps, on why and how it is that such images are able to penetrate the walls we erect to shield ourselves from an uncomfortable reality, even while we are rationally fully aware of that reality. Having done so, I could not help but remember this other, hypothetical drowning child (see also here and here):

To challenge my students to think about the ethics of what we owe to people in need, I ask them to imagine that their route to the university takes them past a shallow pond. One morning, I say to them, you notice a child has fallen in and appears to be drowning. To wade in and pull the child out would be easy but it will mean that you get your clothes wet and muddy, and by the time you go home and change you will have missed your first class.

I then ask the students: do you have any obligation to rescue the child? Unanimously, the students say they do. The importance of saving a child so far outweighs the cost of getting one’s clothes muddy and missing a class, that they refuse to consider it any kind of excuse for not saving the child. Does it make a difference, I ask, that there are other people walking past the pond who would equally be able to rescue the child but are not doing so? No, the students reply, the fact that others are not doing what they ought to do is no reason why I should not do what I ought to do.

Once we are all clear about our obligations to rescue the drowning child in front of us, I ask: would it make any difference if the child were far away, in another country perhaps, but similarly in danger of death, and equally within your means to save, at no great cost – and absolutely no danger – to yourself? Virtually all agree that distance and nationality make no moral difference to the situation. I then point out that we are all in that situation of the person passing the shallow pond: we can all save lives of people, both children and adults, who would otherwise die, and we can do so at a very small cost to us: the cost of a new CD, a shirt or a night out at a restaurant or concert, can mean the difference between life and death to more than one person somewhere in the world – and overseas aid agencies like Oxfam overcome the problem of acting at a distance.

At this point the students raise various practical difficulties. Can we be sure that our donation will really get to the people who need it? Doesn’t most aid get swallowed up in administrative costs, or waste, or downright corruption? Isn’t the real problem the growing world population, and is there any point in saving lives until the problem has been solved? These questions can all be answered: but I also point out that even if a substantial proportion of our donations were wasted, the cost to us of making the donation is so small, compared to the benefits that it provides when it, or some of it, does get through to those who need our help, that we would still be saving lives at a small cost to ourselves – even if aid organizations were much less efficient than they actually are.

I have always found this argument in its essence to be incredibly compelling, even if I am no utilitarian, and even if Singer’s argument when brought to its fullest is far too demanding of most of us. But even so, as the “migrant” crisis is sweeping Europe, as children are drowning on its shores, I feel that some people who are not moved by the big picture (like this guy) might, perhaps, be moved if they were asked a smaller, more human-scale question: what would you do if you saw a child drowning in a pond?

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40 Responses

  1. Jens Iverson

    Singer is an interesting ethicist – I don’t agree with him on everything, but I nearly always think his writing is provocative and well-thought out. I wouldn’t normally post links like this on a blog like this, but it seems like a reasonable follow up in this case:

  2. Sarah Nouwen Sarah Nouwen

    Marko, thank you for this essential post. Staring at this picture last night I was even more struck by the emptiness of concepts such as “the Responsibility to Protect” and “humanitarian intervention”, strongly advanced by the UK and some other western states. Doesn’t this child drowning in the Mediterranean pond evoke an innate sense of a responsibility to protect?

    But, as we know, that is not what is meant by the “the Responsibility to Protect” that is being promoted: that involves a state’s putative RIGHT to use MILITARY FORCE to save people in ANOTHER STATE from war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.

    It is shameful that states arguing for that right are unwilling to assume the responsibility (in the genuine sense of the word) to do the easier, non-military, thing on one’s own territory: to open a border and welcome people when they are fleeing circumstances that are as life threatening as the select list of international crimes in case of which they are willing to take military action abroad.

  3. Veronika Bilkova

    The problem with this case, as well as with the drowning child scenario, is that it is compelling only for those who are already “converted”. If someone is not particularly moved by the picture, and would not save the drowning child, then what? Relying on emotions and morality can only work if these emotions and morality are shared. Having read many debates about the current crisis, I have doubts this is the case.

    With R2P – it is true that it only speaks about states protecting people on their own territory from the four core crimes, and the international community stepping in if they fail to do so.
    Yet, first of all, some of the refugees are fleeing from countries that face R2P crimes (Syria, Iraq, Eritrea…) and manifestly fail to prevent them – so Pillars II and III are applicable.
    And secondly, I wonder whether deliberately creating conditions that put the lives of thousands of people in danger and/or subject these people to inhuman conditions could not qualify as an R2P situation of itself.
    But you are right, Sarah, that what is unique about this situation is that now, it is not about all these bad guys out there outside Europe, it is about ourselves…which brings us back to the morality.

  4. Jakob Cornides Jakob Cornides

    Dear Marko,

    besides injecting fresh emotions into this debate, what exactly is the point you are trying to make?

    And speaking of Peter Singer – is he not the “ethicist” who thinks that children have no human rights before birth, and after birth acquire them only gradually to the extent that they are self-sustaining and aware of their own personhood?

    Just asking.

  5. Marko Milanovic Marko Milanovic

    Veronika, while your point about preaching to the converted is well taken, my (and Singer’s) point is different. Most people (say upwards of 90%) would accept that they DO have a moral obligation to help the child drowning in the pond. In that sense, they already are converted, as it were, even though there is likely a non-negligible amount of ethical egotists out there. The more difficult question is how/why do the people who accept that they have a duty to help that one drowning child simultaneously do not believe they have a duty to help the refugees from Syria or wherever, at a relatively minimal cost to themselves. My point therefore was that progressing from the narrow obligation to the wider in a series of logical steps (as Singer does with his students) may be persuasive to at least some of these people.

  6. Anni Pues

    Thank you for the thoughtful post. It is high time that international lawyers and academics become more vocal on questions in the grey zone between law and morality.

    This child was most likely (it is probably safe to assume in the current situation) from Syria. So this child was entitled as a refugee to protection and shelter. The way the EU insists on its border regime – designed not to allow anyone in – it avoids fulfilling its legal obligation to grant asylum and give refuge to those fleeing war and persecution. But when do we start being responsible as bystanders? When does complicity to murder start?

