KevinWatkinson comments on An argument for broad and inclusive "mindset-focused EA" - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: KevinWatkinson  (EA Profile) 20 July 2017 06:28:08AM *  0 points [-]

On the face of it, the idea does sound quite good. However, we need to place it into a broader movement context and look at how it has been evaluated to consider how effective it is likely to be, and what other impacts the approach has that aren’t immediately clear.

A central issue with EA is that it says for instance, that we need to consider scope, neglectedness and tractability, but meeting this criteria doesn’t then lead to effectiveness, or optimal outcomes, it just flags that it is an approach worth more consideration.

Consequently, we can note the ‘pragmatic’ trend in EA support for animal related groups, but this trend isn’t well understood, and neither is it contextualised. Where we are trying to be inclusive and encourage more people into EA then this is the type of thing we need to consider, so we need to consider things like ideology and organisational / movement culture when determining how groups inter-relate and what impact this has. I think for many people who are looking at different aspects of EA, they don’t have the time to do this, and expect EAAs to do this work, but there isn’t any evidence this form of evaluation has been taking place up to now. My own observation of the movement is that this is a neglected area, and will likely be quite important in terms of inclusion.

In terms of EA, the trade off would be making EA look more appealing by diminishing it in terms of elitism, specifically where a certain ‘lower’ section of EAs were to say they aren’t like the ‘higher’ ones. The corollary in the animal movement is to claim veganism is extreme, all or nothing, fundamentalist, angry, crazy, puritan, dogmatic, absolutist, hardline and so on. These are stereotypes that Matt Ball, Tobias Leenaert and Brian Kateman have played on in order to centre their pragmatic (or not vegan) approach. I think people who have paid attention to what they say are likely to recognise this (see in particular Matt Ball’s recent Vox video), it is just that rights activists are more sensitive to it because it infringes on our work.

I think it is possible to claim the work of the mainstream groups hasn’t been contextualised, or even criticised from within EA, it has largely been encouraged and supported by EAs and other mainstream animal activists because it either sounds good on the face of it, or it hasn’t caused any issues for the work they are doing, or it is simply expedient to go along with that flow. We can also look at the divisions created and perpetuated and ask whether we really want to replicate the behaviour of some EAs within the animal movement and transfer that into EA. I think the answer would be no, however, we would then still need to consider whether we ought to be validating that work in the organisations that EAs support, and I would say no to that as well.


Disrupting the animal movement: https://qz.com/829956/how-the-vegan-movement-broke-out-of-its-echo-chamber-and-finally-started-disrupting-things/

Focus on Fish: A Call to Effective Altruists: http://commons.pacificu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1567&context=eip

Utilitarian equivocation and moral consistency: https://network23.org/orcasandanimals/2017/06/21/effective-altruism-for-animals-utilitarian-equivocation-and-moral-consistency/