•  94
    The Rules of Rescue: Cost, Distance, and Effective Altruism
    Oxford University Press. forthcoming.
    This is a book about duties to help others. When do you have to sacrifice life and limb, time and money, to prevent harm to others? When must you save more people rather than fewer? These questions arise in emergencies involving nearby strangers who are drowning or trapped in burning buildings. But they also arise in our everyday lives, in which we have constant opportunities to give time or money to help distant strangers in need of food, shelter, or medical care. With the resources available t…Read more
  •  321
    Supererogation and Conditional Obligation
    Philosophical Studies 2021 1-15. 2021.
    There are plenty of classic paradoxes about conditional obligations, like the duty to be gentle if one is to murder, and about “supererogatory” deeds beyond the call of duty. But little has been said about the intersection of these topics. We develop the first general account of conditional supererogation, with the power to solve familiar puzzles as well as several that we introduce. Our account, moreover, flows from two familiar ideas: that conditionals restrict quantification and that superero…Read more
  •  781
    Impermissible yet Praiseworthy
    Ethics 131 (4): 697-726. 2021.
    It is commonly held that unexcused impermissible acts are necessarily blameworthy, not praiseworthy. I argue that unexcused impermissible acts can not only be pro tanto praiseworthy, but overall praiseworthy—and even more so than permissible alternatives. For example, there are cases in which it is impermissible to at great cost to yourself rescue fewer rather than more strangers, yet overall praiseworthy, and more so than permissibly rescuing no one. I develop a general framework illuminating h…Read more
  •  305
    Sorites On What Matters
    In Jeff McMahan, Timothy Campbell, Ketan Ramakrishnan & Jimmy Goodrich (eds.), Ethics and Existence: The Legacy of Derek Parfit, Oxford University Press. forthcoming.
    Ethics in the tradition of Derek Parfit’s Reasons and Persons is riddled with sorites-like arguments, which lead us by what seem innocent steps to seemingly false conclusions. Take, for example, spectrum arguments for the Repugnant Conclusion that appeal to slight differences in quality of life. Several authors have taken the view that, since spectrum arguments are structurally analogous to sorites arguments, the correct response to spectrum arguments is structurally analogous to the correct res…Read more
  •  709
    Effective Justice
    Journal of Moral Philosophy 17 (4): 398-415. 2020.
    Effective Altruism is a social movement which encourages people to do as much good as they can when helping others, given limited money, time, effort, and other resources. This paper first identifies a minimal philosophical view that underpins this movement, and then argues that there is an analogous minimal philosophical view which might underpin Effective Justice, a possible social movement that would encourage promoting justice most effectively, given limited resources. The latter minimal vie…Read more
  •  112
    Effective Altruism: Philosophical Issues (edited book)
    Oxford University Press. 2019.
    This is the first collective study of the thinking behind the effective altruism movement. This movement comprises a growing global community of people who organise significant parts of their lives around the two key concepts represented in its name. Altruism is the idea that if we use a significant portion of the resources in our possession—whether money, time, or talents—with a view to helping others then we can improve the world considerably. When we do put such resources to altruistic use, i…Read more
  •  473
    Fiona Woollard argues that when one is personally involved in an emergency, one has a moral requirement to make substantial sacrifices to aid others that one would not otherwise have. She holds that there are three ways in which one could be personally involved in an emergency: by being physically proximate to the victims of the emergency; by being the only person who can help the victims; or by having a personal encounter with the victims. Each of these factors is claimed to be defeasibly suffi…Read more
  •  373
    Each-We Dilemmas and Effective Altruism
    with Matthew Clark
    Journal of Practical Ethics 7 (1): 24-32. 2019.
    In his interesting and provocative article ‘Being Good in a World of Need’, Larry Temkin argues for the possibility of a type of Each-We Dilemma in which, if we each produce the most good we can individually, we produce a worse outcome collectively. Such situations would ostensibly be troubling from the standpoint of effective altruism, the project of finding out how to do the most good and doing it, subject to not violating side-constraints. We here show that Temkin’s argument is more controver…Read more
  •  2543
    Effective Altruism
    International Encyclopedia of Ethics. 2020.
    In this entry, we discuss both the definition of effective altruism and objections to effective altruism, so defined.
  •  388
    Charity and Partiality
    In David Edmonds (ed.), Ethics and the Contemporary World, Routledge. pp. 121-132. 2019.
    Many of us give to charities that are close to our hearts rather than those that would use our gifts to do more good, impartially considered. Is such partiality to charities acceptable? I argue that if partiality to particular people is justified, we can go SOME distance toward justifying partiality to particular charities. Even so, partiality to charities is justified in fewer cases than most people seem to believe.