    Ideally, we need collective action at UN and EU level. But this doesn’t seem to be happening any time soon. Only focusing on Syria for a moment, it would be easy, radical, and utterly humane for the UK to waive the visa requirement for Syrian citizens in the current situation. It would be no solution to people from Afghanistan, Eritrea or elsewhere seeking protection. But it would be a start. This way no Syrian family would be forced onto a perilous journey through the Med and into the hands of human traffickers. The child, whose picture went viral yesterday, would have held its parents hands when boarding a plane to some destination in Europe. The airports in places like Istanbul and Izmir would be very busy places. And yes, we might have thousands and thousands of refugees arriving. But the UK would be able to cope just as much as Germany does. Thinking back for example to Indochina, history has taught us that we can do it.

    Time for lawyers to demand humane government action living up to their, to our international and moral obligations?

  7. Veronika Bilkova

    You are quite optimistic, Marko, but OK, let´s except your 90% for the moment. Even then, I think the explanation (not the justification, of course) is not difficult to find.
    The two scenarios – the drowning child (DCS) and the Syrian children (SCS) – are not identical.

    First, in the DCS, you are the immediate and, I guess, the only witness. So it is either you who helps or noone. In the SCS, there are many who could help, so why should it be you? There are many tests showing that people feel more compelled to help if they are the only witnesses to a critical situation than when they witness this situation with other people.

    Another difference is that in the DCS, the solution to the problem is obvious, you pull the kid out of the water and that´s it. In the SCS, the solution is not that obvious.

    This is of course not meant to be an apology for those who simply do not care. It is just to show that the “narrow to wider” path of thinking might face, and indeed does face, certain obstacles.

  8. Alessandra Asteriti

    I find the argument by Singer far from compelling. He is completely, and maybe unsurprisingly, eliding the political dimension, which distinguishes crucially the first scenario from the second. My individual compassion compels me to act in the first instance. To translate this in an atomised collective compassion, donating a few pennies, is misguided and dangerous. What is the point of doing so, and then letting international political interests perpetuate precisely the same situation that I (we, but a powerless and atomised we) am/are trying to mitigate with my pitiful donation? The collective form of compassion is political solidarity. Instead, collective action results in the sinister ‘responsibility to protect’ which is really just a fig-leaf for military intervention (and in fact, completely absent in current discussions about the crisis in Syria) and we are left carrying the banner of compassion one penny at the time.

  9. It is interesting yet troubling that people seemed moved by victims of natural disasters portrayed in the mass media, donating considerable sums of money to help such folks (an organization like Direct Relief International is exemplary in this regard), yet are less moved, if at all, by the sufferings of (as it were) man-made or socio-economic and political “disasters.” Veronika’s comment at 12:20 makes a good point regarding the disanalogy between the hypothetical and real world cases. Nonetheless, there are several things, I think, the mass media might do (and our politicians and their governments as well), in addition to circulating powerful images (included in the piece Marko linked to) that could bring the two cases closer together: First, talk less about “migrants” (which makes this situation sound like simply a matter of expressed preference or unconstrained free choice) and more about “refugees,” people with morally compelling reasons to flee their homeland (and cite similar recent and historical examples of same from around the globe but in particular in the histories of the countries of the target readers) so as merely to survive, to live, in the first instance. Second, explain to publics and potential host countries how acting to relieve misery and suffering requires not just philanthropic efforts (which we need not dismiss altogether), as Marko appreciates, but the sorts of collective actions made possible by our having empowered representative governments to act on our behalf. We need not “solve” the several morally and politically messy problems that are causally linked to the reasons why refugees cross nation-state borders to do something that provides for the immediate relief of suffering here and now, like the Buddha implored us in the so-called “parable of the poisoned arrow.” It is often said that the principal point of this parable is that we need not solve contentious metaphysical or moral psychological problems before we act to relieve suffering, problems that might speak to “who” shot the arrow and what motivated he or she to do such a thing (i.e. ‘why’). We can analogize this to the instant case: we need not solve all of the problems that are at the root of the refugee crisis to do something in a timely manner to provide security, safety, shelter, food, and so forth to the refugees. So, while it is no doubt true that “In the SCS, the solution is not that obvious,” we might respond by saying that is essentially irrelevant or beside the point…. Many have concluded that the sort of questions the Buddha said need not be satisfactorily answered before acting to relieve the suffering of the man shot with the poisoned arrow means that Buddhism is not at all concerned with such questions, which I (and a few others) believe is the wrong conclusion to draw, as it would be in this case. Certainly the Buddha and Buddhists, beginning with the Four Noble Truths, but continuing with a large body of literature, have sought to understand, for example, what motivates a person to attempt to kill someone else, what moral psychology and metaphysical issues are pertinent to addressing that and related questions (in short, what are the causes suffering?… and what can we do to eliminate those causes, Buddhists believing that in principle and praxis it is possible to eliminate same). So these are distinct topics and actions: one can act here and now for the relief of suffering without “solving” the myriad problems that gave rise to such suffering. At the same time and over a prolonged period of time, of course, we can certainly work to eliminate or at least ameliorate the CONSEQUNCES of such causal conditions and variables, efforts that hardly preclude our efforts on a different track to tackle the political questions and problems at the root of the current refugee situation. Third, we need not shrink back from “emotional” appeals, especially insofar as these are fused to compelling reasons as to why we should act. Such appeals should exploit whatever existing or latent capacities we have for empathy and compassion, which involves at the very least putting an emphasis on the fact that the refugees are, first and foremost, human beings like us, whatever other chosen and ascriptive identities they happen to have (here we could draw upon a different religious worldview in citing the Parable of the Good Samaritan).

    Finally, those put off by Singer owing to his logical extension of utilitarianism in rather morally troubling ways, might consider—apart from the fact that such extension is not germane to our case—how much the utilitarian tradition has in fact contributed to the relief of suffering, at least in some places at some points in time: it was in the wake of utilitarian philosophy’s involvement with the social and public realm (and not simply or solely as a ‘personal’ ethic or moral philosophy), “intimately at first, and then simply by virtue of its conditioning influence,” that we witness “campaigns for law reform, prison reform, adult suffrage, free trade, trade union legislation, public education, a free press, secret ballot, a civil service competitively recruited by public examination, the modernization of local government, the registration of titles to property in land, safety codes for merchant shipping, sanitation, preventive public medicine, smoke prevention, Alkali Inspectorate, the collection of economic statistics, anti-monopoly legislation…. In sum, philosophical utilitarianism played a leading part in promoting indefinitely many of the things that we now take for granted in the modern world” (David Wiggins).

