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date: 04 July 2022

Abstract and Keywords

In this essay I examine the contemporary movement known as effective altruism (EA). I argue that most understandings of EA imply some version of consequentialism. That in itself may sound like a rather modest conclusion (dictated by a certain vagueness in EA and the cornucopia of forms of consequentialism), but the arguments for it illuminate aspects of both EA and consequentialism. I also argue that the claim that one is obligated to maximize the good is not essential to consequentialism, that in fact this is a difficult claim to defend, and that therefore the standard “demandingness objection” misses the target. Nevertheless, what is essential to any consequentialist theory is the view that producing more good is always morally better than producing less. Deontological criticisms of this view are familiar. I focus instead on its clash with common-sense views about moral goodness and admirability.

Keywords: consequentialism, utilitarianism, effective altruism, demandingness, virtue

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