• Posts
  • RSS
  • ◂◂RSS
  • Contact

  • Altruism isn't about sacrifice

    September 4th, 2013
    giving  [html]
    I understand altruism to be about helping people, trying to make people's lives better in whatever way I can. This does tend to involve some amount of sacrifice, but if I could have a larger impact with less sacrifice that would be a good thing. In fact I choose my altruistic activities to do as much as possible with as little sacrifice as possible. So reactions like this confuse me:
    For me, altruism should involve more than sparing the poor a few crumbs from our table. It should be about changing our behavior and trying to be nicer to the people we find most irritating. Peter Singer's Effective Altruism doesn't address this aspect of good living at all. His movement is just about doing stuff with money. It's a cult for wealthy middle-class Westerners who don't want to change their behavior but feel a bit guilty about the comfort they live in. The Effective Altruism movement allows its followers to continue their privileged existences—they buy themselves absolution by signing a direct debit docket to one of the EA-authorized charities. True altruism involves self-sacrifice; Singer's altruism involves salary sacrifice and nothing more. (source)
    If I were talking to this writer in person I would suggest we taboo the word "altruism" and talk at a lower level. They would probably expand "altruism" to something like "making substantial sacrifices for the benefit of others" while I would expand it to just "working to benefit others". We could go on from there to discuss why they think "making substantial sacrifices" is important in and of itself, to the point of not valuing an approach that "involves salary sacrifice and nothing more." Maybe we would reach an agreement, maybe we wouldn't, but we'd get closer to understanding what we disagreed about.

    As participants in a broader discourse around "altruism," however, we should push for an understanding of the term that isn't about giving things up. Someone who reduces their income to the level of world per-capita GDP or works in 100 degree temperatures hand-delivering meals to homeless people is engaging in intense self-sacrifice, but what matters is how much they're helping.

    Comment via: google plus, facebook

    Recent posts on blogs I like:

    What should we do about network-effect monopolies?

    Many large companies today are software monopolies that give their product away for free to get monopoly status, then do horrible things. Can we do anything about this?

    via benkuhn.net July 5, 2020

    More on the Deutschlandtakt

    The Deutschlandtakt plans are out now. They cover investment through 2040, but even beforehand, there’s a plan for something like a national integrated timetable by 2030, with trains connecting the major cities every 30 minutes rather than hourly. But the…

    via Pedestrian Observations July 1, 2020

    How do cars fare in crash tests they're not specifically optimized for?

    Any time you have a benchmark that gets taken seriously, some people will start gaming the benchmark. Some famous examples in computing are the CPU benchmark specfp and video game benchmarks. With specfp, Sun managed to increase its score on 179.art (a su…

    via Posts on Dan Luu June 30, 2020

    more     (via openring)


  • Posts
  • RSS
  • ◂◂RSS
  • Contact