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Michelle_Hutchinson comments on The marketing gap and a plea for moral inclusivity - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Michelle_Hutchinson 19 July 2017 01:47:04PM *  2 points [-]

I broadly agree with you on the importance of inclusivity, but I’m not convinced by your way of cashing it out or the implications you draw from it.

Inclusivity/exclusivity strikes me as importantly being a spectrum, rather than a binary choice. I doubt when you said EA should be about ‘making things better or worse for humans and animals but being neutral on what makes things better or worse’, you meant the extreme end of the inclusivity scale. One thing I assume we wouldn’t want EA to include, for example, is the view that human wellbeing is increased by coming only into contact with people of the same race as yourself.

More plausibly, the reasons you outline in favour of inclusivity point towards a view such as ‘EA is about making things better or worse for sentient beings but being neutral between reasonable theories of what makes things better or worse’. Of course, that brings up the question of what it takes to count as a reasonable theory. One thing it could mean is that some substantial number of people hold / have held it. Presumably we would want to circumscribe which people are included here: not all moral theories which have at any time in the past by a large group of people are reasonable. At the other end of the spectrum, you could include only views currently held by many people who have made it their life’s work to determine the correct moral theory. My guess is that in fact we should take into account which views are and aren’t held by both the general public and by philosophers.

I think given this more plausible cashing out of inclusivity, we might want to be both more and less inclusive than you suggest. Here are a few specific ways it might cash out:

  • We should be thinking about and discussing theories which put constraints on actions you’re allowed to take to increase welfare. Most people think there are some limits on be what we’re allowed to do to others to benefit others. Most philosophers believe there are some deontological principles / agent centred constraints or prerogatives.

  • We should be considering how prioritarian to be. Many people think we should give priority to those who are worst off, even if we can benefit them less than we could others. Many philosophers think that there’s (some degree of) diminishing moral value to welfare.

  • Perhaps we ought to be inclusive of views to the effect that (at least some) non-human sentient beings have little or no moral value. Many people’s actions imply they believe that a large number of animals have little or no moral value, and that robots never could have moral value. Fewer philosophers seem to hold this view.

  • I’m less convinced about being inclusive towards views which place no value on the future. It seems widely accepted that climate change is very bad, despite the fact that most of the harms will accrue to those in the future. It’s controversial what the discount rate should be, but not that the pure time discount rate should be small. Very few philosophers defend purely person-affecting views.

Comment author: MichaelPlant 20 July 2017 10:07:51PM *  0 points [-]

Thanks Michelle.

I agree there's a difficulty in finding a theoretical justification for how inclusive you are. I think this overcooks the problem somewhat as an easier practical principle would be "be so inclusive no one feels their initially preferred theory isn't represented". You could swap "no one" for "few people" with "few" to be further defined. There doesn't seem much point saying "this is what a white supremacist would think" as there aren't that many floating around EA, for whatever reason.

On your suggestions for being inclusive, I'm not sure the first two are so necessary simply because it's not clear what types of EA actions prioritarians and deontologists will disagree about in practice. For which charities will utils and prioritarians diverge, for instance?

On the third, I think we already do that, don't we? We already have lots of human-focused causes people can pick if they aren't concerned about non-human animals.

On the last, the only view I can think of which puts no value on the future would be one with a very high pure time discount. I'm inclined towards person-affecting views and I think climate change (and X-risk) would be bad and are worth worrying about: they could impact the lives of those alive today. As I said to B. Todd earlier, I just don't think they swamp the analysis.