[Question] Does donating to EA make sense in light of the mere addition paradox ?

TL;DR Assuming that utilitarianism as a moral philosophy has flaws along the way, such that one can follow it but only to some unkown extent, what would be the moral imperative for donating to EA ?

I’ve not really found a discussion around this on the internet so I wonder if someone around here as thought about it.

It seems to me that EA makes perfect sense in light of a utilitarian view of morals. But it seems that a utilitarian view of morals is pretty shaky in that, if you follow it to it’s conclusion you get to the merge addition paradox or the “utility monster”.

So in light of that does donating to an EA organisation (as in: one that tries to save or improve as many lives as possible for as little money as possible) really make any sense ?

I can see it intuitively making sense, but barring a comprehensive moral system that can argue for the value of all human life, it sems intuition is not enough. As in, it also intuitively make sense to put 10% of your income into low-yield bonds, so in case one of your family members or friends has a horrible (deadly or severely life-quality diminishing) problem you can help them.

From an intuitive perspective “helping my mother/​father/​best-friend/​pet-dog” seem to topple “helping 10 random strangers” for most people, thus it would seem that it doesn’t make sense barring you are someone that’s very rich and can thus safely help anyone close to him and still have some wealth leftover.

I can also see EA making sense from the perspective of other codes of ethics, but it seems like most people donating to EA don’t really follow the other prescripts of those codes that the codes hold to be more valuable.


  • You can argue that helping people not die is good under Christian ethics, but it’s better to help them convert before they die so that they can avoid eternal punishment.

  • You can argue that helping people not die under a pragmatic moral system (basically a more system that’s simply a descriptive version of what we’ve seen “works”), but at the same time, most pragmatic moral systems would probably yield the result that helping your community rather than helping strangers halfway across the globe (simply because that would have been viewed as better by most people in past and current generation, so it’s probably correct).

  • I seems donating is in not way bad under Kantian ethics. But then again, I think if you take Kantian ethics as your moral code you’d probably have to prioritize other things first (e.g. never lying again) and donating to EA would fall mainly in a morally neutral zone.

So basically, I’m kinda stuck understanding under which moral presincts it actually makes sense to donate to EA charities ?

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