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William MacAskill
Oxford University
  1.  6
    Moral Uncertainty.William MacAskill, Krister Bykvist & Toby Ord - 2020 - Oxford University Press.
    How should we make decisions when we're uncertain about what we ought, morally, to do? Decision-making in the face of fundamental moral uncertainty is underexplored terrain: MacAskill, Bykvist, and Ord argue that there are distinctive norms by which it is governed, and which depend on the nature of one's moral beliefs.
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  2. Normative Uncertainty.William MacAskill - 2014 - Dissertation, University of Oxford
    We are often unsure about what we ought to do. This can be because we lack empirical knowledge, such as the extent to which future generations will be harmed by climate change. It can also be because we lack normative knowledge, such as the relative moral importance of the interests of present people and the interests of future people. However, though the question of how one ought to act under empirical uncertainty has been addressed extensively by both economists and philosophers---with (...)
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  3.  10
    Doing Good Better : How Effective Altruism Can Help You Make a Difference.William MacAskill - 2015 - New York, USA: Gotham Books.
    The cofounder of the Effective Altruism movement presents a counterintuitive approach anyone can use to make a difference in the world. While studying philosophy at Oxford University and trying to work out how he could have the greatest impact, William MacAskill discovered that most of the time and money aimed at making the world a better place achieves little. Why? Because individuals rarely have enough information to make the best choices. Confronting this problem head-on, MacAskill developed the concept of effective (...)
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  4. Effective Altruism.Theron Pummer & William MacAskill - 2020 - International Encyclopedia of Ethics.
    In this entry, we discuss both the definition of effective altruism and objections to effective altruism, so defined.
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  5. Normative Uncertainty as a Voting Problem.William MacAskill - 2016 - Mind 125 (500):967-1004.
    Some philosophers have recently argued that decision-makers ought to take normative uncertainty into account in their decisionmaking. These philosophers argue that, just as it is plausible that we should maximize expected value under empirical uncertainty, it is plausible that we should maximize expected choice-worthiness under normative uncertainty. However, such an approach faces two serious problems: how to deal with merely ordinal theories, which do not give sense to the idea of magnitudes of choice-worthiness; and how, even when theories do give (...)
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  6. Longtermist Institutional Reform.Tyler John & William MacAskill - forthcoming - In Natalie Cargill & Tyler M. John (eds.), The Long View. London, UK: FIRST.
    In all probability, future generations will outnumber us by thousands or millions to one. In the aggregate, their interests therefore matter enormously, and anything we can do to steer the future of civilization onto a better trajectory is of tremendous moral importance. This is the guiding thought that defines the philosophy of longtermism. Political science tells us that the practices of most governments are at stark odds with longtermism. But the problems of political short-termism are neither necessary nor inevitable. In (...)
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  7. Why Maximize Expected Choice‐Worthiness?1.William MacAskill & Toby Ord - 2020 - Noûs 54 (2):327-353.
    This paper argues in favor of a particular account of decision‐making under normative uncertainty: that, when it is possible to do so, one should maximize expected choice‐worthiness. Though this position has been often suggested in the literature and is often taken to be the ‘default’ view, it has so far received little in the way of positive argument in its favor. After dealing with some preliminaries and giving the basic motivation for taking normative uncertainty into account in our decision‐making, we (...)
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  8. What Should We Agree on About the Repugnant Conclusion?Stephane Zuber, Nikhil Venkatesh, Torbjörn Tännsjö, Christian Tarsney, H. Orri Stefánsson, Katie Steele, Dean Spears, Jeff Sebo, Marcus Pivato, Toby Ord, Yew-Kwang Ng, Michal Masny, William MacAskill, Nicholas Lawson, Kevin Kuruc, Michelle Hutchinson, Johan E. Gustafsson, Hilary Greaves, Lisa Forsberg, Marc Fleurbaey, Diane Coffey, Susumu Cato, Clinton Castro, Tim Campbell, Mark Budolfson, John Broome, Alexander Berger, Nick Beckstead & Geir B. Asheim - 2021 - Utilitas 33 (4):379-383.
