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Effective AltruismPhilosophical Issues$
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Hilary Greaves and Theron Pummer

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198841364

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198841364.001.0001

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Effective Altruism’s Underspecification Problem

Effective Altruism’s Underspecification Problem

(p.166) 11 Effective Altruism’s Underspecification Problem
Effective Altruism

Travis Timmerman

Oxford University Press

In attempting to do the most good, should you, at a given time, perform the act that is part of the best series of acts you can perform over the course of your life, or should you perform the act that would be best, given what you would actually do later? Possibilists say you should do the former, whereas actualists say you should do the latter. In this chapter, Travis Timmerman explores the debate between possibilism and actualism, and its implications for effective altruism. Each of these two alternatives, he argues, is implausible in its own right as well as at odds with typical effective altruist commitments. Timmerman argues that the best way out of this dilemma is to adopt a hybrid view. Timmerman’s preferred version of hybridism is possibilist at the level of criterion of right action but actualist at the level of decision procedure.

Keywords:   actualism, possibilism, demandingness, ethical offsetting, cause-neutrality, earning to give

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