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Tatjana Višak: Animal versus Human Welfare

Cause Prioritization Issues for Effective Altruists

Lecture by Tatjana Višak (Mannheim), organized by the Centre for Philosophy, Politics and Economics

The effective altruism community aims at doing the most good with any given amount of resources. Its current priorities are global health and development, farm animal welfare, and reduction of existential risks. The good to be done refers to the promotion of welfare, which, in turn, may comprise (i) improving lives, (ii) saving (or, in some cases, taking) lives, and, perhaps, (ii) creating lives.

The necessary prioritization of causes requires comparisons of welfare between individuals of different species. The main philosophical and practical problem in this regard is due to the following two facts: First, it is unclear what the correct account of welfare is (and whether the same account of welfare applies to all welfare subjects). Second, different accounts of welfare have very different implications when it comes to cross-species comparisons of welfare. Thus, for example, a proponent of an objective list account of welfare may hold that a pig, even in ideal living conditions, is worse off than a human in decent conditions, since the pig realizes fewer objective goods. Meanwhile, a preferentialist may judge that the pig in question is better off than the human, because her preferences are satisfied to a greater extent.

In this lecture, I will identify theoretical challenges for comparisons of welfare across species. I aim at giving some answers and pointing out implications for cause prioritization within the effective altruism movement.

When & where?

Thursday, 29 March 2018, 7 - 8.30pm
Room Omega of the Faculty of Philosophy

Last modified:26 November 2018 12.28 p.m.