Effective Altruism

EA imageResearch Topic:

Effective altruism is the project of using time, money, and other resources in ways that help others the most. We’re interested in the following questions:

  • Which philosophical views are compatible with–and lend support to–effective altruism? Effective altruism is supported by act consequentialism, but what about rule consequentialism, contractualism, Kantianism, pluralist deontology, or virtue ethics? What is the most plausible view that combines requirements to aid cost-effectively with non-consequentialist options and constraints?
  • What is the most important cause? Fighting extreme poverty, eliminating animal suffering, reducing existential risks, or what? To what extent, if at all, should we take into consideration the well-being of possible future persons? How should we decide where to give if there is no clearly best cause?
  • To what extent is progress in ethical theory itself a priority, from an effective altruist perspective? For example, how important is it to figure out what well-being consists in, or to solve problems in population ethics?

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  • In autumn 2016, Theron Pummer and Tim Mulgan co-taught an honours-level course at St Andrews on effective altruism. Pummer will teach this course again in 2023-24.
  • In autumn 2017, Theron Pummer and Tim Mulgan co-taught an MLitt seminar on population ethics.
  • Effective Altruism Teaching Resources


  • Currently seeking funding for: teaching buyouts, postdoctoral researchers, PhD scholarships, postgraduate research assistants, and events.
  • The March 2016 Effective Altruism conference was funded by the British Academy.
  • The May 2017 Ethics of Giving conference is funded by the Mind Association, the Society for Applied Philosophy, the JN Wright Trust, and the Scots Philosophical Association.


  • Theron Pummer (St Andrews Philosophy), Project Leader
  • Ben Sachs (St Andrews Philosophy)
  • Elizabeth Ashford (St Andrews Philosophy)
  • Adam Etinson (St Andrews Philosophy)
  • David Ulph (St Andrews Economics)
  • Margaret Leighton (St Andrews Economics)
  • Tobias Jung (St Andrews Management and Director of the Centre for the Study of Philanthropy & Public Good)
  • L.A. Paul (Yale Philosophy)
  • Peter Singer (Princeton University Center for Human Values)
  • Hilary Greaves (Oxford Philosophy)