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37 found
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  1. On the desire to make a difference.Hilary Greaves, Andreas Mogensen, William MacAskill & Teruji Thomas - manuscript
    True benevolence is, most fundamentally, a desire that the world be better. It is natural and common, however, to frame thinking about benevolence indirectly, in terms of a desire to make a difference to how good the world is. This would be an innocuous shift if desires to make a difference were extensionally equivalent to desires that the world be better. This paper shows that at least on some common ways of making a “desire to make a difference” precise, this (...)
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  2. When should an effective altruist donate?William MacAskill - manuscript
    Effective altruism is the use of evidence and careful reasoning to work out how to maximize positive impact on others with a given unit of resources, and the taking of action on that basis. It’s a philosophy and a social movement that is gaining considerable steam in the philanthropic world. For example, GiveWell, an organization that recommends charities working in global health and development and generally follows effective altruist principles, moves over $90 million per year to its top recommendations. Giving (...)
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  3. The paralysis argument.William MacAskill & Andreas Mogensen - manuscript
    Given plausible assumptions about the long-run impact of our everyday actions, we show that standard non-consequentialist constraints on doing harm entail that we should try to do as little as possible in our lives. We call this the Paralysis Argument. After laying out the argument, we consider and respond to a number of objections. We then suggest what we believe is the most promising response: to accept, in practice, a highly demanding morality of beneficence with a long-term focus. GPI Working (...)
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  4. The Hinge of History Hypothesis: Reply to MacAskill.Andreas Mogensen - manuscript
    Some believe that the current era is uniquely important with respect to how well the rest of human history goes. Following Parfit, call this the Hinge of History Hypothesis. Recently, MacAskill has argued that our era is actually very unlikely to be especially influential in the way asserted by the Hinge of History Hypothesis. I respond to MacAskill, pointing to important unresolved ambiguities in his proposed definition of what it means for a time to be influential and criticizing the two (...)
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  5. The weight of suffering.Andreas Mogensen - manuscript
    How should we weigh suffering against happiness? This paper highlights the existence of an argument from intuitively plausible axiological principles to the striking conclusion that in comparing different populations, there exists some depth of suffering that cannot be compensated for by any measure of well-being. In addition to a number of structural principles, the argument relies on two key premises. The first is the contrary of the so-called Reverse Repugnant Conclusion. The second is a principle according to which the addition (...)
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  6. Maximal cluelessness.Andreas Mogensen - manuscript
    I argue that many of the priority rankings that have been proposed by effective altruists seem to be in tension with apparently reasonable assumptions about the rational pursuit of our aims in the face of uncertainty. The particular issue on which I focus arises from recognition of the overwhelming importance and inscrutability of the indirect effects of our actions, conjoined with the plausibility of a permissive decision principle governing cases of deep uncertainty, known as the maximality rule. I conclude that (...)
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  7. Moral demands and the far future.Andreas Mogensen - manuscript
    I argue that moral philosophers have either misunderstood the problem of moral demandingness or at least failed to recognize important dimensions of the problem that undermine many standard assumptions. It has been assumed that utilitarianism concretely directs us to maximize welfare within a generation by transferring resources to people currently living in extreme poverty. In fact, utilitarianism seems to imply that any obligation to help people who are currently badly off is trumped by obligations to undertake actions targeted at improving (...)
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  8. Meaning, medicine, and merit.Andreas Mogensen - manuscript
    Given the inevitability of scarcity, should public institutions ration healthcare resources so as to prioritize those who contribute more to society? Intuitively, we may feel that this would be somehow inegalitarian. I argue that the egalitarian objection to prioritizing treatment on the basis of patients’ usefulness to others is best thought of as semiotic: i.e. as having to do with what this practice would mean, convey, or express about a person’s standing. I explore the implications of this conclusion when taken (...)
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  9. Respect for others’ risk attitudes and the long-run future.Andreas Mogensen - manuscript
    When our choice affects some other person and the outcome is unknown, it has been argued that we should defer to their risk attitude, if known, or else default to use of a risk avoidant risk function. This, in turn, has been claimed to require the use of a risk avoidant risk function when making decisions that primarily affect future people, and to decrease the desirability of efforts to prevent human extinction, owing to the significant risks associated with continued human (...)
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  10. Tough enough? Robust satisficing as a decision norm for long-term policy analysis.Andreas Mogensen & David Thorstad - manuscript
    This paper aims to open a dialogue between philosophers working in decision theory and operations researchers and engineers whose research addresses the topic of decision making under deep uncertainty. Specifically, we assess the recommendation to follow a norm of robust satisficing when making decisions under deep uncertainty in the context of decision analyses that rely on the tools of Robust Decision Making developed by Robert Lempert and colleagues at RAND. We discuss decision-theoretic and voting-theoretic motivations for robust satisficing, then use (...)
