Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Where Best to Give

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Probably everyone reading this (myself included!) ought to donate more to effective charities.  But, as non-experts in the field, most of us shouldn't try to pick directly which charity (or charities) to support.  We're obviously not qualified to do that. Instead, we should pick which experts we trust to defer to.  Fortunately, there are now easily-recognizable experts in the field, which makes it easier than ever before for the rest of us to know where best to donate.In short: most people should simply donate to GiveWell's Maximum Impact Fund, for a traditionally-focused "safe bet" that they can feel confident about.But if you're the paradoxical sort who would like to do even better than "maximum" impact, and you trust Effective Altruist organizations, I would instead recommend donating through EA Funds.  You can divide your donation between four fund areas (each of which has its own specialist grant managers for disbursing the funds to where, within their remit, they are most needed):(1) Global Health & Development(2) Animal Welfare(3) Long-Term Future(4) EA InfrastructureThe first is roughly equivalent to GiveWell's Maximum Impact Fund.  The second focuses on farm animal welfare, which is comparatively neglected yet surprisingly tractable, yielding significantly higher short-term expected value.  The third has astronomically higher expected value, though much greater uncertainty.  The fourth has high expected value through serving as a kind of philanthropic "compounding interest" investment, growing the EA community and securing more future donations for all other effective causes.I personally would most highly recommend the third and fourth of these, though all are clearly extremely worthwhile -- I don't think you can really go wrong with any of them. (I tend to split my donations between all four, as a kind of "hedge" that's more emotionally than rationally motivated.)Finally, for cause-specific recommendations (e.g.. . .

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News source: Philosophy, et cetera

Choice Blindness and Inconsistent Beliefs

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Unlike the thinking machines of science fiction, human beings can easily believe inconsistent (even contradictory) claims. I am confident I have many inconsistent beliefs and know that I have many false beliefs. This is because I have turned up such beliefs over the years—one of the benefits (or occupational hazards) of being a professional philosopher. I thus infer I have many left in my mind. I do not know which ones are false—if I knew, I would (I hope) stop believing them. Writing out my ideas, like this, is a help—other people can see my claims and subject them to critical assessment. If someone can honestly show that two of my beliefs are inconsistent (or contradictory) I consider that a gift—they are helping me weed the garden of my mind. But not everyone is grateful for this sort of help—although, to be fair, this can often be done from cruelty rather than honest concern. While most people do not write extensively about their beliefs, many people present their professed beliefs on social media, such as Facebook. Being a philosopher, I have the annoying trait of noting these claims and then assessing whether they can all be true. That is, I automatically check for logical inconsistency and contradictions. Two claims are inconsistent if they both cannot be true at the same time; but they could both be false. If two claims are contradictory, one must be false and the other true. As would be suspected, the political beliefs people profess are often inconsistent or even contradictory. I have, and perhaps so have you, seen relatively short Facebook posts putting forth sets of political claims that are inconsistent. As noted in my previous essay, the professed beliefs of Trump supporters about the pandemic often form such sets. It is a bit jarring to see a single post mock people who take the pandemic “hoax” seriously, assert that the “China Virus” is a dangerous bioweapon, and then finish things off with praise for Trump’s great handling of the pandemic and how. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

The pandemic as the end of consumerism. Everything that's happening is happening because it had to happen

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 These Medieval ladies look like fashion models. With their splendid dresses in silk brocade, they are showing off their wealth in an age, the 14th century, in which Europe was enjoying a certain degree of growth and prosperity. They couldn't have imagined that, one century later, Europe would plunge into a terrible age of witch hunts that would put women back to their place of child-making tools. It is the way history works, it never plans, it always reacts, sometimes ruthlessly. And all that happens had a reason to happen (above, miniature by Giovanni da Como, ca.1380) Can you tell me of at least one case in history where a society perceived a serious threat looming in the future and took action against it on the basis of data and rational arguments? With the best of goodwill, I can't. Societies react to threats using a primeval stimulus-reaction that may be aggressive or defensive, but that's almost never rational.Curiously, our society, that we call sometimes "The West" and at times the "Global Empire," was the first in history to have a chance to do something rational to avoid the destiny awaiting it much before the threat was clearly visible. It was in 1972 when the newly developed digital computers were coupled with a powerful analytical tool, "system dynamics." The result was the study called "The Limits to Growth" that foresaw how the gradual depletion of natural resources coupled with increasing pollution (that today we call "climate change") would cause the whole Western economic system to collapse at some moment during the first half of the 21st century. The study also suggested rational solutions to avoid collapse: reduce consumption, stop population growth, manage pollution, and more. As we all know, the attempt was a remarkable failure: society reacted as if the threat were the people who were trying to sound the alarm. The "Limits to Growth" study was ridiculed. demonized, and ignored." Now, it is much too late to apply the remedies that. . .

