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The Philosophical Foundations of Effective Altruism (St Andrews)

Tue 29th March 2016 to Wed 30th March 2016

Parliament Hall, South Street, St Andrews


Tuesday 29 March:

Workshop Talks:

3:30pm – 4:10pm:  Sebastian Farquhar (The Centre for Effective Altruism)

4:20pm – 5:00pm:  Michelle Hutchinson (Giving What We Can)

5:00pm – 5:40pm:  Emily Clough (Harvard University)


Networking Dinner:

6:00pm – 8:20pm:  funded by British Academy; attendees include speakers, organizers, GWWC members, and early career researchers who were awarded travel bursaries; location TBA


Public Keynote (separate venue:  Buchanan Lecture Theatre)

8:40pm:  Peter Singer (Princeton University), TED Talk Viewing: The Why and How of Effective Altruism

9:00pm:  Q&A with Peter Singer over Skype


Wednesday 30 March:


St Andrews Sightseeing (optional):

09:30am – 12:40pm:  meet outside Parliament Hall, will go for a walk around campus and the beach, and then grab an informal lunch in town (pay your own way)


Workshop Talks:

1:00pm – 1:40pm:  James Lenman (University of Sheffield)

2:00pm – 2:40pm:  Mark Budolfson (Princeton University)

3:00pm – 3:40pm:  Stephanie Collins (University of Manchester)

4:00pm – 4:40pm:  James Snowden (Giving What We Can)


Coffee/tea/snack break:

4:40pm – 5:40pm (pay your own way)


Public Keynote:

6:00pm – 7:00pm:  Hilary Greaves (Oxford University)


Informal dinner/pub (optional):

7:00pm (pay your own way)


Organizers:  Theron Pummer, Rufaida Al Hashmi, and Oscar Westerblad.  Please email Oscar Westerblad to RSVP and if you have any questions (


Sponsors:  We are grateful to the British Academy and the Centre for Ethics, Philosophy and Public Affairs (CEPPA) at St Andrews for their support.


Theme of Conference:  The Philosophical Foundations of Effective Altruism 

Effective altruism is a growing social movement founded on the desire to make the world as good a place as it can be, the use of evidence and reason to find out how to do so, and the audacity to actually try’ (from the Centre for Effective Altruism).  We are interested in exploring philosophical questions surrounding this movement, including its philosophical foundations.

  • What is the best statement of effective altruism as a philosophical view, and what is its relation to consequentialism, deontology, or virtue ethics?
  • What are the strongest objections to effective altruism, in theory or in practice, and do they succeed?
  • Are there agent-relative reasons for giving to charity (for example, reasons to give on the basis of close personal ties)?  Are such reasons compatible with effective altruism?
  • What is the most important cause?  Fighting extreme poverty, reducing existential risks, or what?  How should we decide where to give if there is no clearly best cause?
  • To what extent is progress in ethical theory a priority, from an effective altruist perspective?  For example, how important is it for us to figure out what well-being consists in, or to solve problems in population ethics, and so on?


Interested in attending?  Please email Oscar Westerblad ( ) so we can keep track of the audience size as well as provide you with any key updates (e.g. venue updates).  There is a possibility we will be able to provide small bursaries to postgraduates and early career researchers wishing to serve as discussants at the conference.  Please let us know if you or anyone you know might be interested in this.