  •  842
    Whether and Where to Give
    Philosophy and Public Affairs 44 (1): 77-95. 2016.
    Effective altruists recommend that we give large sums to charity, but by far their more central message is that we give effectively, i.e., to whatever charities would do the most good per dollar donated. In this paper, I’ll assume that it’s not wrong not to give bigger, but will explore to what extent it may well nonetheless be wrong not to give better. The main claim I’ll argue for here is that in many cases it would be wrong of you to give a sum of money to charities that do less good than oth…Read more
  •  402
    Review of The Ethics of Giving: Philosophers’ Perspectives on Philanthropy (review)
    Philosophical Quarterly 70 (278): 426-429. 2020.
    The Ethics of Giving: Philosophers’ Perspectives on Philanthropy. Edited by Woodruff Paul.
  •  817
    All or Nothing, but If Not All, Next Best or Nothing
    Journal of Philosophy 116 (5): 278-291. 2019.
    Suppose two children face a deadly threat. You can either do nothing, save one child by sacrificing your arms, or save both by sacrificing your arms. Here are two plausible claims: first, it is permissible to do nothing; second, it is wrong to save only one. Joe Horton argues that the combination of these two claims has the implausible implication that if you are not going to save both children, you ought to save neither. This is one instance of what he calls the ALL OR NOTHING PROBLEM. I here p…Read more
  •  367
    Adding happy people
    In David Edmonds (ed.), Philosophers Take on the World, Oxford University Press. pp. 236-239. 2016.
    I very briefly sketch two arguments for the claim that we have significant moral reason to ‘add happy people’ (that is, bring into existence people with lives that are well worth living), independently of any effects on those already existing.
  •  665
    Spectrum arguments and hypersensitivity
    Philosophical Studies 175 (7): 1729-1744. 2018.
    Larry Temkin famously argues that what he calls spectrum arguments yield strong reason to reject Transitivity, according to which the ‘all-things-considered better than’ relation is transitive. Spectrum arguments do reveal that the conjunctions of independently plausible claims are inconsistent with Transitivity. But I argue that there is very strong independent reason to reject such conjunctions of claims, and thus that the fact that they are inconsistent with Transitivity does not yield strong…Read more
  •  653
    Intuitions about large number cases
    Analysis 73 (1): 37-46. 2013.
    Is there some large number of very mild hangnail pains, each experienced by a separate person, which would be worse than two years of excruciating torture, experienced by a single person? Many people have the intuition that the answer to this question is No. However, a host of philosophers have argued that, because we have no intuitive grasp of very large numbers, we should not trust such intuitions. I argue that there is decent intuitive support for the No answer, which does not depend on our i…Read more
  •  280
    Risky Giving
    The Philosophers' Magazine 73 (2): 62-70. 2016.
    We might worry that Peter Singer’s argument from “Famine, Affluence, and Morality” is unconvincing to non-consequentialists who accept moral constraints against imposing significant risks of harm on individuals. After all, giving to overseas charities often comes with such risks. I argue that plausible non-consequentialist criteria imply that it is not wrong to give to at least some of the charities that Singer and other effective altruists recommend.
  •  486
    Lopsided Lives
    In Mark Timmons (ed.), Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, Oxford University Press. pp. 275-296. 2017.
    Intuitively there are many different things that non-derivatively contribute to well-being: pleasure, desire satisfaction, knowledge, friendship, love, rationality, freedom, moral virtue, and appreciation of true beauty. According to pluralism, at least two different types of things non-derivatively contribute to well-being. Lopsided lives score very low in terms of some types of things that putatively non-derivatively contribute to well-being, but very high in terms of other such types of thing…Read more
  •  656
    The Worseness of Nonexistence
    In Espen Gamlund and Carl Tollef Solberg (ed.), Saving People from the Harm of Death, Oxford University Press. pp. 215-228. 2019.
    Most believe that it is worse for a person to die than to continue to exist with a good life. At the same time, many believe that it is not worse for a merely possible person never to exist than to exist with a good life. I argue that if the underlying properties that make us the sort of thing we essentially are can come in small degrees, then to maintain this commonly-held pair of beliefs we will have to embrace an implausible sort of evaluative hypersensitivity to slight nonevaluative differen…Read more
  •  488
    Does Division Multiply Desert?
    Philosophical Review 123 (1): 43-77. 2014.
    It seems plausible that (i) how much punishment a person deserves cannot be affected by the mere existence or nonexistence of another person. We might have also thought that (ii) how much punishment is deserved cannot increase merely in virtue of personal division. I argue that (i) and (ii) are inconsistent with the popular belief that, other things being equal, when people culpably do very wrong or bad acts, they ought to be punished for this—even if they have repented, are now virtuous, and pu…Read more