Professor Peter Singer on “The Why and How of Effective Altruism”

Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics in the University Center for Human Values

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Click here for the video.

At the 2013 TedTalks, Princeton University Professor Peter Singer spoke about the growing movement of “effective altruism”; the idea that our voluntarism and/or monetary donation(s) should focus on campaigns and organizations that effectively spend and are effectively directed to help the most people possible the most efficiently.

Citing the UNICEF Child Mortality Report 2012, which estimated 6.9 million children under the age of 5 died in 2011 from preventable poverty related diseases — although down from 12 million in 1990 but still representing 19 000 children per day, Professor Singer argued that we can effectively and with minimal changes to our daily lives contribute limited monetary resources to organizations like the Against Malaria Foundation which provides nets that are effective measures against malaria, in itself a major cause of children mortality in the world, and help regarding the problem of global poverty in a very meaningful way.

He argues that we do not need to be wealthy individuals with our own foundations like Bill and Melinda Gates and their Foundation to be effective altruists. If we focus our work and monetary donations on campaigns that, in a utilitarian spirit, help the most amount of people the most effectively to make the most difference, we too can be effective altruists. Professor Singer goes on to cite a few examples of young effective altruists and their campaigns. Brief summaries of the following were provided in the lecture:

– The “GivingWhatWeCan.org” Campaign
– The “80000hours.org” Campaign
– The “TheLifeYouCanSave.org” Campaign
– The “GiveWell.org” organization

The growing movement of “effective altruism”, contends Professor Singer, provides us with an altnernative viable way to live ethically and meaningful lives, overcoming what he refers to the Sisyphus problem — (1) the unceasing sense that our contributions and efforts do not make an effect in the world, and (2) the senseless repetition and ultimately unsatisfying sense of meaning and life a “consumeristic lifestyle” can provide to us.

In a coming series on social campaigns and their underpinning philosophical horizons, we will review the question of what kind of viable theoretical and practical criticisms can be made to the utilitarian approach in the field of social justice. Having looked at various philosophical schools and criticisms, we will be in a position to assess the claims and merits that Professor Singer makes in this and others lectures.

If you wish to have access to the latest UNICEF Child Mortality Report (2013), click here.

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One Comment on “Professor Peter Singer on “The Why and How of Effective Altruism”

  1. Pingback: Professor Peter Singer on “The Why and How of Effective Altruism” | © Integrating Horizons

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