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Essays in Philosophy

Volume 18, Issue 1, January 2017
Effective Altruism

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Displaying: 1-13 of 13 documents

editor’s introduction
1. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 18 > Issue: 1
William MacAskill Effective Altruism: Introduction
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2. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 18 > Issue: 1
Alida Liberman Effective altruism and Christianity: possibilities for productive collaboration
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While many Christians accept the claim that giving to support the poor and needy is a core moral and religious obligation, most Christian giving is usually not very efficient in EA terms. In this paper, I explore possibilities for productive collaboration between effective altruists (EAs) and Christian givers. I argue that Christians are obligated from their own perspective to give radically in terms of quantity and scope to alleviate the suffering of the poor and needy. I raise two important potential stumbling blocks for EAChristian collaboration. First, Christians (especially those who believe in an infinite heaven and hell) cannot assess outcomes using a straightforward utilitarian calculus of the sort preferred by many EAs, lest they run into a reductio. Second, Christians will want to give to support aims such as worship and evangelism that are not shared by secular EAs and that are not easily commensurable, making the allocation of giving resources more difficult. I conclude with some tentative suggestions about how Christians who are sympathetic to EA might become more effective in their giving.
3. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 18 > Issue: 1
Andrew Fisher Theory-neutral arguments for “effective animal advocacy”
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4. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 18 > Issue: 1
Gianfranco Pellegrino Effective Altruism and the Altruistic Repugnant Conclusion
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Effective altruism is committed to Altruistic Maximization – the claim that any impact of giving to charities ought to be maximized at the margins and counterfactually. This may lead to counterintuitive or contradictory conclusions in certain cases. For instance, when we can bring about a substantial benefit to few or a tiny benefit to a larger number at the same cost, spreading of benefits across a great number of recipients can compensate substantial loss for fewer people. However, sometimes the perspective of widely spreading tiny benefits instead than giving substantial benefits to small groups is counterintuitive, and repugnantly wrong. Call this the ‘Altruistic Repugnant Conclusion.’ Standard solutions to the Repugnant Conclusion do not work if applied to the Altruistic Repugnant Conclusion. The Altruistic Repugnant Conclusion can be rebutted by giving up on the idea that judgements on such cases should be precise. But imprecision undermines Altruistic Maximization. Hence a dilemma for effective altruists follows: either they accept some strongly counterintuitive judgments—weakening the attractiveness of their position—or they give up on the maximizing requirement, thus admitting sub-optimal contributions.
5. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 18 > Issue: 1
Joshua Kissel Effective Altruism and Anti-Capitalism: An Attempt at Reconciliation
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Leftwing critiques of philanthropy are not new and so it is unsurprising that the Effective Altruism movement, which regards philanthropy as one of its tools, has been a target in recent years. Similarly, some Effective Altruists have regarded anti-capitalist strategy with suspicion. This essay is an attempt at harmonizing Effective Altruism and the anti-capitalism. My attraction to Effective Altruism and anti-capitalism are motivated by the same desire for a better world and so personal consistency demands reconciliation. More importantly however, I think Effective Altruism will be less effective in realizing its own ends insofar as it fails to recognize that capitalism restricts the good we can do. Conversely, insofar as anti-capitalists fail to recognize the similarity in methods which underlie Effective Altruism thinking about the world, it too risks inefficiency or worse, total failure in replacing capitalism with a more humane economic system. I first argue that Effective Altruism and anti-capitalism are compatible in principle by looking at similarities between Effective Altruist theory and some Marxist writing. I then go on to show that the theoretic compatibility can be mirrored in practice. I demonstrate this by considering and replying to objections to anti-capitalism as they might be raised by Effective Altruists and by replying to objections to Effective Altruism as they might be raised by anti-capitalists. I conclude by suggesting that their reconciliation would lead to better outcomes from the perspective of a proponent of either view. In short, an “Anti-Capitalist Effective Altruism” is not just possible, it’s preferable.
6. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 18 > Issue: 1
Kathryn Muyskens The Other Half of Effective Altruism: Selective Asceticism
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What I seek to do in this paper is to reemphasize what I see as the forgotten or neglected other half of the effective altruist equation. Effective altruists need to take seriously the ways in which their actions contribute to systemic inequality and structural violence. Charitable donation is not enough to create a paradigm shift or stop systemic injustice. In tackling systemic injustice, the ascetic response may allow effective altruists to attack the roots of the problem more directly. Further, the cost-benefit analysis and randomized controlled trials favored by the movement can produce distinctly biased perceptions that leave effective altruists blind to the political dimensions of many types of harm. Balancing ascetic approaches to combating suffering may temper the overzealous focus on cost-effective charities and make room for the support of the causes this narrow focus excludes. Ultimately, this paper defends the basic tenets of effective altruism: that we have a duty to reduce suffering in the world and that we should apply our powers of reason in order to make our labors maximally effective.
7. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 18 > Issue: 1
Max Elder, Bob Fischer Focus on Fish: A Call to Effective Altruists
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Effective altruists call us to apply evidence-based reasoning to maximize the effectiveness of charitable giving. In particular, effective altruists assess causes in terms of their scope, neglectedness, and tractability, and then recommend devoting resources to the cause that scores best on these criteria. So far, effective altruists concerned with animal suffering have seen these criteria as supporting interventions that improve the lives of layer hens, and they now seem to think that these criteria support directing efforts toward broilers. In this paper, however, we argue that the effective altruist framework commits animal advocates to focus at least as much attention—if not more—on fish.
8. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 18 > Issue: 1
Peter Murphy But Does It Hurt?
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As effective altruists often point out affluent people can do great good for others without having to make significant self-sacrifices. What is the correct moral assessment of patterns of giving that bring about great good and yet carry little in the way of self-sacrifice? Here I will clarify this question, state why it is important, and argue for an answer to it. After sketching the intuitive category of the morally best acts, I argue that self-sacrifice is not a condition that an act must meet to be among the morally best acts. I argue that self-sacrifice is instead a condition that agents must meet to be deserving of the highest praise.
9. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 18 > Issue: 1
Rhys Southan Peter Singer, R.M. Hare, and the Trouble With Logical Consistency
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According to the metaethics of R. M. Hare, we determine morality objectively by making a moral judgment, committing to the moral principle underlying that judgment, and then logically extending that moral principle to all relevantly similar cases. This metaethical system called universal prescriptivism had a major impact on Peter Singer, whose arguments for radically improving animal welfare and alleviating global suffering frequently rely on Hare-ian appeals to logical consistency. Hare’s work in metaethics is largely rejected now, but Singer’s popularity has kept Hare’s prescriptivism alive through the many animal welfarists and effective altruists who have borrowed Singer’s style in their own logic-based calls for the obligation to reduce suffering impartially. In this paper, I will describe Hare’s metaethics, show how this has served as Singer’s own metaethics for most of his academic career, and then I will describe a problem for Hare’s system that is particularly relevant to effective altruists who have been influenced by Singer’s early writings and may be repeating the mistakes that Hare bequeathed to Singer.
book reviews
10. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 18 > Issue: 1
Jeff Sebo Review of One Child: Do We Have a Right to More?, by Sarah Conly
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11. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 18 > Issue: 1
Kathie Jenni Review of Entangled Empathy: An Alternative Ethic For Our Relationships with Animals, by Lori Gruen
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12. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 18 > Issue: 1
Krista Karbowski Thomason Review of Anger and Forgiveness: Resentment, Generosity, Justice, by Martha C. Nussbaum
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13. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 18 > Issue: 1
Maximiliano E. Korstanje Review of Judgement & Agency, by Ernest Sosa
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