Research Seminar

Hilary Greaves: The collectivist critique of effective altruism

Date: 27 April 2017
Time: 10:00-12:00

Hilary Greaves: Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford, and a Tutorial Fellow at Somerville College, Oxford. 

The previous topic "Reductionism about personal identity, prudential value and moral value" has been changed.

Effective altruism (EA) is a social movement that encourages individuals to dedicate a portion of their resources (in terms of time and/or money) to the cause of ‘doing the most good’, impartially construed. A central feature of the EA movement is the enterprise of meta-charities like GiveWell, whose mission is to provide advice on which charities enable the donor to do the most good (impartially construed) per dollar donated.

The EA movement has grown rapidly over the past 5-10 years. In the process, it has attracted various criticisms. I will discuss one particular line of criticism: the claim that, as a result of the EA movement’s focus on how the actions *of individuals* can achieve the most good, the movement necessarily fails to notice some of the most effective things that *we collectively* could do to improve the world, notably campaigning for systemic change. Drawing on work in moral philosophy by Parfit, Kagan and others, I will argue that this criticism is mistaken.

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