On Satisfying Duties to Assist

In Hilary Greaves & Theron Pummer (eds.), Effective Altruism: Philosophical Issues. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2019)
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Abstract

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).

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Author Profiles

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

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