By Giving What We Can Cambridge | Posted June 18th, 2013
In early May, Peter Singer visited Cambridge to give a talk on effective altruism and Giving What We Can at the Cambridge Union. Before the talk, a team from Giving What We Can Cambridge took the opportunity to discuss effective altruism and effective careers with Professor Singer. In the first part of the interview, published below, Singer answers questions on giving and altruism.
Effective Altruism and some of the key questions behind it…
GWWC: How would you see the relationship between effectiveness and altruism? Where would you place an emphasis? Do you see them as being equally important?
Peter Singer: They are both important. I think really what I'm interested in is the impact that we end up having on problems that need to be dealt with, let's say particularly the issue of global poverty. So it's like saying: if what you're interested in is how much water you get into a bucket then it depends on how wide or narrow the stream is as well as the force, the pressure, with which the water is coming out. You want altruism because that will mean that people do more, but you want it to be effective because that will mean it will have a bigger impact.
GWWC: In a nutshell, what is wrong with the morality exhibited by most people, and what is your alternative?
Peter Singer: What is wrong with it is that people tend to look predominantly at what they actually do as determining right or wrong rather than what they omit to do. Very often when we allow things to happen that we could have prevented, the consequences might be much more serious than infractions to moral rules that people take quite seriously. So I think that our attitude towards morality, to what is involved in living well, is warped by too much of a distinction between acts and omissions.
The entire story is here.