I would like to offer a simple personal note that my focus and energy has turned away from EA to climate change only. I now spend all of my time and energy on climate related matters. Though I still value EA's approach to charity giving, it has begun to feel like a voice from the past, from a world that no longer exists. This is how it registers with me now.
I admit that I do not know how to say it more clearly than I have, and that what I have said is not enough to be convincing. The only thing I can say again is that the 50/50 split is a way of showing equal regard for myself and others in a system in which everyone is under the same obligation and is acting upon that obligation. I will probably rest my argument until I can articulate it more adequately.
You also said: If our needs are equally important to everyone else's, then surely others have an equal moral claim on the resources that we use for our basic needs, right?
This part I don't understand. How can anyone make a moral claim on the basic needs of another? I don't see how this could be. I am only saying that every person has a right to meet their personal needs for food, shelter, etc. -- including myself, so my obligation to give begins after these modest needs are met, we give from what remains. Help me here.
kbog and Jamie_Cassidy - Thanks so much for your kind remarks, questions, criticisms and observations. I appreciate it. I'll try to address both sets of comments in this post.
Q -- "Surely, if everyone's interests are equal, then this naively implies that we ought to divide surplus resources equally among all, keeping 1/7,000,000,000 for ourselves? Why half for oneself and half for everybody else?"
A -- Though this idea may seem naive, I'm not sure that it is. Perhaps we could look at it from another perspective, from the other end of the stick, if you will.
Though I am not obligated to relinquish my interests (because mine hold the same value as all others, and all people are of equal value), I am obligated to bound those interests by my moral obligations. And I am obligated to divide my surplus resources equally (thus giving equal regard to myself and others), keeping half for myself and giving half to others. Though it is not immediately obvious, this obligation is always the same, irrespective of the number of people in the system, simply because all people in the system live under the same obligation to themselves and to others, whether it's two people or 7 billion. It's not me and 7 billion others, it's 7 billion of us together, each one as both oneself and another.
The fact that, in practice, this would be radical, complicated, and difficult, does not negate the argument. It just means it would be radical, complicated and difficult. The fact that this interpretation would not be accepted by a great number of people doesn't deflect its import.
Q -- Nitpicking, but donating to support others simply is altruism. The way you're using the term here is unusual.
Regarding my definition of term 'altruism' -- that it is the amount we give above and beyond our moral obligation -- yes, this is an unusual interpretation of the term. But it is more accurate (and more humbling). Think about it. I find someone's jacket on the side of the road, I carry it with me for a while, I like it, it looks good on me. When I see the owner, I say, "Too bad, I found it: It's mine." Clearly, we haven't met our moral obligation. If we give him back his jacket, we have merely met our moral obligation. But we haven't been altruistic, we haven't given him anything that was not already his. But, if we gave him back his jacket and also a pair of gloves, we would then be altruistic, that is, we would have gone beyond our moral obligation.
The fact that this is an unusual definition of the term is not a good reason to argue that it is therefore a wrong use of the term, particularly if it uncovers a deep ethical misperception or articulates a more nuanced understanding, an understanding that may lead us to a deeper level of humility.
Q -- And why should we divide our surplus resources in such a way? Why not all our resources, if we're giving equal interest? Only putting our surplus resources up for consideration, when other people lack basic resources, seems to be an unequal way of doing things.
A -- Simply because our basic needs are as important as the basic needs of other's. We must consider our basic needs first, and then distribute half of what is left. In other words, only those resources that exceed our basic needs should be given consideration.
Q -- While I generally find truth in the idea that those with more disposable income have a greater relative obligation to help others, I see nothing inherently wrong with living well.
I agree, but from this perspective 'living well' is necessarily bounded by our moral obligations. There is plenty of room for living well, though little room for living really, really well.
Lila, what will you do now? What questions or problems do you see in the path ahead? What good things will you miss by leaving the EA community?
For some reason, I've always felt a deep sense of empathy for people who do what you have done. It is very honest and generous of you to do it this way. I wish you only the very best in all you do.
(This is my first post on this forum. I am new to EA.)