On September 17th, Peter Singer will be delivering the first Rotman lecture of the academic year, entitled, “The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically”. What is effective altruism? Singer explored the topic in his 2013 TED talk, “The why and how of effective altruism”. (NOTE: Starting at 0:30, this talk contains 30 seconds of graphic footage.)

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On July 6th, Singer engaged in an online forum on the Boston Review discussing effective altruism. Participants in the forum include Daron Acemoglu (Professor of Economics at MIT), Angus Deaton (Professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton), Emma Saunders-Hastings (Fellow at Stanford’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society), and Rob Reich (Professor of Political Science and Co-director of the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society at Stanford University), among others. Singer opens the debate, noting that, “A minimally acceptable ethical life involves using a substantial part of one’s spare resources to make the world a better place.”

What are some of the criticisms of the effective altruism movement? Paul Brest, Former President of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, asks,”… I wonder whether effective altruists aren’t free-riding on other altruists in order to live in a world in which they can enjoy the arts, literature, and other cultural and leisure pursuits”. While Leila Janah, Founder of Samasource, writes, “Take Singer’s imperative of maximizing income in order to maximize donations. Suppose after college I take a high-paying job at a private equity firm. What if that firm invests in companies that produce the very negative social outcomes my donations are supposed to fix?” The forum can be read in its entirety here.

Remember to register to attend Peter Singer’s Rotman lecture on effective altruism on September 17th at 7:00 pm.

Singer will also deliver a lecture on September 18th at 3:30 pm entitled, “Animal Liberation: Forty Years On”. To register and view event details, please see the event page.

(Image credit: Adam Cohn)