24 March 1987
|Alma mater||Jesus College, Cambridge (BA)|
St Edmund Hall, Oxford (BPhil)
St Anne's College, Oxford (DPhil)
|Institutions||Emmanuel College, Cambridge|
Lincoln College, Oxford
Future of Humanity Institute
Giving What We Can
|Doctoral advisor||Krister Bykvist and John Broome|
William MacAskill (born William Crouch, 24 March 1987) is a Scottish philosopher, ethicist, and one of the originators of the effective altruism movement. He is Associate Professor in Philosophy at the University of Oxford, a researcher at the Global Priorities Institute at Oxford and Director of the Forethought Foundation for Global Priorities Research.
He is the author of the 2015 book Doing Good Better: Effective Altruism and a Radical New Way to Make a Difference.
MacAskill earned his BA in philosophy at Jesus College, Cambridge, his BPhil at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, and his DPhil in philosophy at St Anne's College, Oxford in 2014 (spending a year as a visiting student at Princeton University), supervised by John Broome and Krister Bykvist. He then took up a junior research fellowship at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, before taking an associate professorship at Lincoln College, Oxford.
MacAskill's research has two main focuses. The first addresses the issue of how one ought to make decisions under normative uncertainty; in addition to a DPhil on the topic, he has published on this issue in Ethics,Mind, and The Journal of Philosophy.
MacAskill's second research focus is on effective altruism. His book on the topic, Doing Good Better, was published in 2015, and reviewed favorably in The London Review of Books,The Guardian, and The New York Times.
In it, he argues that many of the ways people think about doing good achieve very little, but that by applying data and scientific reasoning to the normally sentimental world of doing good, opportunities to have a huge positive impact can be found.
In the book MacAskill makes controversial claims such as the fact that fair trade does very little to help the poorest farmers, that boycotting sweatshops might make things worse for the global poor and that people who pursue high-income careers such as plastic surgeons or wall street bankers could do more good than charity workers.
MacAskill's argument that young idealists can consider working for Wall Street has been the subject of a New York Times op-ed by David Brooks. Brooks argued that, while effective altruists may start earning to give in order to realise their deepest commitments, their values may erode over time, becoming progressively less altruistic. In addition, Brooks objected to the view on which altruists should turn themselves "into a machine for the redistribution of wealth."
MacAskill (born Crouch) argued that men should consider changing their last names when they get married; he and his fiancée changed their name to "MacAskill", her maternal grandmother's maiden name.
He lives in Oxford.
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