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News source: Cassandra's Legacy

The pandemic as a tool of history. Everything that's happening is happening because it had to happen

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 These Medieval ladies look like fashion models. With their splendid dresses in silk brocade, they are showing off their wealth in an age, the 14th century, in which Europe was enjoying a certain degree of growth and prosperity. They couldn't have imagined that, one century later, Europe would plunge into a terrible age of witch hunts that would put women back to their place of child-making tools. It is the way history works, it never plans, it always reacts, sometimes ruthlessly. And all that happens had a reason to happen (above, miniature by Giovanni da Como, ca.1380) Can you tell me of at least one case in history where a society perceived a serious threat looming in the future and took action against it on the basis of data and rational arguments? With the best of goodwill, I can't. Societies react to threats using a primeval stimulus-reaction that may be aggressive or defensive, but that's almost never rational.Curiously, our society, that we call sometimes "The West" and at times the "Global Empire," was the first in history to have a chance to do something to avoid the destiny awaiting it much before the threat was clearly visible. It was in 1972 when the newly developed digital computers were coupled with a powerful analytical tool, "system dynamics." The result was the study called "The Limits to Growth" that foresaw how the gradual depletion of natural resources coupled with increasing pollution (that today we call "climate change") would cause the whole Western economic system to collapse at some moment during the first half of the 21st century. And the study also provide solutions to avoid collapse: reduce consumption, stop population growth, manage pollution, and more. As we all know, the attempt was a remarkable failure: society reacted as if the threat were the people who were trying to sound the alarm. The "Limits to Growth" study was ridiculed and demonized, then consigned to the dust bin of the "wrong scientific ideas." Now, it is much. . .

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News source: Cassandra's Legacy

Everything that's happening is happening because it had to happen. The pandemic as a tool of history.

Philosophy News image
 These Medieval ladies look like fashion models. With their splendid dresses in silk brocade, they are showing off their wealth in an age, the 14th century, in which Europe was enjoying a certain degree of growth and prosperity. They couldn't have imagined that, one century later, Europe would plunge into a terrible age of witch hunts that would put women back to their place of child-making tools. It is the way history works, it never plans, it always reacts, sometimes ruthlessly. And all that happens had a reason to happen (above, miniature by Giovanni da Como, ca.1380) Can you tell me of at least one case in history where a society perceived a serious threat looming in the future and took action against it on the basis of data and rational arguments? With the best of goodwill, I can't. Societies react to threats using a primeval stimulus-reaction that may be aggressive or defensive, but that's almost never rational.Curiously, our society, that we call sometimes "The West" and at times the "Global Empire," was the first in history to develop tools for long term forecasting. It had a one-time chance to use these tools to do something to avoid the destiny awaiting it. It was in 1972 when the newly developed digital computers were coupled with a powerful analytical tool called "system dynamics." The result was the study called "The Limits to Growth" that foresaw how the gradual depletion of natural resources coupled with increasing pollution (that today we call "climate change") would cause the whole Western economic system to collapse at some moment during the first half of the 21st century. It is happening.As we all know, the attempt was a remarkable failure: society reacted as if the threat were the people who were trying to sound the alarm. The "Limits to Growth" study was ridiculed and demonized, then consigned to the dust bin of the "wrong scientific ideas". It could have been expected. Societies lack the tool that allows people (sometimes) to. . .

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News source: Cassandra's Legacy

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