    Of course utilitarianism’s influence on those with social and political power was for better and worse, as Wiggins also notes (e.g., regarding the latter, it had perhaps a clearly nefarious influence on the political ideas that justified and animated British colonialism in India), but surely it’s worth exploring why utilitarianism (in a fairly sophisticated form found in the likes of Robert E. Goodin in his 1995 volume, Utilitarianism as a Public Philosophy) continues to have relevance for political philosophy. Like Marko, one need not believe utilitarianism is a sufficient moral worldview to live by or even rely on in addressing many of our moral and ethical questions, to appreciate the appeal of utilitarian reasoning of a sort, particularly as it applies to the welfare and well-being of large numbers of people (reasoning that can abide, at the same time, with recognition of a place for ‘rights’ as constraints). If you want to examine arguments that combine both Kantian moral imperatives with utilitarian reasoning (yes, it can be done!) one might look, as an alternative to Singer, to Goodin’s Protecting the Vulnerable: A Reanalysis of Our Social Responsibilities (University of Chicago Press, 1985).

  10. Jakob Cornides Jakob Cornides

    Sorry, but I simply have to say that I find Marko’s original post inappropriate in every possible sense. Firstly, because Peter Singer is not credible as a defender of children’s rights, so if there is anyone who really should not be quoted in such a context it is he. Second, because the image of a drowned child, highly distressing as it may be, makes no useful contribution to the debate save that it raises emotions. Third, because it is not even clear what kind of argument Marko wants to make, except “look at the picture and cry”.
    I feel somewhat reminded of Count Ugolino’s words in Dante’s Inferno:

    Ben se’ crudel, se tu già non ti duoli
    pensando ciò che ’l mio cor s’annunziava;
    e se non piangi, di che pianger suoli?

    Of course we all have the same (entirely appropriate) feelings when we look at this image – good education means to teach a person to have the appropriate emotions at the appropriate occasions. And of course I hope there is no one among us who would not help saving drowning child, especially when, as in Marko’s (or Singer’s) hypothetical case) it costs him almost nothing.

    But this simply is not the situation here. Is Marko seriously suggesting that the child on the photo is now dead because somebody who saw it drowning did not help, although it would not have cost him anything? Does he want to see that David Cameron is such a man who, when he sees a drowning child, shrugs his shoulders and looks the other way? This would be a very, very mean allegation.

    The child on the image is not drowning. It is dead. The question is: why did it drown? Who put its life at risk, and for which reasons? Were these reasons legitimate? It is entirely hypothetical to say that the child’s life could easily have been saved by someone passing by and seeing it drown – in actual fact nobody knows whether there was any such bystander. What, by contrast, we can affirm is that it was irresponsible to put the boy into danger by trying the dangerous passage from Turkey to Greece.

    It is perfectly legitimate and reasonable for people to flee from a war zone and seek shelter in a place where they can feel safe. But, having arrived at the Western shore of Turkey, can it reasonably be said that there still was any immediate threat for the boy’s (and his parents’) life and limbs? If there was no such threat, was it reasonable and legitimate for them to risk their lives by trying the passage to Greece? So, who is responsible for the child’s death – he who unnecessarily put its life at risk, or he who faild to rescue it (be it because he looked in another direction, or because he just didn’t happen to be there)?

    It is always easy to emotionalize a debate (and at the same time it gives one the cheap gratification of standing on the moral high ground). But what I would expect from this blog is not cheap emotions based on unverified or even counter-factual assumptions, but stringent reasoning.

    This being a blog for lawyers, the reasoning should preferably be legal, but that does of course not exclude some purely moral/ethical arguments.

    Thus my question for this debate is an entirely different one: what are war refugees (if this is who we are speaking about) really entitled to? Is it simply shelter in a safe place, where they can wait until the risk is over and then return? Or is it a right to immigration (with full social benefits) in whichever country they might choose?

    Have we completely given up the differentiation between migrants and refugees?

  11. Marko Milanovic Marko Milanovic


    I must say I find it very strange that you accuse me of ’emotionalizing’ the debate. The debate – if that’s what it is – is by its very nature emotional. Judgments people make on all sides of this refugee question, be they ordinary people or politicians or judges or whatever, are inevitably tangled up with their emotions, ranging from sadness, compassion and empathy to fear, anger and even hatred.

    The ad hominem snipe re Singer I will leave aside, since I really can’t be bothered. But if I can break down the point I was trying to make with the image syllogistically:

    (1) There is no meaningful moral difference between having a duty to help a child drowning in a pond right next to you, and having a duty to help a child drowning an ocean away from you, if you have some ability to help.
    (2) This is not how people behave in practice, i.e. they are far more likely to discount other people who are not members of their ingroup or have no direct experience of.
    (3) What allows this process to take place is the emotional or empathetic distance we can create with regard to these far-away people. We are not affected by their suffering in the same way if they are dying somewhere in Syria as if they were dying here at home (wherever that might be).
    (4) Images like the one of that poor boy break down that emotional distance and produce an affective response in the same way as if we saw the child drowning in front of us. That makes it easier to appreciate that we have some moral obligations towards these people too, that we would otherwise be able to disregard.

    I hope that make things clearer. On some of your other points, I am struck by how you seem to think that there is only one person or set of persons who is responsible for that child’s death, or for the deaths of the children that will follow. Apparently it’s the child’s parents (well, at least his father, since his mother drowned as well). That is such a breathtakingly impovervished understanding of moral responsibility, and of the very nature of the refugee problem, that I really don’t know what to say. Many people made many decisions over a number of years in the causal chain that led to this event, and quite a few of those bear some modicum of moral responsibility – including the boy’s parents. And yes, one of those people could perhaps be David Cameron, and there is nothing ‘mean’ about saying that.

  12. Patrick S. O'Donnell

    In addition to what Marko says about the role of emotions here in reply to Jakob I want to note that such debates invariably involve the passions or the emotions more widely in the sense that people are often moved to act by that famous triune of motivations: reason(s), interests, and passions and it’s often impossible in the real world to disentangle them (we may attempt to do so for some analytical purposes, but they invariably remain conjoined in the minds of those who invoke them). It’s curious that Jakob would mention the emotions in a purely pejorative sense, which is unfortunate. In fact, for better and worse, emotions are and have been an integral part of the law and legal reasoning, as works by Susan Bandes, John Deigh and others attest; so much so that we can speak on occasion and with Ronald de Sousa, of the “rationality of the emotions” (a title of one of his books). In any case, works by Jon Elster and Martha Nussbaum, among others, make it clear that we may not want to (nor perhaps can we) sever “stringent reasoning” of the practical sort from emotions in making moral, political, and legal judgments and arguments in our world (assuming these can’t be reduced to algorithms and we care to avoid being inhumane or less-than-human).

