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Should we donate to charity because it “feels good”?

Should we donate to charity because it “feels good”?
In this episode, we discuss some of the concepts behind effective altruism with our friend Lucia. We touch on her motivations for setting up a public health charity, the Giving What We Can Pledge, and a few other curiosities. Enjoy!

Here are some of the highlights from our discussion:

Often the way in which people think about ‘doing’ good things is about doing things that feel good rather than actually trying to work out how you can maximise your positive impact. In this way, giving to charity becomes something which is not just about signalling to other people, it’s also about signalling to ourselves.

Signalling can work in different ways when it relates to publicly giving to charity. On the one hand, people might see it as an expression of wealth and an attempt to gain status and recognition from your donation. However, on the other hand, signalling could play an important role in helping to increase the number of people giving to charity. If people only donated anonymously then others might not know it’s happening and so the overall level of charitable donations could go down.

It’s important that people make decisions to try and reduce harm in the world but it’s usually better to frame it in terms of how you see things rather than how they should see things. If you come across as evangelising in realms such as charity, environmentalism or veganism, it’s very easy to deter people from that particular cause or issue. Everyone needs to come to their own conclusions.

Charity stuff has an uphill battle because people will invariably act in service of themselves and in ways that benefit them. There are a couple of broad ways to expand your actions to care for more distant or distant individuals – whether that be humans or animals – such as extrapolating using reason on the part of the individual.


Lead Exposure Elimination Project

Effective Altruism

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