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Effective Altruism’s Underspecification Problem

In Hilary Greaves & Theron Pummer (eds.), Effective Altruism: Philosophical Issues. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 166-183 (2019)

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  1. Alternative actions and the spirit of consequentialism.Krister Bykvist - 2002 - Philosophical Studies 107 (1):45 - 68.
    The simple idea behind act-consequentialism isthat we ought to choose the action whoseoutcome is better than that of any alternativeaction. In a recent issue of this journal, ErikCarlson has argued that given a reasonableinterpretation of alternative actions thissimple idea cannot be upheld but that the newtheory he proposes nevertheless preserves theact-consequentialist spirit. My aim in thispaper is to show that Carlson is wrong on bothcounts. His theory, contrary to his ownintentions, is not an act-consequentialisttheory. By building on a theory formulated (...)
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  • Knowing Yourself—And Giving Up On Your Own Agency In The Process.Derek Baker - 2012 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 90 (4):641-656.
    Are there cases in which agents ought to give up on satisfying an obligation, so that they can avoid a temptation which will lead them to freely commit an even more significant wrong? Actualists say yes. Possibilists say no. Both positions have absurd consequences. This paper argues that common-sense morality is committed to an inconsistent triad of principles. This inconsistency becomes acute when we consider the cases that motivate the possibilism–actualism debate. Thus, the absurd consequences of both solutions are unsurprising: (...)
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  • Practical ethics.Peter Singer - 2003 - In Susan Jean Armstrong & Richard George Botzler (eds.), The Animal Ethics Reader. Routledge.
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  • Banking: The Ethical Career Choice.William MacAskill - 2016 - In David Edmonds (ed.), Philosophers Take on the World. Oxford University Press UK. pp. 84-86.
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  • Ethics in the Real World: 82 Brief Essays on Things That Matter.Peter Singer - 2016 - Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press.
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  • Doing good better : how effective altruism can help you make a difference.William MacAskill - 2015 - New York, USA: Gotham Books.
    The cofounder of the Effective Altruism movement presents a counterintuitive approach anyone can use to make a difference in the world. While studying philosophy at Oxford University and trying to work out how he could have the greatest impact, William MacAskill discovered that most of the time and money aimed at making the world a better place achieves little. Why? Because individuals rarely have enough information to make the best choices. Confronting this problem head-on, MacAskill developed the concept of effective (...)
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  • Prospective Possibilism.Michael J. Zimmerman - 2017 - The Journal of Ethics 21 (2):117-150.
    There has been considerable debate regarding the relative merits of two theses about moral obligation known as actualism and possibilism. Both theses seek to give expression to the general idea that one ought to do the best one can. According to actualism, one’s obligations turn on what would happen if one chose some course of action, whereas, according to possibilism, they turn on what could happen if one chose some course of action. There are two strands to the debate: the (...)
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  • Does scrupulous securitism stand-up to scrutiny? Two problems for moral securitism and how we might fix them.Travis Timmerman - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (6):1509-1528.
    A relatively new debate in ethics concerns the relationship between one's present obligations and how one would act in the future. One popular view is actualism, which holds that what an agent would do in the future affects her present obligations. Agent's future behavior is held fixed and the agent's present obligations are determined by what would be best to do now in light of how the agent would act in the future. Doug Portmore defends a new view he calls (...)
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  • Utilitarianism and past and future mistakes.Jordan Howard Sobel - 1976 - Noûs 10 (2):195-219.
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  • The Ethical Principles of Effective Altruism.Anthony Skelton - 2016 - Journal of Global Ethics 12 (2):137-146.
    This paper is an examination of the ethical principles of effective altruism as they are articulated by Peter Singer in his book The Most Good You Can Do. It discusses the nature and the plausibility of the principles that he thinks both guide and ought to guide effective altruists. It argues in § II pace Singer that it is unclear that in charitable giving one ought always to aim to produce the most surplus benefit possible and in § III that (...)
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  • Whether and Where to Give.Theron Pummer - 2016 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 44 (1):77-95.
    Effective altruists recommend that we give large sums to charity, but by far their more central message is that we give effectively, i.e., to whatever charities would do the most good per dollar donated. In this paper, I’ll assume that it’s not wrong not to give bigger, but will explore to what extent it may well nonetheless be wrong not to give better. The main claim I’ll argue for here is that in many cases it would be wrong of you (...)
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  • Philosophical Critiques of Effective Altruism.Jeff McMahan - 2016 - The Philosophers' Magazine 73:92-99.
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  • Procrastinate Revisited.Frank Jackson - 2014 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 95 (4):634-647.
    How is what an agent ought to do at time t related to what they ought to do over a period of time that includes t? I revisit an example that sheds light on this question, taking account of issues to do with the agent's intentions and the distinction between subjective and objective obligation.
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  • Oughts, options, and actualism.Frank Jackson & Robert Pargetter - 1986 - Philosophical Review 95 (2):233-255.
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  • Dated rightness and moral imperfection.Holly S. Goldman - 1976 - Philosophical Review 85 (4):449-487.
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  • The Point of View of the Universe: Sidgwick and Contemporary Ethics.Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek & Peter Singer - 2014 - New York: Oxford University Press. Edited by Peter Singer.
    What does the idea of taking 'the point of view of the universe' tell us about ethics? Lazari-Radek and Singer defend objectivism in ethics, and hedonistic utilitarianism, following Henry Sidgwick's lead. They explore how to justify an ethical theory; conflicts of self-interest and universal benevolence; and whether we should discount the future.
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  • The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to Stop World Poverty.Peter Singer - 2009 - Random House.
    Acting Now to End World Poverty Peter Singer. were our own, and we cannot deny that the suffering and death are bad. The second premise is also very difficult to reject, because it leaves us some wiggle room when it comes to situations in.
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  • Commonsense Consequentialism: Wherein Morality Meets Rationality.Douglas W. Portmore - 2011 - New York, USA: Oxford University Press USA.
    Commonsense Consequentialism is a book about morality, rationality, and the interconnections between the two. In it, Douglas W. Portmore defends a version of consequentialism that both comports with our commonsense moral intuitions and shares with other consequentialist theories the same compelling teleological conception of practical reasons. Broadly construed, consequentialism is the view that an act's deontic status is determined by how its outcome ranks relative to those of the available alternatives on some evaluative ranking. Portmore argues that outcomes should be (...)
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  • The Concept of Moral Obligation.Michael J. Zimmerman - 1996 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
    The principal aim of this book is to develop and defend an analysis of the concept of moral obligation. The analysis is neutral regarding competing substantive theories of obligation, whether consequentialist or deontological in character. What it seeks to do is generate solutions to a range of philosophical problems concerning obligation and its application. Amongst these problems are deontic paradoxes, the supersession of obligation, conditional obligation, prima facie obligation, actualism and possibilism, dilemmas, supererogation, and cooperation. By virtue of its normative (...)
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  • Actualism, Possibilism, and Beyond.Jacob Ross - 2012 - Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics.
    How is what an agent ought to do related to what an agent ought to prefer that she does? More precisely, suppose we know what an agent’s preference ordering ought to be over the prospects of performing the various courses of action open to her. Can we infer from this information how she ought to act, and if so, how can we infer it? One view (which, for convenience, I will call ‘actualism’) is that an agent ought to  just (...)
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  • Our duties to animals and the poor.Colin McGinn - 1999 - In Dale Jamieson (ed.), Singer and His Critics. Blackwell. pp. 150--161.
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  • Doing the Best One Can.Holly S. Goldman - 1978 - In Alvin Goldman & Jaegwon Kim (eds.), Values and Morals. Reidel. pp. 185--214.
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