philosopher is freed from the burden of trying to understand the mess we’re in, or of proposing an alternative vision of how things could be. The philosopher is le± to theorise only the autonomous man, the world a mere background for his righteous choices. You wouldn’t be blamed for hoping that philosophy has more to give.
09/01/2020 Stop the Robot Apocalypse · LRB 23 September 2015 9/10 Footnotes * John Lanchester wrote about Elon Musk in the LRB of 10 September. † The Most Good You Can Do: How E±ective Altruism Is Changing Ideas about Living Ethically (Yale, 224 pp., £14.99, May, 978 0 300 18027 6); Strangers Drowning: Voyages to the Brink of Moral Extremity (Allen Lane, 336 pp., £20, September, 978 1 8461 4398 4).
09/01/2020 Stop the Robot Apocalypse · LRB 23 September 2015 10/10 Letters Vol. 37 No. 19 · 8 October 2015 William MacAskill and his followers, about whom Amia Srinivasan writes, believe that buying insecticide-coated malarial nets for Africa is an e±ective bit of altruism ( LRB , 24 September). As noted in a report in the New York Times , these nets are modi²ed and used for ²shing in lakes such as Lake Tanganyika. The modi²ed nets catch everything, leaving little breeding stock for future generations. Unintended consequences of long-distance do-gooding? Rajith Dissanayake Birkbeck, University of London As a doctor with experience in international health I have found that some of the claims made by the proponents of e±ective altruism are not merely ‘satisfyingly counterintuitive’: they are wrong. For example, MacAskill claims that deworming has better educational outcomes among Kenyan schoolchildren than increasing the number of textbooks or teachers. This notion is based almost entirely on a single study published by Miguel and Kremer in the journal Econometrica in 2004 and has recently been debunked by Aiken, Davey et al in the International Journal of Epidemiology . Deworming does not improve educational outcomes. A review of the evidence available in the ²eld of development studies makes it clear that improved educational outcomes in developing countries are best achieved by, wait for it, a decent, well-resourced school system. The idea that a single anti-worm pill is the key to solving the deep societal injustice of poor education is another instance of the glib ‘freakonomics’ style of thinking that has hijacked much of the ²eld of social studies. Claims for a pharmacological magic bullet as a solution to poor educational attainment in Africa dovetail very nicely with the prevalent ideology of international health governance, which is content to accept structural inequalities in wealth and power while focusing on vertical, narrow, top-down, and ultimately ine±ective strategies in alleviating health inequalities. Yannis Gourtsoyannis London WC1 Vol. 37 No. 21 · 5 November 2015 Responding to Amia Srinivasan’s review of my book, Doing Good Better , Rajith Dissanayake challenges
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