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Austen_Forrester comments on Blood Donation: (Generally) Not That Effective on the Margin - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Austen_Forrester 06 August 2017 07:13:05AM 1 point [-]

I think it may be useful to differentiate between EA and regular morals. I would put donating blood in the latter category. For instance, treating your family well isn't high impact on the margin, but people should still do it because of basic morals, see what I mean? I don't think that practicing EA somehow excuses someone from practicing good general morals. I think EA should be in addition to general morals, not replace it.

Comment author: DonyChristie 06 August 2017 03:16:42PM *  0 points [-]

I'm curious what exactly you mean by regular morals. I try (and fail) to not separate my life into separate magisteria but rather seeing every thing as making tradeoffs with every other thing, and pointing my life in the direction of the path that has the most global impact. I see EA as being regular morality, but extended with better tools that attempt to engage the full scope of the world. It seems like such a demarcation between incommensurable moral domains as you appear to be arguing for can allow a person to defend any status quo in their altruism rather than critically examining whether their actions are doing the most good they can. In the case of blood, perhaps you're talking about the fuzzies budget instead of the utilons? Perhaps your position is something like 'Regular morals are the set of actions that, if upheld by a majority of people, will not lead to society collapsing and due to anthropics I should not defect from my commitment to prevent society from collapsing. Blood donation is one of these actions', or this post?

Comment author: Austen_Forrester 06 August 2017 11:43:41PM 0 points [-]

By regular morals, I mean basic morals such as treating others how you like to be treated, ie. rules that you would be a bad person if you failed to abide by them. While I don't consider EA superorogatory, neither do I think that not practicing EA makes someone a bad person, thus, I wouldn't put it in the category of basic morals. (Actually, that is the standard I hold others to, for myself, I would consider it a moral failure if I didn't practice EA!) I think it actually is important to differentiate between basic and, let's say, more “advanced” morals because if people think that you consider them immoral, they will hate you. For instance, promoting EA as a basic moral that one is a “bad person” if she doesn't practice, will just result in backlash from people discovering EA. No one wants to be judged.

The point I was trying to make is that EAs should be aware of moral licensing, which means to give oneself an excuse to be less ethical in one department because you see yourself as being extra-moral in another. If there is a tradeoff between exercising basic morals and doing some high impact EA activity, I would go with the EA (assuming you are not actually creating harm, of course). For instance, I don't give blood because last time I did I was lightheaded for months. Besides decreasing my quality of life, it would also hurt by ability to do EA. I wouldn't say giving blood is an act of basic morality, but it still an altruistic action that few people can confidently say they are too important to consider doing. Do you not agree that if doing something good doesn't prevent you from doing something more high impact, than it would be morally preferable to do it? For instance, treating people with kindness... people shouldn't stop being kind to others because it won't result in some high global impact.