Hi-Phi Nation

Effective Altruism and its Critics

How to give to charity ethically.


Episode Notes

Curtis is setting aside a large chunk of money to give to charity, and it is up to us to persuade him where he should donate. Luckily, philosophers, economists, and the nonprofit world have been thinking a lot about this issue in recent years.

On this episode, effective altruism’s defenders and critics try to persuade Curtis where and how to give. Who can most effectively persuade an ordinary person as to the right way to donate to charity? And do the recent scandals involving “effective altruism” implicate its philosophical foundations?

We start with arguments that you should always try to save the most lives possible, no matter where they are on the planet. We then hear a critic of that view, who argues that local giving can also be a good. Then we turn to the view that we should save humans from extinction threats like pandemics, nuclear war, and AI takeover. And finally, we hear from a critic of that view, who says we should not blow future risks out of proportion.

Guests include philosophers Richard Yetter-Chappell (Miami), Savannah Pearlman (Indiana), Shakeel Hashim (Center for Effective Altruism), and Seth Lazar (Australia National University).

For all episodes of Hi-Phi Nation, visit www.hiphination.org


About the Show

Hi-Phi Nation is philosophy in story form, integrating narrative journalism with big ideas. We look at stories from everyday life, law, science, popular culture, and strange corners of human experiences that raise thought-provoking questions about things like justice, knowledge, the self, morality, and existence. We then seek answers with the help of academics and philosophers. The show is produced and hosted by Barry Lam of Vassar College.

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  • Barry Lam is host and producer of Hi-Phi Nation and Professor of Philosophy at UC Riverside, and Visiting Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University.