The Lessons of Effective Altruism [Full text]

Ethics & International Affairs, Volume 30.4 (Winter 2016)

December 15, 2016

Peter Singer at the Effective Altruism Global Conference in Melbourne, August 2015.
CREDT: Mal Vickers

By Jennifer C. Rubenstein

The Most Good You Can Do, Peter Singer (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2015), 232 pp., $16 paper, $25 cloth.

Doing Good Better, William MacAskill (New York: Avery, 2015), 272 pp., $16 paper, $26.95 cloth.

Carol Sue Snowden worked for thirty years as a librarian at the Columbus Metropolitan Library in Columbus, Ohio. She led a quiet, frugal life, spending money mostly on books, which were her passion. When she died, she donated the money she had saved—over $1 million—to the Columbus library and seven local schools. Most of us would look upon this generosity with admiration, but according to a new movement called Effective Altruism (EA), Snowden got it wrong. While she was right to donate her money, she should have instead directed it to an organization that does the most good overall.

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