Effective Altruism

Sunday, December 18, 2022
First Aired: 
Sunday, August 28, 2022

What Is It

Most people agree that it's good to help others, but philosophers disagree about how much good we need to do, and for whom. Effective altruists claim that you have a moral obligation to do the most good you can—even when that means setting aside the needs of your nearest and dearest in order to help strangers. So what does morality demand of us? Are we justified in caring more about our own communities than faraway strangers? And is it ever okay to pursue a personal project when you could be helping others? Josh and Ray demand much of Theron Pummer from the University of St. Andrews, author of The Rules of Rescue: Cost, Distance, and Effective Altruism (forthcoming).

Transcript

Transcript

Josh Landy  
How much should we give to other people?

Ray Briggs  
Should we care more about far-away strangers than those in our own community?

Josh Landy  
Is there such a thing as being too giving?

Comments (5)


Tim Smith's picture

Tim Smith

Friday, August 12, 2022 -- 8:26 AM

Effective or affective?; that

Effective or affective?; that is the question. You almost always want to use effective, except where it doesn't feel right. Honoring that feeling is an incarnate life I wish for everyone.

There is a person in need on a planet's moon circling Betelgeuse. Should we build a self-landing rocket to take a step toward that person? Do small decisions enable tipping points that create unexpected change?; yes. Are these choices drowned by the noise?; mostly yes.

Elon Musk is an innovative, rich, and pariahid idiot. Spacetime does not allow consciousness to transcend starry nights. But we look to the heavens to express our goodwill. There are no answers in the stars; we better hold to our yards, playgrounds, and dirt.

Give Well - https://www.givewell.org/ is where I put my discretionary dollar. My fields' expense limits those dollars, and they need their own fertilizer.

When there are no clear answers in a debate between effect and affect, that is where Philosophy makes inroads. There are several objects to consider: time, space, need, and ability. Understanding your feelings is a first misstep, and hopefully, Theron can help make those steps more manageable.

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Daniel's picture

Daniel

Thursday, August 18, 2022 -- 2:56 PM

Strong agreement here with

Strong agreement here with the third paragraph above. As a principle, one shouldn't assume permissibility to take possession of a distant portion of land before one has taken good care of one's own. As extraterrestrial lands are about as distant as they come, the notion of setting up colonies there in order to escape a ruined earth is idiocy in the extreme, to use your well chosen term. Another term we might come to is "sustainability", as necessarily conditioned by a radical subversion of the wage-slave system, so that internal labor determination of the grounds of resource-consumption can override those of determination by external possession, or, if you like, so that the interests of stakeholders in use of the product can override those of shareholders in the profits from its sale. From these two terms, Idiocy and Sustainability, can one move on to a third? What term could be arrived at which brings both in relation to Altruism?

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Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Friday, August 26, 2022 -- 8:42 AM

Still learning vocabulary of

Still learning vocabulary of philosophy, even as I write more about it. Just finished a piece wherein I discuss axiology and deontology. And what their meanings have to do with real world circumstances.
Might share some of that, depending on how well it turns out. Altruism is hard to nail down in a relativistic climate. Because just when you think it is being done, it is found to have personal ulterior motive(s). Similar to that other vehicle for largess, philanthropy, also discussed in this venue. I have little stomach for or patience with altruism these days. It just does not ring.

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Daniel's picture

Daniel

Tuesday, August 30, 2022 -- 10:32 AM

Philanthropy is a kind of

Philanthropy is a kind of altruism, but not all altruism is philanthropy. With respect to the two areas of study in your recently completed piece, these can be looked at as value-based actions which are optional based on circumstances, or as duties which are non-optional based on principles independent of circumstances. Take the example of a soldier who throws her/himself on top of a live grenade to save the other members of the unit. Was this more likely to be done out of duty or from the value of the other lives in the unit as compared with the value of her/his own? And if an ulterior motive could be discovered, such as prior suicidal intent, would that preclude the action from any valid claim of altruistic content?

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Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Sunday, September 25, 2022 -- 7:47 AM

Someone took a shot at this

Someone took a shot at this phrase (EA), a day or so ago, while taking one at another philosopher, who had remarked, during an interview, concerning his wish that philosophers get more involved with things that matter. And write for other people---not only other philosophers. I like the spirit of that whole notion. Sorta reminds me of Harry Frankfurt. And, if you believe that is a slight towards Mr. Frankfurt, you miss the point.

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