Up@dawn 2.0

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

John McLean
Section 9
Final Project Installment 1

For this installment I choose to look into “Ethics in the Real World: 82 Brief Essays on Things That Matter” and in particular the chapter of  “Good Charity, Bad Charity”.  As the title suggests this chapter explores ideas that, while all charity is beneficial and a great thing, not all categorizes of charity are as beneficial as others. Before reading the chapter I almost immediately disagreed, in my mind all forms of charity were equal. While one may be more beneficial in some aspect, in the end they would all weigh evenly in one aspect or another.
Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors suggests philanthropy in health and safety, education, arts and culture, human and civil rights, and environment. Knowing that all these are good causes to donate to, they ask, “What is the most urgent issue” and that “there’s no objective answer to that question”. The book then compares “health and safety” and “arts and culture” by donating  $100,000 to each. For Health and Safety one would donate the money to help people suffering from trachoma, which causes blindness in third world countries, but is treatable for $100, and for arts and culture one would donate to build a new wing of an art museum. At first glance in my mind this is a simple answer. Since the art museum is already built and fully functioning the more important issue would be saving people from blindness. Even though the new museum wing has the potentially to affect millions of people, the thousand people that you could save from blindness should be the more urgent issue since this has the potential to destroy ones life. While the book agrees with me it does give a nice way of thinking about this. If the new wing of the museum was built but a demon was going to curse every hundredth person to visit the new wing with fifteen years of blindness, would you still visit the new wing? I would not; to me the risk is not worth the reward. Even if this were changed to every thousandth person I would still be to scared to go. If you agree then you must also agree that “the harm of one persons blindness out ways the benefits received from the new wing”.

While I agree that there’s “no objective way of answering this question”, my belief that all charity is equal did change after comparing a few for myself, I now believe that some charities are of more importance than others. While I do see the value in arts and museums, personally, I will always choose the charity that directly affects someone’s life. Weather it is helping people in third would countries avoid blindness or donating to help keep after school programs available to children. While you will help a much smaller portion of people, the affect made on there lives will be far greater and worth while.


  1. This is a good point, it really makes you think!

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  3. "There's no objective way of answering" just means, I think, that there are more worthy causes than we can practically address as we ought, but as a practical matter we must do what we can... so we must choose and rank those worthy causes. We need a criterion of choice, and it's hard to argue against placing life and quality-of-life issues (like blindness) at the top of our list. Most important is NOT to throw up our hands in resignation at the thought that we can never do enough. We have to try.