Date: 22 March 2017 17:0018:00
Location: D207
Organizer: The Student Council (Studentrådet) at the Department of Philosophy and Effective Altruism SU


Effective altruism is about effectively benefiting something beyond oneself. Effective altruists favor a diverse range of actions; for example, some favor preventing malaria among humans, others want to protect the environment and still others try to make fish slaughter less painful. One reason for these differences is that effective altruists have different values. The most crucial value difference is arguably the moral importance one assigns to happiness versus suffering. Those who place much importance on happiness are more prone to work to ensure that there will exist many happy beings in the future. Others, such as me and my employer (the Foundational Research Institute), work to avoid that there will be many miserable beings in the future. We call ethical views such as ours ‘suffering-focused,’ because they, in practice, result in a focus on reducing or avoiding suffering. This talk explains different values and priorities in effective altruism, it explains suffering-focused ethics and it raises and replies to objections to suffering-focused ethics. The talk concludes that there is a need for awareness raising and education about different ethical positions and arguments both within and outside of effective altruism.

About the speaker

Simon Knutsson is a researcher at the Foundational Research Institute (FRI), which is a part of the Effective Altruism Foundation. He holds master’s degrees in both practical philosophy and economics. His research interests include suffering-focused ethics, animal ethics, interpersonal welfare comparisons, value lexicality and the ethics of effective altruism. Prior to joining FRI, Knutsson worked as a business development associate at the investment company Latour. He has also chaired the board of Animal Charity Evaluators, worked as an analyst at GiveWell, and interned at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.