Whether and Where to Give

Philosophy and Public Affairs 44 (1):77-95 (2016)
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Abstract

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 to give a sum of money to charities that do less good than others you could have given to instead, even if it would not have been wrong of you not to give the money to any charity at all. I assume that all the charities under discussion here do positive good overall, do not cause harm, do not infringe rights, etc. What makes my main claim here particularly interesting is that it is inconsistent with what appears to be a fairly common assumption in the ethics of giving, according to which if it is not wrong of you to keep some sum of money for yourself, then it is likewise not wrong of you to donate it to any particular charity you choose. Roughly: if it’s up to you whether to donate the money, it’s also up to you where to donate the money. I challenge this common assumption.

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Author's Profile

Theron Pummer
University of St. Andrews

Citations of this work

Opting for the Best: Oughts and Options.Douglas W. Portmore - 2019 - New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press.
Supererogation and Conditional Obligation.Daniel Muñoz & Theron Pummer - 2022 - Philosophical Studies 179 (5):1429–1443.
Effective Altruism: How Big Should the Tent Be?Amy Berg - 2018 - Public Affairs Quarterly 32 (4):269-287.

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References found in this work

Famine, Affluence, and Morality.Peter Singer - 1972 - Oxford University Press USA.
Famine, Affluence, and Morality.Peter Singer - 1972 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (3):229-243.
Conditional Obligations.Tina Rulli - 2020 - Social Theory and Practice 46 (2):365-390.
Famine, Affluence, and Morality.Peter Singer - 1985 - In Lawrence A. Alexander (ed.), International Ethics: A Philosophy and Public Affairs Reader. Princeton University Press. pp. 247-262.
Future Generations: Further Problems.Derek Parfit - 1982 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 11 (2):113-172.

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