Philosophical Multicore

Sometimes controversial, sometimes fallacious, sometimes thought-provoking, and always fun.

Archive for November, 2012

Three Kinds of People

Posted by Michael Dickens on November 20, 2012

Note: Today’s post is shorter than usual and formatted more roughly. If you particularly like or dislike this format, let me know in the comments.

When it comes to charity, there are three kinds of people:

  • People who think every charity is good and give to whatever charity they want.
  • People who think a lot of charities are bad, and therefore don’t give money to charity.
  • People who think a lot of charities are bad, and therefore put some effort into finding the good ones.

Unfortunately, not too many people seem to fall into the third category. If only more people cared about being effective.

Category one is forgivable, because it often seems intuitively true that charity must do good, and it is considered taboo to criticize charities. But I don’t get category two.

Okay, that’s not true. I do get category two. It’s a fake justification. People do not arrive at this position by thinking, “I want to do as much good as possible, but I don’t know which charities are effective. I suppose I should just not give any money to charity and not look into it any further.” Instead, they usually think, “I don’t want to give to charity. And, you know, they’re probably not that effective anyway.”

While we are right to be skeptical of charities’ claims, I think it’s unfortunate that most skeptics are driven not by the desire to find the truth (i.e. which organizations are most effective) but by the need to justify their actions [1]. To put it another way, most people who are thinking in the right direction are doing so for the wrong reasons, and therefore will never reach the proper conclusion of their skepticism—i.e., that we should put care into finding which charities do the most good instead of simply picking our personal favorite cause.


[1] I don’t know for sure that most skeptics are motivated in this way, but anecdotally, it appears to be true.

Posted in Applied Ethics, Ethics, Rant | 2 Comments »

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