  13. Alessandra Asteriti

    The child is not ‘it’ Jakob. Out of respect for the dead, maybe this discussion should close down. And yes, I am being emotional.

  14. Monica Garcia Salmones

    Thank you Marko,

    I do not understand what is Mr. Carnides’s point.

    Hopefully there is a contribution that we international lawyers and international law can do to help this suffering people and there are some workshops trying to think ways through this terrible crisis, such as this:,247104,en.html

    As for today, weep indeed.

  15. Jakob Cornides Jakob Cornides

    Alessandra, please forgive me for a small Germanism (das Kind, grammatical neutrum) in my last post. Such grammatical errors are however neither a reason to get emotional, nor to abruptly close the debate.

    Patrick, I refer you back to my post. It is not clear why you say that I “mention emotions in a purely pejorative sense” – in fact it is not so. I am also not saying that Marko doesn’t have the right emotions when the image of a drowned child arouses in him anger, and a desire to help. But yes, emotions can get into the way of a rational debate.

    Marko, I take it from your response that you find it hard to accept criticism. I can understand this, but I’m afraid that “I can’t be bothered” is neither polite, nor does it make you look very clever.

    I am trying my best to find sense in the compound of words you have posted, but I must admit I don’t find it easy. If I understand correctly, then what you say is that Mr. Cameron bears “some modicum of responsibility” for the boy’s death, because he belongs to the “many people (who) made many decisions over a number of years in the causal chain that led to this event”. This is not very precise. Maybe when you pillory Mr. Cameron on this blog (which is there, I understand, to discuss legal issues rather than to express your center-left political preferences) you could also indicate precisely how he is responsible for the drowning of a child between Turkey and Greece. Is he the main responsible for the current civil war in Syria? Should he have sent helicopters or battleships to bring all Syrians who so desire safely to England and build a new home for them there? Should he, and his peers, have decided that henceforth everybody should enter the EU without a visa?

    If you are not able to specify any particular reason why Cameron bears a “modicum of responsibility”, maybe your argument is that everyone of us bears such a “modicum of responsibility”, and therefore everyone should feel guilty. Very fine, but if the responsibility of Mr. Cameron is the same as your own and mine, why do you then point your finger at Mr. Cameron? Could you not equally well pillory yourself?

    But maybe I shouldn’t digress into politics and just analyse the (more general) moral argument you apparently want to make:

    “(1) There is no meaningful moral difference between having a duty to help a child drowning in a pond right next to you, and having a duty to help a child drowning an ocean away from you, if you have some ability to help.”

    This is nonsensical for a number of reasons.

    First of all, it is completely undisputable that we all have different responsibilities vis-à-vis different people. I don’t know whether you are married and have children – but if you are, then obviously your first duty in a situation of emergency is to take care of them rather than of the family next door (although it is of course good if in addition you manage to help your neighbours as well). Your responsibility for your family takes some precedence over your duty to save the entire world.

    Second, the argument you (and Singer) are making is completely counter-factual. Saying that “if it costs you nothing to save the life of a child that is drowning an ocean away” is a truism, trivial to the point of being grotesque. But unfortunately the world isn’t constructed that way.

    I don’t know how this is regulated in the UK, but in my country if you happen to see a child drowning and you don’t do whatever is within your power to help (i.e. either save it yourself or, if you don’t know how to swim, alarm the police) you are committing a crime and incur criminal sanctions. But you don’t incur criminal sanctions for not donating to Oxfam.

    Why is this? Because the drowning child’s need for your help is immediate, and as the next bystander you are the man who has the responsibility to help. However if there is another bystander who is closer by and might help, the first responsibility is his rather than yours.

    In any case, there is a difference between a child drowning nearby and a child drowning an ocean away. Also, it is a false assumption that saving a child drowning an ocean away “costs nothing”, or that the success is guaranteed. There simply isn’t a switch or a button that I can press and that will automatically save the child drowning in the Indian Ocean.

    If there were such a button, there still would be a difference between (not) pressing it and (not) donating to Oxfam. Donating to Oxfam may be fine, but there are hundreds of other organization to which we can donate, and which perhaps have better projects.

    Singer’s argument that there is an obligation to donate to Oxfam that is equal to the obligation to rescue children drowning right in front of us is built on a false analogy.

    So the problem with the moral principle you are erecting is not that it is not true in a very abstract sense, but that it is far remote from the real world in which we live.

    “(2) This is not how people behave in practice, i.e. they are far more likely to discount other people who are not members of their ingroup or have no direct experience of.”

    “(3) What allows this process to take place is the emotional or empathetic distance we can create with regard to these far-away people. We are not affected by their suffering in the same way if they are dying somewhere in Syria as if they were dying here at home (wherever that might be).”

    This is again a truism – but as we have seen, it is perfectly reasonable to behave in that way. Indeed, it would be wrong if they behaved otherwise.

    “(4) Images like the one of that poor boy break down that emotional distance and produce an affective response in the same way as if we saw the child drowning in front of us. That makes it easier to appreciate that we have some moral obligations towards these people too, that we would otherwise be able to disregard.”

    True, such images break down emotional distance (and some of the contributions in this exchange provide the best proof for it). But the real question here is whether this distance is not to some extent reasonable and appropriate.

    Of course we have some moral obligations towards these people – and no one has said that we haven’t. If we had been there (instead of 1000 miles away), and if we had been able to rescue the drowning child, we certainly should have been obliged to help. But what precisely are the conclusions you want to draw from this?

    Certainly my remark about Peter Singer is not an “ad personam snipe”, but I think I do have reason to wonder what an “ethicist” who places humans on a par with animals and then makes their respective status and rights contingent to the sentiments they are able to feel has to tell us in the given context. This is not even “utilitarianism”, but a bizarre form of extreme sentimentality, far remote from any rational argument. So we should maybe not be surprised that in the passage you have quoted the argument, if it really can be called such, is entirely built on the sentiments/emotions that Singer wants to arouse in his audience.

    Thus, instead of chastising me for my “breathtakingly impovervished understanding of moral responsibility” you might enlighten me and others, offering us a convincing argument on what that responsibility entails for each one of us.

