Better vaguely right than precisely wrong in effective altruism: the problem of marginalism

Economics and Philosophy:1-18 (forthcoming)

Abstract

Effective altruism requires that when we donate to charity, we maximize the beneficial impact of our donations. While we are in broad sympathy with EA, we raise a practical problem for EA, which is that there is a crucial empirical presupposition implicit in its charity assessment methods which is false in many contexts. This is the presupposition that the magnitude of the benefits generated by some charity vary continuously in the scale of the intervention performed. We characterize a wide class of cases where this assumption fails, and then draw out the normative implications of this fact.

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Bastian Steuwer
Ashoka University

References found in this work

Famine, Affluence, and Morality.Peter Singer - 1972 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (3):229-243.
Should the Numbers Count?John Taurek - 1977 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 6 (4):293-316.
Whether and Where to Give.Theron Pummer - 2016 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 44 (1):77-95.
The All or Nothing Problem.Joe Horton - 2017 - Journal of Philosophy 114 (2):94-104.

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