Starting in 2016/7, our new course will provide the ideal introduction to the key philosophical issues surrounding philanthropy.

What is the nature and extent of our moral obligations to philanthropy? Is the proper aim of philanthropy to “do the most good”? How should the good aimed at be conceived of and measured? These are just some of the ethical and philosophical questions raised by the concept of philanthropy. With its bi-weekly discussions with leaders in philanthropy, in addition to its weekly lectures and seminars, Effective Philanthropy: Ethics and Evidence – organised in collaboration with the Marshall Institute – will provide the ideal platform for engaging with these kinds of questions.

On this brand new course students will learn about key contemporary debates in the ethics of philanthropy through critical engagement with the philosophical literature. They will also learn to employ both social scientific research and normative reasoning to assess philanthropic organisations.

By bringing together the expertise of LSE Philosophy as well as those of the newly established Marshall Institute, this course will provide you with the ideal combination of conceptual, analytical and concrete skills required to engage philosophically with philanthropy.

What you’ll do

There will be two versions of this course in 2016/7: PH332, for undergraduate students, and PH432 for postgraduate students.

PH332 is available to students on our BSc in Philosophy and Economics, our BSc in Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method our BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics and the BSc in Politics and Philosophy. The course will also be available to General Course students and as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

PH432 is available to students on our MSc in Economics and Philosophy, our MSc in Philosophy and Public Policy, our MSc in Philosophy of Science and our MSc in Philosophy of the Social Sciences. It will also be available as an outside options to students on other MSc programmes where regulations permit.

This is a half-unit course, meaning that it will run for one term. Teaching will consist of 10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the Lent Term (9 Jan – 24 March). Each lecture will introduce a different topic and you will have the chance to discuss each of these topics in class groups of no more than 15 students.

As well as the weekly lectures and seminars, every two weeks there will be an additional “philanthropy in practice” guest lecture and seminar with leading figures in philanthropy. These guest lectures will be organised by the Marshall Institute and chaired by Stephan Chambers.

Weekly essential readings, selected individually from various book chapters and journal articles, will be provided on Moodle but if you’d like to get a head start here are some indicative readings for you to take a look at over the summer:

  • Deen Chatterjee (ed.) The Ethics of Assistance: Morality and the Distant Needy. Cambridge University Press.
  • Patricia Illingworth, Thomas Pogge, and Leif Wenar (eds.) (2010). Giving Well: The Ethics of Philanthropy. Oxford University Press.
  • William McAskill (2015). Doing Good Better: Effective Altruism and How You Can Make a Difference. Gotham.
  • Peter Singer (2015). The Most Good You Can Do. Yale University Press.
  • Samuel Scheffler (1994). The Rejection of Consequentialism. Oxford University Press.