Effective altruism and its critics


I Gabriel

publication date



Journal of Applied Philosophy 34 (4), 457-473


Effective altruism is a philosophy and a social movement that aims to revolutionise the way in which we do philanthropy. It encourages individuals to do as much good as possible, typically by contributing money to the best-performing aid and development organizations.

Surprisingly, this approach has met with considerable resistance among aid practitioners. They argue that effective altruism is insensitive to justice insofar as it overlooks the value of equality, urgency and rights. They also hold that the movement suffers from methodological bias, which means that it takes materialistic, individualistic and instrumental approach to doing good.

Finally, they maintain that effective altruists hold false empirical beliefs about the world, and that they reach mistaken conclusions about how best to act for that reason. This paper weighs the force of each objection in turn, and looks at responses to the challenge they pose.

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