Normative uncertainty and wild-animal suffering

The initial research question was what the impact of normative uncertainty is on wild-animal suffering. The case of wild-animal suffering concerns the question of what we ought to do about the immense amount of suffering amongst animals in nature. Should we intervene in nature to reduce or prevent (some of) this suffering, or instead use our resources on other matters? Different ethical theories prescribe different courses of action (also depending on the other available options). If we’re uncertain about what ethical theory (or value or proposition) is correct, this is referred to as normative uncertainty. This might have some impact on what we ought to do, if we face a decision under normative uncertainty. This happens when we have to make a decision while the different ethical propositions we give credence to prescribe different options. I’ll assume that we face such a decision. The available options are preventing wild-animal suffering, focusing on climate change, factory-farming, or poverty. Furthermore, I’ll we give credence to four different ethical theories, all of which are seemingly popular among EAs. There are different theories for making decisions under normative uncertainty, none of which is unproblematic. I explain and evaluate two prominent theories (‘My Favorite Theory,’ and Will MacAskill’s ‘Maximize Expected Choice-Worthiness’), and apply these to our case.


Do you want to learn more about our priority paths? Click here

Do you want to write your thesis on similar topic? Check out our Thesis Topic Coaching or get inspiration in our List of potential topics

Dimitri

I recently completed a Bachelor Philosophy (at the Free University of Amsterdam). Currently, I’m doing a Research Master Philosophy (at the same university), which has ethics and epistemology as its main topics. I’m planning to focus mainly on ethics, specifically, on issues within normative ethics with seeming relevance for Effective Altruism.