Effective Altruism

By Eric Crampton 23/06/2015

I’ll be chairing a discussion with Peter Singer in Christchurch in September. If you’re anywhere in the neighbourhood, by which I mean within a 3-hour flight, you should attend.

I have never loved and hated and been changed by a book as much as Singer’s Practical Ethics. I threw it across the room more often than any other. Actually, I think it’s the only book I’ve ever hurled against the wall. But his arguments are almost impossible to resist.

The morning that I got the call from the Christchurch Festival inviting me to this, I’d walked in to work with Eleanor, then aged 4. On the way, that morning, I’d explained trolley problems to her – as you do with your four year old. She proved a very strict utilitarian. She then went on to propose ever differing bundles of who might be on which rail lines and whether you’d pull the switch – she was basically running hypothetical choice experiments to find out my marginal willingness to pay across options. Most of the options involved kitties of varying cuteness against family members, so it was all pretty easy for me. Then I got the call asking to come in to talk with Peter Singer. It was a great day.

I’ll be discussing Singer’s latest work on effective altruism. I’m really looking forward to it. Hit the link at the top to register and get tickets.


Peter Singer 4
How can we do the most good? Peter Singer, often described as the world’s most influential living philosopher, presents a challenging new movement in the search for an ethical life. Effective altruism requires a rigorously unsentimental view of charitable giving, urging that a substantial proportion of our money or time should be donated to the organisations that will do the most good with those resources, rather than to those that tug the heartstrings. Chaired by Eric Crampton.
Peter Singer is the author of more than 20 books, including the groundbreaking work on ethics, Animal LiberationThe Ethics of What We EatThe Life You Can Save, and his latest, The Most Good You Can Do. He teaches philosophy at Princeton and Melbourne Universities.
Eric Crampton is Head of Research with The New Zealand Initiative in Wellington and Adjunct Senior Fellow with the Department of Economics and Finance at the University of Canterbury. He blogs at Offsetting Behaviour.

Another fun bit: the Christchurch festival folks invited me, in part, because I’d blogged on the ridiculousness of charity races some time ago.

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