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  11. The Epistemic Challenge to Longtermism.Christian Tarsney - manuscript
    Longtermists claim that what we ought to do is mainly determined by how our actions might affect the very long-run future. A natural objection to longtermism is that these effects may be nearly impossible to predict -- perhaps so close to impossible that, despite the astronomical importance of the far future, the expected value of our present actions is mainly determined by near-term considerations. This paper aims to precisify and evaluate one version of this epistemic objection to longtermism. To that (...)
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  12. Existential risk pessimism and the time of perils.David Thorstad - manuscript
    When our choice affects some other person and the outcome is unknown, it has been argued that we should defer to their risk attitude, if known, or else default to use of a risk avoidant risk function. This, in turn, has been claimed to require the use of a risk avoidant risk function when making decisions that primarily affect future people, and to decrease the desirability of efforts to prevent human extinction, owing to the significant risks associated with continued human (...)
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  13. The scope of longtermism.David Thorstad - manuscript
    Longtermism holds roughly that in many decision situations, the best thing we can do is what is best for the long-term future. The scope question for longtermism asks: how large is the class of decision situations for which longtermism holds? Although longtermism was initially developed to describe the situation of cause-neutral philanthropic decisionmaking, it is increasingly suggested that longtermism holds in many or most decision problems that humans face. By contrast, I suggest that the scope of longtermism may be more (...)
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  14. Are we living at the hinge of history?Will MacAskill - 2022
    In the final pages of On What Matters, Volume II, Derek Parfit comments: ‘We live during the hinge of history... If we act wisely in the next few centuries, humanity will survive its most dangerous and decisive period... What now matters most is that we avoid ending human history.’ This passage echoes Parfit's comment, in Reasons and Persons, that ‘the next few centuries will be the most important in human history’. -/- But is the claim that we live at the (...)
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  15. Longtermism and the Complaints of Future People.Emma J. Curran - forthcoming - In Jacob Barrett, Hilary Greaves & David Thorstad (eds.), Essays on Longtermism. Oxford University Press.
    A number of philosophers have argued that if you care about how much goodness your actions generate, or how good the state-of-affairs you actions bring about are, then your attention should be directed towards the very far future. But many don’t care about how much goodness their actions generate, nor do they care about things like “states-of-affairs”. Amongst a multitude of things, many people care about how their actions impact individuals. And they also care about the sorts of justifications they (...)
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  16. The Moral Case for Long-Term Thinking.Hilary Greaves, William MacAskill & Elliott Thornley - forthcoming - In Natalie Cargill & Tyler M. John (eds.), The Long View: Essays on Policy, Philanthropy, and the Long-Term Future. London: FIRST. pp. 19-28.
    This chapter makes the case for strong longtermism: the claim that, in many situations, impact on the long-run future is the most important feature of our actions. Our case begins with the observation that an astronomical number of people could exist in the aeons to come. Even on conservative estimates, the expected future population is enormous. We then add a moral claim: all the consequences of our actions matter. In particular, the moral importance of what happens does not depend on (...)
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  17. Securing Political Accountability to Future Generations with Retrospective Accountability.Tyler M. John - forthcoming - In Jacob Barrett, Hilary Greaves & David Thorstad (eds.), Essays on Longtermism. Oxford University Press.
    Political short-termism costs the global economy hundreds of billions to trillions of dollars annually, and leads to many millions of deaths from disasters and suboptimal spending. In this paper, I propose a futures assembly explicitly incentivised to promote the interests of future generations as a promising strategy to ameliorate short-termism. The assembly I propose is governed by citizens randomly selected from among the populace, who are rewarded in the future to the extent that they successfully promote the welfare of future (...)
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  18. Rawls on Just Savings and Economic Growth.Marcos Picchio - forthcoming - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy.
    In this article, I address a controversial aspect of Rawls’s treatment of the question of justice between generations: how the parties in the original position could be motivated to select Rawls’s preferred principle of intergenerational savings, which he dubs the just savings principle. I focus on the explanation found in his later work, where he proposes that the correct savings principle is the principle that any generation would have wanted preceding generations to have followed. By expanding upon this explanation, I (...)
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  19. Authenticity, Meaning and Alienation: Reasons to Care Less About Far Future People.Stefan Riedener - forthcoming - In Jacob Barrett, Hilary Greaves & David Thorstad (eds.), Essays on Longtermism. Oxford University Press.
    The standard argument for longtermism assumes that we should care as much about far future people as about our contemporaries. I challenge this assumption. I first consider existing interpretations of ‘temporal discounting’, and argue that such discounting seems either unwarranted or insufficient to block the argument. I then offer two alternative reasons to care less about far future people: caring as much about them as about our contemporaries would make our lives less authentic and less meaningful. If I’m right, this (...)
