A bunch of new GPI papers

Ear­lier to­day I posted a link to An­dreas Mo­gensen’s pa­per on “Max­i­mal Clue­less­ness”. But later I re­al­ized that this was just one among sev­eral im­por­tant pa­pers pub­lished yes­ter­day on the Global Pri­ori­ties In­sti­tute web­site. Rather than post­ing sep­a­rate links to each, I’m link­ing to all of them be­low (ab­stract in­cluded when available).

Cot­ton-Bar­ratt & Greaves, A bar­gain­ing-the­o­retic ap­proach to moral uncertainty

This pa­per ex­plores a new ap­proach to the prob­lem of de­ci­sion un­der rele­vant moral un­cer­tainty. We treat the case of an agent mak­ing de­ci­sions in the face of moral un­cer­tainty on the model of bar­gain­ing the­ory, as if the de­ci­sion-mak­ing pro­cess were one of bar­gain­ing among differ­ent in­ter­nal parts of the agent, with differ­ent parts com­mit­ted to differ­ent moral the­o­ries. The re­sult­ing ap­proach con­trasts in­ter­est­ingly with the ex­tant “max­imise ex­pected choice­wor­thi­ness” and “my favourite the­ory” ap­proaches, in sev­eral key re­spects. In par­tic­u­lar, it seems some­what less prone than the MEC ap­proach to ‘fa­nat­i­cism’: al­low­ing de­ci­sions to be dic­tated by a the­ory in which the agent has ex­tremely low cre­dence, if the rel­a­tive stakes are high enough. Over­all, how­ever, we ten­ta­tively con­clude that the MEC ap­proach is su­pe­rior to a bar­gain­ing-the­o­retic ap­proach.

Greaves & MacAskill, The case for strong longtermism

We be­lieve that this ne­glect of the very long-term fu­ture is a grave moral er­ror. An al­ter­na­tive per­spec­tive is given by a bur­geon­ing view called longter­mism, on which we should be par­tic­u­larly con­cerned with en­sur­ing that the long-run fu­ture goes well. In this ar­ti­cle we ac­cept this view but go fur­ther, ar­gu­ing that im­pacts on the long run are the most im­por­tant fea­ture of our ac­tions. More pre­cisely, we ar­gue for two claims.
Ax­iolog­i­cal strong longter­mism (AL): In a wide class of de­ci­sion situ­a­tions, the op­tion that is ex ante best is con­tained in a fairly small sub­set of op­tions whose ex ante effects on the very long-run fu­ture are best.
Deon­tic strong longter­mism (DL): In a wide class of de­ci­sion situ­a­tions, the op­tion one ought, ex ante, to choose is con­tained in a fairly small sub­set of op­tions whose ex ante effects on the very long-run fu­ture are best.

MacAskill & Mo­gensen, The paral­y­sis argument

Given plau­si­ble as­sump­tions about the long-run im­pact of our ev­ery­day ac­tions, we show that stan­dard non-con­se­quen­tial­ist con­straints on do­ing harm en­tail that we should try to do as lit­tle as pos­si­ble in our lives. We call this the Paral­y­sis Ar­gu­ment. After lay­ing out the ar­gu­ment, we con­sider and re­spond to a num­ber of ob­jec­tions. We then sug­gest what we be­lieve is the most promis­ing re­sponse: to ac­cept, in prac­tice, a highly de­mand­ing moral­ity of benefi­cence with a long-term fo­cus.

Mo­gensen, Mean­ing, medicine and merit

Given the in­evita­bil­ity of scarcity, should pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions ra­tion health­care re­sources so as to pri­ori­tize those who con­tribute more to so­ciety? In­tu­itively, we may feel that this would be some­how ine­gal­i­tar­ian. I ar­gue that the egal­i­tar­ian ob­jec­tion to pri­ori­tiz­ing treat­ment on the ba­sis of pa­tients’ use­ful­ness to oth­ers is best thought of as semiotic: i.e. as hav­ing to do with what this prac­tice would mean, con­vey, or ex­press about a per­son’s stand­ing. I ex­plore the im­pli­ca­tions of this con­clu­sion when taken in con­junc­tion with the ob­ser­va­tion that semiotic ob­jec­tions are gen­er­ally flimsy, failing to iden­tify any­thing wrong with a prac­tice as such and hav­ing limited ca­pac­ity to gen­er­al­ize be­yond par­tic­u­lar con­texts.

Mo­gensen, ‘The only eth­i­cal ar­gu­ment for pos­i­tive 𝛿 ’?

I con­sider whether a pos­i­tive rate of pure in­ter­gen­er­a­tional time prefer­ence is jus­tifi­able in terms of agent-rel­a­tive moral rea­sons re­lat­ing to par­tial­ity be­tween gen­er­a­tions, an idea I call ​dis­count­ing for kin­ship​. I re­spond to Parfit’s ob­jec­tions to dis­count­ing for kin­ship, but then high­light a num­ber of ap­par­ent limi­ta­tions of this ap­proach. I show that these limi­ta­tions largely fall away when we re­flect on so­cial dis­count­ing in the con­text of de­ci­sions that con­cern the global com­mu­nity as a whole.

Greaves, Book re­view of Scheffler’s “Why worry about fu­ture gen­er­a­tions?”

MacAskill, Effec­tive altruism

MacAskill, When should an effec­tive al­tru­ist donate?