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Each-we dilemmas and effective altruism

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


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 (MacAskill, forthcoming, p. 5). We here show that Temkin’s argument is more controversial than it may appear initially regarding both impartiality and goodness. This is because it is both inconsistent with (i) a plausible conception of impartiality (Anonymity) and inconsistent with (ii) the standard view of goodness (the Internal Aspects View). Moreover, because (i) and (ii) are entailed by the sense of ‘impartial goodness’ that Effective Altruism tentatively adopts, Temkin’s argument is less relevant to Effective Altruism than he suggests.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-32
JournalJournal of Practical Ethics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2019

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