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  20. Longtermist Political Philosophy: An Agenda for Future Research.Andreas T. Schmidt & Jacob Barrett - forthcoming - In Jacob Barrett, Hilary Greaves & David Thorstad (eds.), Essays on Longtermism. Oxford University Press.
    We set out longtermist political philosophy as a research field by exploring the case for, and the implications of, ‘institutional longtermism’: the view that, when evaluating institutions, we should give significant weight to their very long-term effects. We begin by arguing that the standard case for longtermism may be more robust when applied to institutions than to individual actions or policies, both because institutions have large, broad, and long-term effects, and because institutional longtermism can plausibly sidestep various objections to individual (...)
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  21. How Much Should Governments Pay to Prevent Catastrophes? Longtermism's Limited Role.Carl Shulman & Elliott Thornley - forthcoming - In Jacob Barrett, Hilary Greaves & David Thorstad (eds.), Essays on Longtermism. Oxford University Press.
    Longtermists have argued that humanity should significantly increase its efforts to prevent catastrophes like nuclear wars, pandemics, and AI disasters. But one prominent longtermist argument overshoots this conclusion: the argument also implies that humanity should reduce the risk of existential catastrophe even at extreme cost to the present generation. This overshoot means that democratic governments cannot use the longtermist argument to guide their catastrophe policy. In this paper, we show that the case for preventing catastrophe does not depend on longtermism. (...)
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  22. Longtermism and social risk-taking.H. Orri Stefánsson - forthcoming - In Jacob Barrett, Hilary Greaves & David Thorstad (eds.), Essays on Longtermism. Oxford University Press.
    A social planner who evaluates risky public policies in light of the other risks with which their society will be faced should judge favourably some such policies even though they would deem them too risky when considered in isolation. I suggest that a longtermist would—or at least should—evaluate risky polices in light of their prediction about future risks; hence, longtermism supports social risk-taking. I consider two formal versions of this argument, discuss the conditions needed for the argument to be valid, (...)
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  23. What We Owe to the Future by William MacAskill. [REVIEW]Joshua Stein - forthcoming - Journal of Markets and Morality:97-99.
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  24. Critical-Set Views, Biographical Identity, and the Long Term.Elliott Thornley - forthcoming - Australasian Journal of Philosophy.
    Critical-set views avoid the Repugnant Conclusion by subtracting some constant from the welfare score of each life in a population. These views are thus sensitive to facts about biographical identity: identity between lives. In this paper, I argue that questions of biographical identity give us reason to reject critical-set views and embrace the total view. I end with a practical implication. If we shift our credences towards the total view, we should also shift our efforts towards ensuring that humanity survives (...)
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  25. Mistakes in the moral mathematics of existential risk.David Thorstad - forthcoming - Ethics.
    Longtermists have recently argued that it is overwhelmingly important to do what we can to mitigate existential risks to humanity. I consider three mistakes that are often made in calculating the value of existential risk mitigation. I show how correcting these mistakes pushes the value of existential risk mitigation substantially below leading estimates, potentially low enough to threaten the normative case for existential risk mitigation. I use this discussion to draw four positive lessons for the study of existential risk. -/- (...)
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  26. Longtermism and Cultural Evolution.Aron Vallinder - forthcoming - In Jacob Barrett, Hilary Greaves & David Thorstad (eds.), Essays on Longtermism. Oxford University Press.
    In this chapter, I argue that the field of cultural evolution can usefully inform attempts to understand and influence the long-term future. First, I provide an overview of cultural evolution, covering what it means for culture to evolve, the mechanisms by which it happens, the crucial importance of cumulative cultural evolution for hunan history, and how cultural evolution (and in particular intergroup competition) has driven the rise of large-scale cooperation. Second, I draw out some possible lessons from cultural evolution for (...)
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  27. Should longtermists recommend hastening extinction rather than delaying it?Richard Pettigrew - 2024 - The Monist 107 (2):130-145.
    Longtermism is the view that the most urgent global priorities, and those to which we should devote the largest portion of our resources, are those that focus on (i) ensuring a long future for humanity, and perhaps sentient or intelligent life more generally, and (ii) improving the quality of the lives that inhabit that long future. While it is by no means the only one, the argument most commonly given for this conclusion is that these interventions have greater expected goodness (...)
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  28. Economic inequality and the long-term future.Andreas T. Schmidt & Daan Juijn - 2023 - Politics Philosophy and Economics.
    Why, if at all, should we object to economic inequality? Some central arguments – the argument from decreasing marginal utility for example – invoke instrumental reasons and object to inequality because of its effects. Such instrumental arguments, however, often concern only the static effects of inequality and neglect its intertemporal conse- quences. In this article, we address this striking gap and investigate income inequality’s intertemporal consequences, including its potential effects on humanity’s (very) long-term future. Following recent arguments around future generations (...)
