Peter Singer discusses Effective Altruism, including Utilitarianism as a branch of Ethics. Talk was held as a joint event between the University of Melbourne Secular Society and Melbourne University Philosophy Community.
Is philosophy, as a grounds to help decide how good an action is, something you spend time thinking about?
Audio of Peter’s talk can be found here at the Internet Archive.
In his 2009 book ‘The Life You Can Save’, Singer presented the thought experiment of a child drowning in a pond before our eyes, something we would all readily intervene to prevent, even if it meant ruining an expensive pair of shoes we were wearing. He argued that, in fact, we are in a very similar ethical situation with respect to many people in the developing world: there are life-saving interventions, such as vaccinations and clean water, that can be provided at only a relatively small cost to ourselves. Given this, Singer argues that we in the west should give up some of our luxuries to help those in the world who are most in need.
If you want to do good, and want to be effective at doing good, how do you go about getting better at it?
Around this central idea a new movement has emerged over the past few years known as Effective Altruism, which seeks to use the best evidence available in order to help the most people and do the most good with the limited resources that we have available. Associated with this movement are organisations such as GiveWell, which evaluates the relative effectiveness of different charities, and Giving What We Can, which encourages members to pledge to donate 10% or more of their income to effective poverty relief programs.
I was happy to get a photo with Peter Singer on the day – we organised to do an interview, and for Peter to come and speak at the Effective Altruism Global conference later in 2015.
Here you can find number of videos I have taken at various events where Peter Singer has addressed Effective Altruism and associated philosophical angles.
New Book ‘The Point of View of the Universe – Sidgwick and Contemporary Ethics‘ – by Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek and Peter Singer
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Playlist of video interviews and talks by Peter Singer: