On Satisfying Duties to Assist

In Hilary Greaves & Theron Pummer (eds.), Effective Altruism: Philosophical Issues. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2019)
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In this paper, we take up the question of whether there comes a point at which one is no longer morally obliged to do further good, even at very low cost to oneself. More specifically, they ask: under precisely what conditions is it plausible to say that that “point” has been reached? A crude account might focus only on, say, the amount of good the agent has already done, but a moment’s reflection shows that this is indeed too crude. We develop and defend a nuanced account according to which considerations of three types are all relevant to whether one has satisfied one’s duties to assist: “inputs” (types and quantities of sacrifice made), “characteristics” (the beliefs and intentions that informed the donor’s decisions), and “success” (the extent to which the donations in question succeeded in generating value).

Author Profiles

Christian Barry
Australian National University
Holly Lawford-Smith
University of Melbourne


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