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  29. The epistemic challenge to longtermism.Christian Tarsney - 2023 - Synthese 201 (6):1-37.
    Longtermists claim that what we ought to do is mainly determined by how our actions might affect the very long-run future. A natural objection to longtermism is that these effects may be nearly impossible to predict — perhaps so close to impossible that, despite the astronomical importance of the far future, the expected value of our present actions is mainly determined by near-term considerations. This paper aims to precisify and evaluate one version of this epistemic objection to longtermism. To that (...)
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  30. High Risk, Low Reward: A Challenge to the Astronomical Value of Existential Risk Mitigation.David Thorstad - 2023 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 51 (4):373-412.
    Philosophy &Public Affairs, Volume 51, Issue 4, Page 373-412, Fall 2023.
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  31. Genetic enhancement, human extinction, and the best interests of posthumanity.Jon Rueda - 2022 - Bioethics.
    The cumulative impact of enhancement technologies may alter the human species in the very long-term future. In this article, I will start showing how radical genetic enhancements may accelerate the conversion into a novel species. I will also clarify the concepts of ‘biological species’, ‘transhuman’ and ‘posthuman’. Then, I will summarize some ethical arguments for creating a transhuman or posthuman species with a substantially higher level of well-being than the human one. In particular, I will present what I shall call (...)
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  32. Pascal's Mugger Strikes Again.Dylan Balfour - 2021 - Utilitas 33 (1):118-124.
    In a well-known paper, Nick Bostrom presents a confrontation between a fictionalised Blaise Pascal and a mysterious mugger. The mugger persuades Pascal to hand over his wallet by exploiting Pascal's commitment to expected utility maximisation. He does so by offering Pascal an astronomically high reward such that, despite Pascal's low credence in the mugger's truthfulness, the expected utility of accepting the mugging is higher than rejecting it. In this article, I present another sort of high value, low credence mugging. This (...)
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  33. The Long View: Essays on Policy, Philanthropy, and the Long-term Future.Natalie Cargill & Tyler M. John (eds.) - 2021 - London: FIRST.
    Enclosed is a guidebook for philanthropists, advocates, and policymakers who want to do the most good possible. This book introduces the philosophy of “longtermism,” the idea that it is particularly important that we act now to safeguard future generations. -/- The future is vast in scale: depending on our choices in the coming centuries, the future could stretch for eons or it could dwindle into oblivion, and be inordinately good or inordinately bad. And yet future generations are utterly disenfranchised in (...)
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  34. Longtermist Institutional Reform.Tyler John & William MacAskill - 2021 - In Natalie Cargill & Tyler M. John (eds.), The Long View: Essays on Policy, Philanthropy, and the Long-term Future. London, UK: FIRST.
    In all probability, future generations will outnumber us by thousands or millions to one. In the aggregate, their interests therefore matter enormously, and anything we can do to steer the future of civilization onto a better trajectory is of tremendous moral importance. This is the guiding thought that defines the philosophy of longtermism. Political science tells us that the practices of most governments are at stark odds with longtermism. But the problems of political short-termism are neither necessary nor inevitable. In (...)
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  35. Time discounting, consistency, and special obligations: a defence of Robust Temporalism.Harry R. Lloyd - 2021 - Global Priorities Institute, Working Papers 2021 (11):1-38.
    This paper defends the claim that mere temporal proximity always and without exception strengthens certain moral duties, including the duty to save – call this view Robust Temporalism. Although almost all other moral philosophers dismiss Robust Temporalism out of hand, I argue that it is prima facie intuitively plausible, and that it is analogous to a view about special obligations that many philosophers already accept. I also defend Robust Temporalism against several common objections, and I highlight its relevance to a (...)
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  36. Longtermism, Aggregation, and Catastrophic Risk.Emma J. Curran - manuscript
    Advocates of longtermism point out that interventions which focus on improving the prospects of people in the very far future will, in expectation, bring about a significant amount of good. Indeed, in expectation, such long-term interventions bring about far more good than their short-term counterparts. As such, longtermists claim we have compelling moral reason to prefer long-term interventions. In this paper, I show that longtermism is in conflict with plausible deontic scepticism about aggregation. I do so by demonstrating that, from (...)
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  37. Doomsday rings twice.Andreas Mogensen - manuscript
    This paper considers the argument according to which, because we should regard it as a priori very unlikely that we are among the most important people who will ever exist, we should increase our confidence that the human species will not persist beyond the current historical era, which seems to represent a crucial juncture in human history and perhaps even the history of life on earth. The argument is a descendant of the Carter-Leslie Doomsday Argument, but I show that it (...)
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