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Effective altruism (EA) requires that when we donate to charity, we maximize the beneficial impact of our donations. While we are in broad sympathy with EA, we raise a practical problem for EA, which is that there is a crucial empirical presupposition implicit in its charity assessment methods which is false in many contexts. This is the presupposition that the magnitude of the benefits (or harms) generated by some charity vary continuously in the scale of the intervention performed. We characterize a wide class of cases where this assumption fails, and then draw out the normative implications of this fact.
Limited aggregation holds that we are only sometimes, not always, permitted to aggregate. Aggregation is permissible only when the harms and benefits are relevant to one another. But how should limited aggregation be extended to cases in which we are uncertain about what will happen? In this article, I provide a challenge to ex post limited aggregation. I reconstruct a precise version of ex post limited aggregation that relies on the notion of ex post claims. However, building a theory of limited aggregation based on ex post claims leads to a dilemma. This shows that ex post limited aggregation is currently far away from being a well-defined alternative, strengthening the case for ex ante limited aggregation.
Most non-consequentialists “let the numbers count” when one can save either a lesser or greater number from equal or similar harm. But they are wary of doing so when one can save either a small number from grave harm or instead a very large number from minor harm. Limited aggregation is an approach that reconciles these two commitments. It is motivated by a powerful idea: our decision whom to save should respect each person who has a claim to our help, including those whom we fail to save. However, it has recently been argued that it is open to decisive objections. I develop a new limitedly aggregative view: Hybrid Balance Relevant Claims. This view is well grounded in the reasons we have to be skeptical of aggregation and resolves all recent challenges by paying careful attention to the rationale for limited aggregation.
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