  16. Veronika Bilkova

    “Images like the one of that poor boy break down that emotional distance and produce an affective response in the same way as if we saw the child drowning in front of us.
    I see your point, Marko. Yet, I think, this exactly is a very dangerous illusion.

    Being an accidental witness to a human tragedy is different than being offered an image of such a tragedy, one of many thousands which could be produced, one often carefully selected to make us feel and act in a certain way. Moreover, as already noted above, the image is usually meant to draw attention to a more general issue than „just“ the immediate victim. Yet, such issues are notoriously more difficult to solve than an immediate human catastroph. In fact, a solution which might work very well at the individual level might be counter-productive when used as a general remedy.

    I agree that emotions are part of human life and there is no reason to try to push them out. That would turn us into robots. At the same time, being driven only by emotions and thinking that something – for instance a certain image – is the highest trump in front of which you can only – indeed you must – stay silent, is also somewhat onesided in my view.

    Finally, I find it interesting that after all these emotion-first entries, the (only) concrete proposal of a contribution we international lawyers could make, consists in advertising a seminar with the registration fee of 100 Euro. So, weep for today and business as usual for tomorrow?

  17. Jakob, I should have qualified my comment as follows: the references to emotions and law, emotions and debate, emotions and legal reasoning were “purely pejorative” (as might have been inferred from the remainder of my comment). While I agree that some emotions (especially some of the ‘passions’) can interfere with debate (private or public), in this instance I’ve yet to see how that is in fact the case (perhaps if Donald Trump weighs in…).

  18. Marko Milanovic Marko Milanovic


    I’m not sure what exactly the argument you are disputing here is – or at least it seems to me to be a bit of a strawman. Nobody has argued that we should be driven only by emotions; I have only made the modest claim that emotions cannot be excluded from the debate. Equally nobody argues that solving a systemic problem is as easy as solving an individual one. As for the mobilizing power of the image I again don’t see how that can be dismissed as a mere illusion. Lastly, your final comment strikes me as entirely unfair – Monica was referring to an event at which the possible role of international law in addressing this crisis can be discussed; she was not saying that the event itself is any kind of solution. And I fail to see the point regarding the 100 euro conference charge – what exactly about it do you find objectionable?


    Far be it for me to try to appear clever in your eyes – but I would note that the point about being able to take criticism rather seems one that you should strive to internalize yourself. My comment about not going to bother was about your personal attack on Peter Singer, whose work you have clearly never read and are able to summarize only in caricature. (He is anything but an advocate of “extreme sentimentality”, for instance, and I imagine would laugh himself silly at being labelled as one).

    But as for your question what specific decisions could we/Cameron/whoever be morally responsible for, which have a causal connection to the death of this child or some other child, let me give you some examples: (1) the decision by the UK to admit far fewer Syrian refugees than say Germany, all because of petty anti-immigrant domestic politics; (2) the decision of all European states to take far fewer refugees (by orders of magnitude) than neighbouring and less affluent countries, like Turkey,Jordan and Lebanon; (3) the failure of European states to provide clearer, more generous paths for asylum; (4) the consequent incentivisation of various kinds of people smugglers and increase in safety risk due to the transportation methods used; (5)the decision by EU states to draw down their rescue operations in the Mediterranean; (6) the botched occupation of Iraq, in which the UK played a key part, which directly led to the rise of Al-Qaeda in Iraq and its later transmogrification into ISIS, which directly led to the persecution and displacement of hundreds of thousands of people at the hands of ISIS, in Iraq and in Syria; (7) the decision to invade Iraq in the first place. Etc, etc. And yes – my point was exactly that all of us living in the EU, as individuals and collectively, have a moral obligation to help those in existential need (especially when they are at least partly in that need because of what we have done re Iraq). I also note that I never argued that this help is costless to us, nor that it is going to be 100% effective (nor does Singer, for that matter). My only point is that we are doing far, far less than we are actually able to do without making significant sacrifices to our own (individual and collective) welfare.

  19. Jakob Cornides Jakob Cornides


    don’t worry, I have read enough of Peter Singer to know what he stands for, and that is probably much more than what you can say of yourself.

    But let us have a short look at the examples you give:

    “(1) the decision by the UK to admit far fewer Syrian refugees than say Germany, all because of petty anti-immigrant domestic politics;”

    So if Germany accepts (as one hears the Government say) 800.000 refugees, then the UK should take 500.000. Think a bit how that would influence the upcoming Brexit-referendum, and then maybe you will see why Cameron is not following the German example. It’s not mere petty concerns, but the man is actually responsible for governing his country.

    “(2) the decision of all European states to take far fewer refugees (by orders of magnitude) than neighbouring and less affluent countries, like Turkey,Jordan and Lebanon;”

    It seems quite normal that refugees are “absorbed” by the neighbouring regions. This is because in principle asylum should be granted by the first safe country, refugee status not being an entitlement to migrate to whichever country one chooses. In the current Ukrainian crisis, very few victims have sought asylum in the EU; instead, they are mostly absorbed by Ukraine and Russia, both of which are fairly big countries. A Ukrainian can feel safe in Dnipropetrovsk, and a Russian can feel safe in Rostov. The situation may be worse in Syria/Iraq, but generally the integration of refugees in their region of origin poses far less difficulties than in other regions of the world with whose language and culture they are less familiar. Thus the argument you might make is that one should support Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, in accepting refugees, but the idea that Syrian refugees should be evenly spread across the world (including to Canada and Argentina perhaps?) like butter on a piece of toasted bread is not really self-evident.

    You should also be aware that the refugees, if the choice is left to them, would not want to go “to Europe”, but they want to go to Germany, Sweden, the UK, and perhaps the Netherlands and Austria. The “distribution” of refugees inside the EU is hardly likely to work, except by force (i.e., by forcing countries like Latvia or the Czech Republic to build detention camps, and then forcibly transport the refugees into oneof those camps).

    “(4) the consequent incentivisation of various kinds of people smugglers and increase in safety risk due to the transportation methods used;”

    If you look more carefully, you will see that the one has not necessarily depend on the other. For example, one of the most astonishing facts about the current crisis is the readiness of many thousand refugees who already are in France (a perfectly safe country) to risk life and limbs to walk through the Eurotunnel. Is it really safety they seek in the UK? If not, what is it? Likewise, if you remember the horrible death of 71 refugees found asphyxiated in a van near the Austrian/Hungarian border, it begs the question why on earth they believed they needed to climb onto that van. There is a “green” border between Hungary and Austria – no fences and wires whatsoever. They could have walked across without any risk.

