The Ten Percent Solution

An argument in favor of making a commitment to charitable works. Ten percent is suggested but is not inherently part of the argument.

This document is presented copyright-free for fair use in the hope that others will feel free to pass it along. The wording is my original expression of old thoughts.

{8/8/07} The 10% Moral Choice

  • Unnecessary suffering is an absolute evil.
  • To relieve or prevent unnecessary suffering is an absolute good.
  • To permit unnecessary suffering is often unavoidable, but to permit all unnecessary suffering is a moral failure and an evil.
  • One must therefore act to relieve or prevent some unnecessary suffering.
  • Extreme physical pain—torture, starvation, and disease—is probably the worst kind of unnecessary suffering, that is, the greatest of evils.
  • Until preventable extreme physical pain is relieved, psychic pain, mental illness, and spiritual needs must be regarded as of secondary importance.
  • Unnecessary suffering by animals is also an absolute evil.
  • No rational, non-religious argument can be found to demonstrate that human suffering is a greater evil then the suffering of animals. [Marginal note: Consensus]
  • Killing is not an ethical method of relieving suffering.
  • An ounce of actual prevention or relief of suffering is better than a ton of good intentions, questions, or discussion. Action is required of everyone who is in a position to take action, and results preferably should be immediate, direct, and visible.
  • No one is capable of devoting one hundred percent of his time to the relief of suffering. While it is possible to establish an arbitrary percentage and claim that this is the minimum required for everyone to commit to the relief of suffering, it is not possible to rationally justify any such number. However, some religions have required ten percent of their followers. This does not seem unreasonable or excessively burdensome.
  • While any relief or prevention of unnecessary suffering is good, human beings are more likely to take action if they have previously made a public, solemn commitment to carry out that action. To encourage such action, the following text of a pledge is offered: “I, ____________(name), solemnly (swear/affirm) that I will devote ______(number) percent of my (money/free time/money and time) to the prevention and relief of unnecessary physical pain in my fellow (humans/humans and animals) with the intention of producing immediate, direct, and visible results, and to encourage others to do so, for the next ____(number) months (, so help me God).”
  • Persons who feel prepared to make this commitment are encouraged to give the most serious and dispassionate thought to how much of a commitment they will be comfortable with over a period of months. It is far better to make a modest commitment you can and will actually carry out, than an impressive but unrealistic commitment that you will be forced to repudiate. It is better to simply give it a try, without a commitment, than to fail in your commitment.
  • In the United States and other industrialized countries, it is not easy to find preventable torture, starvation, and disease of human beings. While adopting vegetarianism is one way to prevent the suffering of some animals, it may not be feasible or desirable for everyone.
  • Contributions to established charities and churches are notoriously liable to waste, misuse, and theft, and any good results are unlikely to be as visible, immediate, and verifiable as one would like. That being said, still, they can do some good, and for some of us, monetary contributions may be the only feasible choice.
  • In light of these limitations and for other good reasons, each of us must decide for ourselves where and how best to make our efforts toward the relief of unnecessary suffering. Above all, try to achieve real results now.

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