Maximal cluelessness


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 we lack a compelling decision theory that is consistent with a long-termist perspective and does not downplay the depth of our uncertainty while supporting orthodox effective altruist conclusions about cause prioritization. GPI Working Paper No. 2-2019

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Andreas Mogensen
Oxford University


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