    Is the “incentivisation” not rather due to the fact that there are certain “pull-factors” in some countries, but not in others?

    etc. … etc.

    I was certainly never a supporter of the Iraq war, and apparently you weren’t either, so what is the point of declaring us “responsible” because of “what we have done in Iraq”? Who, we???

    Let us stop this here. Even your third attempt fails to bring clarity into the matter. What I would like to read on this block is not emotional outbursts over children drowning one or two oceans away, but a sound analysis of what international humanitarian law really provides for in a situation like this.

    Maybe instead of Peter Singer you could find and invite an author who has something sensible to say on this.

  20. Monica Garcia Salmones

    Jakob, I did not understand your point yesterday, but now I do. (Sorry, btw, for writing your name wrongly). This is a blog of international law and it makes sense to raise the question about how much responsibility do we have for those who are suffering and dying far away. To me, at least, makes sense as a question of international law – not to mention as a more general moral question.

  21. Veronika Bilkova

    “Nobody argues that solving a systemic problem is as easy as solving an individual one.”
    I am happy we agree on this point. But that is exactly one of the reasons why Singer´s argument does not work. The two situations he describes and you describe are simply not identical.

    “Fighting the strawman”.
    The same point, developed in my first comment in this debate.

    “As for the mobilizing power of the image I again don’t see how that can be dismissed as a mere illusion.”
    The mobilizing power is not an illusion. What drives this mobilizing power – the impression that seeing an image is virtually like being a direct witness – is.

    “The seminar issue.”
    Point taken, as I am sure Monica included the reference to the seminar bona fide. Yet, it struck me as strange yesterday that after all these comments on moral responsibility, no concrete suggestions of what this responsibility could and should entail were made. And the only “suggestion” was for the relatively rich of this world (hence the reference to 100 EUR – quite a lot even for people from some parts of Europe, let alone for refugees themselves)to meet and discuss the problems of the poor. A well meant initiative, I am sure, but I somehow expected something more or something different. And this was also a purely emotional reaction, I admit.

  22. Veronika Bilkova

    Let´s make the debate somewhat more legal. Much has been written here about the EU. Yet, the EU is not a monolithic entity, we find at least three types of states – from the perspective of migrants/refugees – within the EU:
    a)Entry States – migrants/refugees enter the EU through them (Greece, Italy, Hungary);
    b)Target States – the countries migrants/refugees seek to reach (Germany, the UK, Scandinavia);
    c)Transfer States – the countries through which migrants/refugees have to go to get from a) to b) (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria).
    The categories, of course, are not fully disjunctive. Yet, as a general rule, the entry countries are not the same as the target countries. In other words, most migrants/refugees do not want to stay in the country through which they enter the EU (that explains by the way why the idea of quotas is doomed from the start, as Jakob also noted)
    Now, however, and that is where law comes into play, under the EU law, the state competent to consider the application for asylum/any other form of international protection is the entry state. As far as I know, non-entry states are not legally obliged (or are they?) to return migrants/refugees to the entry state, yet they are entitled to do so if they wish so (under the conditions specified in the EU law and the ECHR jurisprudence). This obviously motivates migrants/refugees to try to escape the attention of entry/transfer states and to get to the target states by any means at their disposal, even risking their lives.
    Does this mean that the EU law is part of the problem rather than a solution to it? And if so, what should we do with the Dublin system? Abolish it as Germany de facto did with respect to the Syrians? And in this specific case, does the decision on the de facto abolition entail any obligations on the part of the relevant actor (for instance an obligation to ensure a safe transfer for those people who have been invited in, or the obligation to ensure the safety in the transfer/entry states through which migrants/refugees flow…)? And what is the source of these obligations?
    I am not a specialist in the refugee law, so I would be grateful for any elucidation. Clarifying these and other similar questions should, in my view, be the special contribution that we as international lawyers could and should make to the current debate.

  23. Jakob Cornides Jakob Cornides


    thank you for a post that at last brings some sense into this discussion.

    I think Austria should be counted as a target state, given that it expects to get around 50.000 applications for refugee status this year (which proportionally is not far below Germany). Also, I am not sure whether many refugees are actually transiting through CZ and SK, so these countries are rather by-standers who want to be neither targets (hence their opposition to Dublin) nor transit countries.

    It would probably be useful to draw a distinction between international humanitarian law (i.e., the Geneva Convention) and, on the other hand, EU law (the “Dublin system”).

    The Dublin system adapts the requirements of international humanitarian law to the specific situation of the EU (or rather, the Schengen zone). What it says is that although the borders between the Schengen states are in principle open, the Schengen zone is not to be considered as one uniform country. Hence the obligation for each country to deal with asylum seekers if it is the first EU country they enter – to which corresponds a right of other Schengen countries to send asylum seekers back to the first country of entry.

    However, this possibility of sending refugees back to another EU country is a right, not a duty. Thus Germany has in principle the right to invite as many refugees as it wants, if it takes due care of them.

    But of course one cannot have the cake and eat it. If Germany’s policy is perceived by refugees (although I’m not at all sure it is intended that way) as a standing invitation to come to Germany, then it becomes virtually impossible for the in-between countries to stop them from going there. For this reason Germany bears some responsibility for the current situation in Hungary (but there can be no doubt that Hungary, Austria, Greece, Italy, etc. also bear responsibility for the influx of refugees into Germany.

    Schengen and Dublin require not only a high degree of mutual trust between Member State, but also a certain convergence in their policies. I see neither. This is why I am increasingly pessimistic about the survival of Schengen. Given that Schengen and the Euro are the two big symbols of EU integration that are visible to everyone, this is really devastating for the EU.

    So I think we do have some serious questions to discuss, and at the same time we must do justice to the refugees’ legitimate claim to get safety and shelter. But it simply won’t do to just send around images of drowned children and say to (pretty much) everybody “look what you’ve done”. That’s just not a useful contribution.

  24. “thank you for a post that at last brings some sense into this discussion.”

    The point being that up to now “sense” was found lacking in this thread, perhaps it was but “nonsense.” In any case, that remark strikes this reader as rather condescending and unnecessary.

  25. Patrick S. O'Donnell

    As for the “images of drowned children,” those have moved individuals to contribute to organizations helping refugees, for instance, “a group [Migrant Offshore Aid Station] that rescues migrants at sea collected more than $275,000 in 24 hours.” It has also prompted newspaper and journal articles (some of those of course online) and deliberative debates in more than a few government and civil society fora, including on this blog, so…contrary to your (once again) patronizing claim, such images were indeed, and remain, a “useful contribution.”

