Hello! I'm a philosophy PhD student in Edinburgh looking at various issues related to longtermism.


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Response to Phil Torres’ ‘The Case Against Longtermism’

I just wanted to echo your sentiments in the last part of your comment re: Beckstead's quote about the value of saving lives in the developed world. Having briefly looked at where this quote is situated in Beckstead's PhD thesis (which, judging by the parts I've previously read, is excellent), the context doesn't significantly alter how this quote ought to be construed. 

I think this is at the very least an eyebrow-raising claim, and I don't think Torres is too far off the mark to think that the label of white supremacism, at least in the "scholarly" sense of the term, could apply here. Though it's vital to note that this is in no way to insinuate that Beckstead is a white supremacist, i.e., someone psychologically motivated by white supremacist ideas. If Torres has insinuated this elsewhere, then that's another matter. 

It also needs noting that, contra Torres, longtermism simpliciter is not committed to the view espoused in the Beckstead quote. This view falls out of some particular commitments which give rise to longtermism (e.g. total utilitarianism). The OP does a good job of pointing out that there are other "routes" to longtermism, which Ord articulates, and I think these approaches could plausibly avoid the implication that we ought to prioritise members of the developed world over the contemporaneous global poor.

I'm oblivious to Torres' history with various EAs, so I'm anxious about stepping into what seems like quite a charged debate here (especially with my first forum post), but I think it's worth noting that, were various longtermist ideas to enter mainstream discourse, this is exactly the kind of critique they'd receive (unfairly or not!) - so it's worth considering how plausible these charges are, and how longtermists might respond. The OP develops some promising initial responses, but I also think a longer discussion would be beneficial.