Bharat Ranganathan, University of Nebraska at Omaha

"This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: ON HELPING ONE'S NEIGHBOR. Journal of Religious Ethics, 40: 653-677, which has been published in final form at https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9795.2012.00542.x. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions. This article may not be enhanced, enriched or otherwise transformed into a derivative work, without express permission from Wiley or by statutory rights under applicable legislation. Copyright notices must not be removed, obscured or modified. The article must be linked to Wiley’s version of record on Wiley Online Library and any embedding, framing or otherwise making available the article or pages thereof by third parties from platforms, services and websites other than Wiley Online Library must be prohibited."


Few people doubt that severe poverty is a pressing moral issue. But what sorts of obligations, if any, do affluent people have toward the severely poor? If one accepts the idea that one has some obligations to the severely poor there still remains disagreement about the magnitude of this obligation and when it obtains. I consider Peter Singer's influential “shallow pond” argument, which holds that affluent people have greater obligations toward the severely poor than ordinary moral judgments suggest. Critics hold that Singer's view is excessively demanding and therefore untenable. I thus turn to the parable of the Good Samaritan and Christian accounts of neighbor-love to help attenuate this criticism. Drawing from Christian conversations on neighbor-love, I attempt to demonstrate that accepting an obligation to assist does not necessarily result in one abandoning one's special relations, abnegating self-regard, or no longer pursuing other non-moral strivings.