    The Repugnant Conclusion served an important purpose in catalyzing and inspiring the pioneering stage of population ethics research. We believe, however, that the Repugnant Conclusion now receives too much focus. Avoiding the Repugnant Conclusion should no longer be the central goal driving population ethics research, despite its importance to the fundamental accomplishments of the existing literature.
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  9. The Evidentialist's Wager.William MacAskill, Aron Vallinder, Caspar Oesterheld, Carl Shulman & Johannes Treutlein - 2021 - Journal of Philosophy 118 (6):320-342.
    Suppose that an altruistic agent who is uncertain between evidential and causal decision theory finds herself in a situation where these theories give conflicting verdicts. We argue that even if she has significantly higher credence in CDT, she should nevertheless act in accordance with EDT. First, we claim that the appropriate response to normative uncertainty is to hedge one's bets. That is, if the stakes are much higher on one theory than another, and the credences you assign to each of (...)
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  10. The Infectiousness of Nihilism.William MacAskill - 2013 - Ethics 123 (3):508-520.
    In “Rejecting Ethical Deflationism,” Jacob Ross argues that a rational decision maker is permitted, for the purposes of practical reasoning, to assume that nihilism is false. I argue that Ross’s argument fails because the principle he relies on conflicts with more plausible principles of rationality and leads to preference cycles. I then show how the infectiousness of nihilism, and of incomparability more generally, poses a serious problem for the larger project of attempting to incorporate moral uncertainty into expected value maximization (...)
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  11.  94
    Smokers, Psychos, and Decision-Theoretic Uncertainty.William MacAskill - 2016 - Journal of Philosophy 113 (9):425-445.
    In this paper I propose an approach to decision theory that I call metanormativism, where the key idea is that decision theory should take into account decision-theoretic uncertainty. I don’t attempt to argue in favor of this view, though I briefly offer some motivation for it. Instead, I argue that if the view is correct, it has important implications for the causal versus evidential decision-theory debate. First, it allows us to make rational sense of our seemingly divergent intuitions across the (...)
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  12. Replaceability, Career Choice, and Making a Difference.William MacAskill - 2014 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 17 (2):269-283.
  13.  98
    Effective Altruism: Introduction.William MacAskill - 2017 - Essays in Philosophy 18 (1):1-5.
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  14. The Moral Case for Long-Term Thinking.Hilary Greaves, William MacAskill & Elliott Thornley - forthcoming - In Natalie Cargill & Tyler M. John (eds.), The Long View: Essays on Policy, Philanthropy, and the Long-Term Future. London: FIRST. pp. 19-28.
    This chapter makes the case for strong longtermism: the claim that, in many situations, impact on the long-run future is the most important feature of our actions. Our case begins with the observation that an astronomical number of people could exist in the aeons to come. Even on conservative estimates, the expected future population is enormous. We then add a moral claim: all the consequences of our actions matter. In particular, the moral importance of what happens does not depend on (...)
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  15. Practical Ethics Given Moral Uncertainty.William MacAskill - 2019 - Utilitas 31 (3):231-245.
    A number of philosophers have claimed that we should take not just empirical uncertainty but also fundamental moral uncertainty into account in our decision-making, and that, despite widespread moral disagreement, doing so would allow us to draw robust lessons for some issues in practical ethics. In this article, I argue that, so far, the implications for practical ethics have been drawn too simplistically. First, the implications of moral uncertainty for normative ethics are far more wide-ranging than has been noted so (...)
