Long-termism is currently described as a very important discovery of effective altruism. It is the driving idea behind what has been called the second wave of the EA movement. Long-termism is the idea that we should be concerned with effects of our actions on the very long-term future. This, in turn, is based on the assumptions that the welfare of every individual counts equally, no matter when the individual lives, and that a big part of the effects of our current actions may be effects on future individuals. The version of long-termism that leading effective altruists embrace is based on the impersonal total view in population ethics. Proponents of person-affecting views in population ethics are depicted as opponents of long-termism. Some rather implausible versions of person-affecting views do indeed reject long-termism altogether. However, other much more plausible versions are compatible with the main ideas behind longtermism. Person-affecting views, however, reject certain conclusions that leading effective altruists defend as implications of long-termism. These more controversial conclusions only follow from long-termism in conjunction with the impersonal total view. In this talk I aim at providing a better understanding of the two types of long-termism. These different types of long-termism do not only have different implications for cause prioritization. They are also based on fundamentally different axiological assumptions.
Global Priorities Seminar Convenors: Prof Hilary Greaves and Dr Michelle Hutchinson