The Philosophical Core of Effective Altruism

Journal of Social Philosophy 52 (1):93-115 (2021)
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Effective altruism’s identity as both a philosophy and a social movement requires effective altruists to consider which philosophical commitments are essential, such that one must embrace them in order to count as an effective altruist, at least in part in the light of the goal of building a robust social movement capable of advancing its aims. The goal of building a social movement provides a strong reason for effective altruists to embrace an ecumenical set of core commitments. At the same time, there are risks involved in adopting an ecumenical approach to social movement building. In this paper, I develop a view about how effective altruists should characterize the movement’s core philosophical commitments, in light of the challenges of social movement building. I suggest that John Rawls’s idea of an “overlapping consensus” provides a useful model for thinking about the philosophical core and broader structure of the movement.



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Brian Berkey
University of Pennsylvania

Citations of this work

Mutual Aid as Effective Altruism.Ricky Mouser - 2023 - Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 33 (2):201-226.
Buddhism and effective altruism.Calvin Baker - 2022 - In Dominic Roser, Stefan Riedener & Markus Huppenbauer (eds.), Effective Altruism and Religion: Synergies, Tension, Dialogue. Nomos. pp. 17-45.

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Famine, affluence, and morality.Peter Singer - 1972 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (3):229-243.
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Whether and Where to Give.Theron Pummer - 2016 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 44 (1):77-95.
The Methods of Ethics.Henry Sidgwick - 1874 - International Journal of Ethics 4 (4):512-514.

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