  26. Jakob Cornides Jakob Cornides

    Patrick, sorry to “condenscend” again, but the fact that an image prompts newspaper and journal articles or government decisions is not itself a proof that they are “useful”. Even accepting that apparently the value of such images is mainly instrumental (e.g. for collecting $ 275.000 in a day) or propagandistic, the usefulness will ultimately depend on the quality of what is discussed and done.

    I definitely prefer a debate in which contributions are meaningful rather than (in your sense) merely useful.

  27. Patrick S. O'Donnell


    In would-be democracies, being well-informed, having discussions and debates, thinking aloud in both public and private (literal and figurative) spaces by interlocutors who are everyday citizens or elites of one kind or another (government officials, politicians, academics, etc.) is generally a good thing, as some if not most of the foremost theorists and philosophers of democracy have well understood. The results contribute to an informed if not educated citizenry, something a democratic society requires as a prerequisite to function as a democracy in any meaningful or valuable sense of that term. In other words, and in short, the images moved many to “talk,” even if you or other experts fail to find the content of such talk meeting the standards or attaining the heights of the specialized or expert discourse that serves as the lingua franca of your profession. Such talk is a necessary condition for the formation of what John Rawls memorably (and I think correctly) termed “public reason.”

    I did not say the images necessarily prompted “decisions” (indeed, that may be either a direct consequence or an unintended by-product or spillover effect), but they moved people in a _timely_ fashion (we can agree, I hope, that there is an ‘urgency’ to the situation) to engage in such “talking” on a matter of profound concern to many if not most of us. Something can be serve both instrumental and intrinsically or inherently valuable ends at the same time. The talking can be both useful and meaningful, the former in no way ruling out the latter. And what counts as useful and/or meaningful will vary according to the audience or public or readership (what have you). I teach a class at a college for both instrumental reasons (it contributes to our household income…) and other, more-than-instrumental reasons having to do with my love of teaching, my love of research and reading, and so forth. I think education is an intrinsic good: that fact that I get paid for it does not sully the good (in any case, there’s much I don’t get paid for, some of which might fall within the rubric of ‘informal’ education).

    Imagine a world bereft of such images: how much longer would it take for people to learn of what is occurring in Europe and the Middle East and thereby moved to act in some way upon learning of the causes and contexts associated with those images. In brief, attempts to address the suffering of men, women, and children would be needlessly delayed and thus prolonged. In brief, we would be allowing our fellow human beings to needlessly suffer when things might, and should, have been otherwise. Perhaps you’re content to live in such a world. I…and I trust not a few others, are not.

  28. Jakob Cornides Jakob Cornides

    Given that you find images so useful:

    Thousands of refugees walking from Budapest in a Western direction – in around five days they will reach the Austrian border.

    Which emotions will this set free? And which are the deliberations that will be triggered?

  29. Veronika Bilkova

    The picture could certainly be “useful” (= instrumental), however cynical that might sound, in prompting something: contributions to the UNHCR, political decisions, or – in the EJILtalk – a debate about legal aspects of the current crisis and about what international law, and us as international lawyers, could offer in this context.

    Interestingly enough, this debate is not coming. We started with the picture and it seems that we will end with it.
    And most people will as well. Pictures move but do not explain and/or offer the way out. And they rarely, I am afraid, make people look into “the causes and contexts associated with those images”. We weep, we maybe make a donation and then, it is usually until the next picture…

    I understood Jakob´s comment on the “useful contribution” as suggesting that we should go beyond that.

  30. monica garcia salmones

    Jakob, I am so glad that this people arrive in a friendly and generous country that will not be left alone by the rest of the countries of Europe. That is the part were international lawyers come in. One can easily imagine their own emotions.

  31. Jakob Cornides Jakob Cornides

    The difference is that the picture of a drowned boy is apt to trigger “useful” emotions such as compassion, generosity, willingness to help, and (also welcome!) anger at David Cameron. By contrast, the images of a huge number of people marching on our capitals are apt to arouse fear and hostility. Equally manipulative, perhaps, but not quite as “useful”…

  32. Nous

    “By contrast, the images of a huge number of people marching on our capitals are apt to arouse fear and hostility”

    ‘Marching’ on ‘our’ capitals… Quite a militaristic way of putting it, with subtle hints of hysteria. For someone hoping for a reasoned, non-emotional debate, Jakob sure seems in the clutches of hearty doses of anguish and fear.

  33. Patrick S. O'Donnell

    Re: “the picture of a drowned boy is apt to trigger “useful” emotions such as compassion, generosity, willingness to help, and (also welcome!) anger at David Cameron.”

    It rather seems to me that the picture gives rise to “spontaneous rational and moral emotions”…. And, yes, “anger” of a kind can be included here insofar as it is of the “righteous” (and perhaps merely ‘occurrent’) sort that is provoked by its ties to egregious injustice or acts of transparent immorality or evil.

    Re: “images of a huge number of people marching on our capitals are apt to arouse fear and hostility.”

    This called to mind the history of a number of marches to Washington, D.C. in my country’s history, which did indeed give rise to “fear and hostility” in some quarters, such feelings being irrational and ideologically grounded given the threat to the status quo they incarnated, as evidenced by the protestors’ opposition to massive unemployment and under-employment, poverty, racism, and the Vietnam War.
    Consider, for instance, the march organized on Washington by one Walter W. Waters, an army sergeant and war veteran from Portland, Oregon who had been laid off from his cannery job and, in the late spring of 1932. He organized veterans for a “march” on Washington under the name, Bonus Expeditionary Force (BEF) (after doughboys in Europe in 1917). Waters’ Bonus Army, “as it came to be known,” attracted fellow veterans from around the country, many of who rode in stock and railway cars to the nation’s capital. The number of men, women and children who eventually gathered in the capital in makeshift huts and tents numbered close to 20,000. Fear and hostility was first and foremost in the mind of General Douglas MacArthur, the army chief of staff who was obsessed with the comparatively few active Communists and others of Leftist suasion who circulated amongst the veterans and their families, causing him to add troops to the city’s army garrison. President Hoover studiously “ignored” the veterans.

