Heavily drawing on Singer’s “Famine, Affluence, and Morality” (1972), Unger claims that we morally ought to help people in serious need (such as starving kids in Sub-Saharan Africa) much more than we currently do. His ethical analysis is based on both doctrinarian Utilitarianism and examination of hypothetical cases (the notorious Trolley scenarios). Assuming arguendo that this methodology is sound, the general argument of the book often seems to beg the question against the non-consequentialist. As Singer himself correctly highlights in his review of this book on “Philosophy and Phenomenological Research” (1999), the most important result by Unger is that response to moral cases may vary by adding or removing intermediate options. If a dilemma is transformed into a four-options case in which the two original options are the two extremes of an array of four graded possibilities, the responses of people to some well-down scenarios such as “Foot” and “Footbridge” change dramatically.
The main shortcoming of the book is that the analysis has not been carried out using sound statistical methodologies such as Null Hypothesis Significance Testing. However, this book is from 1996 and Experimental Philosophy (X-Phil) was not popular at the time. Hence, this shortcoming, albeit serious, is understandable.