On Shallow Ponds and Effective Altruism

by Eric Schliesser on April 5, 2024

In the wake of the sentencing of SBF last week there were two mighty takedowns of effective altruism: one (here) “The Deaths of Effective Altruism Sam Bankman-Fried is finally facing punishment. Let’s also put his ruinous philosophy on trialby Leif Wenar (Stanford) at Wired; the other and better written, “Neo-Utilitarians Are Utter Philistines” by Justin Smith-Ruiu (Paris) at his (here) Substack (Hinternet). In response Richard Pettigrew (Bristol) wrote a rather sensible criticism, “Leif Wenar’s criticisms of effective altruism” at his blog (Richard’s Substack). On of our very own,  Chris Bertram, shared it it on social media with a note that Wenar’s piece was shared widely without “a sober assessment of the merits of his arguments.”

Now, I am an avid reader of Pettigrew’s blog because more than anyone today, he makes on-going debates in formal epistemology and decision-theory available to wide audiences in a relatively fair and relatively accessible fashion. And like the very best blogs, he also shows the salience of different debates within some specialist area to other areas of philosophy (and the sciences/life). I also find Pettigrew rather judicious generally.

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