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  16.  16
    Understanding Effective Altruism and Its Challenges.William MacAskill - 2018 - In David Boonin, Katrina L. Sifferd, Tyler K. Fagan, Valerie Gray Hardcastle, Michael Huemer, Daniel Wodak, Derk Pereboom, Stephen J. Morse, Sarah Tyson, Mark Zelcer, Garrett VanPelt, Devin Casey, Philip E. Devine, David K. Chan, Maarten Boudry, Christopher Freiman, Hrishikesh Joshi, Shelley Wilcox, Jason Brennan, Eric Wiland, Ryan Muldoon, Mark Alfano, Philip Robichaud, Kevin Timpe, David Livingstone Smith, Francis J. Beckwith, Dan Hooley, Russell Blackford, John Corvino, Corey McCall, Dan Demetriou, Ajume Wingo, Michael Shermer, Ole Martin Moen, Aksel Braanen Sterri, Teresa Blankmeyer Burke, Jeppe von Platz, John Thrasher, Mary Hawkesworth, William MacAskill, Daniel Halliday, Janine O’Flynn, Yoaav Isaacs, Jason Iuliano, Claire Pickard, Arvin M. Gouw, Tina Rulli, Justin Caouette, Allen Habib, Brian D. Earp, Andrew Vierra, Subrena E. Smith, Danielle M. Wenner, Lisa Diependaele, Sigrid Sterckx, G. Owen Schaefer, Markus K. Labude, Harisan Unais Nasir, Udo Schuklenk, Benjamin Zolf & Woolwine (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Philosophy and Public Policy. Springer Verlag. pp. 441-453.
    Effective altruism is the use of evidence and reason to figure out how to benefit others as much as possible and the taking of action on that basis. This chapter discusses the moral framework and methodological approach that effective altruism uses to prioritize causes, charities, and careers, and examines some of the world problems that, on this perspective, appear to be most urgent and important: global health and development, non-human animal suffering, and risks to long-term human survival. It then lays (...)
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  17.  48
    The Paralysis Argument.Andreas Mogensen & William MacAskill - 2021 - Philosophers' Imprint 21 (15).
    Many everyday actions have major but unforeseeable long-term consequences. Some argue that this fact poses a serious problem for consequentialist moral theories. We argue that the problem for non-consequentialists is greater still. Standard non-consequentialist constraints on doing harm combined with the long-run impacts of everyday actions entail, absurdly, that we should try to do as little as possible. We call this the Paralysis Argument. After laying out the argument, we consider and respond to a number of objections. We then suggest (...)
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  18. Aid Scepticism and Effective Altruism.William MacAskill - 2019 - Journal of Practical Ethics 7 (1):49-60.
    In the article, ‘Being Good in a World of Need: Some Empirical Worries and an Uncomfortable Philosophical Possibility,’ Larry Temkin presents some concerns about the possible impact of international aid on the poorest people in the world, suggesting that the nature of the duties of beneficence of the global rich to the global poor are much more murky than some people have made out. -/- In this article, I’ll respond to Temkin from the perspective of effective altruism—one of the targets (...)
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  19.  81
    Statistical Normalization Methods in Interpersonal and Intertheoretic Comparisons.William MacAskill, Owen Cotton-Barratt & Toby Ord - 2020 - Journal of Philosophy 117 (2):61-95.
    A major problem for interpersonal aggregation is how to compare utility across individuals; a major problem for decision-making under normative uncertainty is the formally analogous problem of how to compare choice-worthiness across theories. We introduce and study a class of methods, which we call statistical normalization methods, for making interpersonal comparisons of utility and intertheoretic comparisons of choice-worthiness. We argue against the statistical normalization methods that have been proposed in the literature. We argue, instead, in favor of normalization of variance: (...)
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  20.  59
    Banking: The Ethical Career Choice.William MacAskill - 2016 - In David Edmonds (ed.), Philosophers Take on the World. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 84-86.
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  21.  40
    Effective Reducetarianism.William MacAskill - 2017 - In Brian Kateman (ed.), The Reducetarian Solution: How the Surprisingly Simple Act of Reducing the Amount of Meat in Your Diet Can Transform Your Health and the Planet. New York, USA: Penguin Random House. pp. 69-71.
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