    Various tactics and strategies were employed by Hoover’s administration to get the veterans to leave the capital, some with limited success. Increasingly, the nation’s press sided with the Hoover and began labeling those who remained in the city criminals and Communists (in fact, 94 percent of those assembled had army or navy record, 67 percent served overseas, and 20 percent were disabled), thereby hoping the fear and hostility expressed by military and political elites would spread like wildfire to the public at large. Eviction orders were issued and largely followed by the occupiers although new groups arrived and there ensued sporadic but isolated clashes with the police. Policemen began firing on unarmed veterans, some of who were throwing bricks, and Hoover then sent in the army, which had been long prepared for some sort of conflict. When the cavalry (led by Major George S. Patton), machine gun carriages, trucks carrying small tanks, and “some 400 infantrymen with bayonets fixed to their rifles and blue tear gas bombs hanging from their belts” appeared, the protesting crowds thought the military display was some sort of parade! Needless to say, violent oppression followed, leading to casualties and the wholesale burning of what remained of the “tent city.”

    No doubt “fear and hostility” was felt and acted upon in various places high and low in the US during the better known “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom” in 1963. “The march was organized by a group of civil rights, labor, and religious organizations, under the theme ‘jobs, and freedom.’ Estimates of the number of participants varied from 200,000 to 300,000…. Observers estimated that 75–80% of the marchers were black.”

    Yet in this and the case above (as well as any number of other marches on Washington), “fear and hostility” were hardly the prevailing or dominant emotions among those marching in protest or those who identified from afar (in solidarity) or were in sympathy with them. I hope this enables us to see with clarity how your description “of images of a huge number of people marching on our capitals [as] apt to arouse fear and hostility” is clearly tendentious and incomplete. It reminds us that such pictures are understood in the context of “stories” (or ‘narratives,’ if one is an academic), and who, why, and how the story is told is fraught with significance, meaning and sundry moral and political implications (that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ can also be understood to refer to the words that follow in wake of the picture). For example, when I see these pictures I’m inspired, hopeful, grateful, and so forth. In other words, while we may not completely or perfectly predict what sort of conversations, dialogues, debates, and deliberations such pictures and their accompanying narratives will generate, we can hardly be dismissive of them or say with confidence that they will invariably or only give rise to such emotions as “fear and hostility.”

    (I finished my comment before Nous posted, so perhaps needless to say, I’m in accord with its descriptive assessment.)

  34. Patrick S. O'Donnell

    Erratum: “Consider, for instance, the march organized on Washington by one Walter W. Waters, an army sergeant and war veteran from Portland, Oregon who had been laid off from his cannery job. In the late spring of 1932 he organized veterans….”

  35. Heiko Recktenwald

    Lets not forget that the idea of a humanitarian intervention is that the state does to garantee some sort of basic right to safety. As in 1840. Syria cannot fullfill its obligations against our will, so we should be estopped from intervention for this reason. We cannot have sanctions and intervene. And lets remember that they were the US best friends during rendition flights. The number of deaths means nothing. Assad is trying to run hospitals and the other side destroys history. I doubt that moderates have many chances because the country is so old and cannot be ruled without consensus, as we know from the Lebanon according to Kewenig.

  36. Marty Lederman

    This video is going viral because of the same phenomenon, Marko:

  37. Patrick S. O'Donnell

    I suspect that if some individuals found sufficient cause or ample reason to object to the images that are the lifeblood of photojournalism, they might find yet more and perhaps stronger reasons to object to the short fictional film that Marty linked to above. The images of photojournalism, after all, are intended to be within the constraints of “realism” and to communicate or report “truthfully, honestly and objectively.” A charge of (emotional) “manipulation” or “propaganda” might seem to carry even more weight with the use of a fictional film that speaks to our subject.

    In addition to the reasons I proffered above in the comments about the role of images in prompting “talk” of one kind or another, talk that often is (as it should be), moral, ethical, and political in content and consequence, talk that prompts the sort of ethical reflections and judgments indispensable to the deliberative aspects of democratic praxis (such reflections and judgments not being solely the prerogative of experts, officials, or politicians but among the duties or obligations of democratic citizens generally), I want to suggest some reasons why we should not be dismissive of a work of “fiction” in this regard, why it should not be reductively viewed as yet another attempt at (emotional) manipulation or seen simply as vehicle of propaganda.

    As in the case of fiction generally, such films “tell a story,” arousing or raising emotions that move us to think about the characters and situations (first, in the realm of the ‘not-real,’ and then, as that may bear upon this or that aspect or feature of reality, including our own lives). And if such fiction merits aesthetic or artistic worthiness, that is, to the extent that it’s considered a work of art, it can avoid the charge of propaganda (I’ll leave aside outliers or peripheral cases, like Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will, often said to exemplify the uneasy fusion of propaganda and art) insofar as it is not simply being used to “circumvent or suppress an individual’s adequately informed, rational, reflective judgment” (part of Randal Marlin’s definition of propaganda). Indeed, quite the contrary, for it can, like the 1957 film 12 Angry Men, or Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever, provoke the sort of informed “talk” (i.e., conversation, discussion, dialogue, debate) that is a necessary condition of and thus essential to ethical reflection and judgment. A fictional film, no less than a documentary, can help us appreciate or develop political views or perspectives, it can serve as a valuable vehicle for “critical perspectives on areas of social concern” (see Thomas Wartenberg’s entry in the SEP on the philosophy of film). As Colin McGinn writes in Ethics, Evil, and Fiction (1997),

    “Stories can sharpen and clarify moral questions, encouraging a dialectic between the reader’s own experience and the trials of the character he or she is reading about. A tremendous amount of moral thinking and feeling is done when reading novels (or watching plays and films, or reading poetry and short stories). In fact, it is not an exaggeration to say that for most people this is the primary way in which they acquire ethical attributes, especially in contemporary culture.”

    In short, ethical awareness and knowledge can be “aesthetically mediated,” and thus we need not viscerally reject a fictional film as a merely a crude attempt at emotional manipulation or a piece of propaganda. “In fiction, we can put an ethical idea through its paces, testing its ability to command our assent. We can explore its alignment, limitation, repercussions. We can face moral reality in all its complexity and drama.”(C. McGinn)

  38. Mónica García-Salmones

    Thank you Patrick. It was very interesting to read the stories of famous marches of people in the USA.

  39. […] horrific images of refugees dying on European shores seem – finally – to have galvanized public opinion in […]

  40. […] horrific images of refugees dying on European shores seem – finally – to have galvanized public opinion in […]