Aid agencies: the epistemic question



Publication Details

Horton, K. J. (2011). Aid agencies: the epistemic question. Journal of Applied Philosophy, 28 (1), 29-43.


For several decades, there has been a debate in the philosophical literature concerning whether those of us who live in developed countries are morally required to give some of our money to aid agencies. Many contributors to this debate have apparently taken it that one may simply assume that the effects of the work such agencies do are overwhelmingly positive. If one turns to the literature on such agencies that has emerged in recent decades, however, one finds a number of concerns about such agencies and the work they do that put that assumption in serious doubt. This situation raises a number of pressing questions, many of which have received little or no attention from philosophers. After articulating a number of those questions, I focus mainly on what I call the `Epistemic Question (for potential contributors to aid agencies)¿: How can those of us who are not experts in international aid arrive at an estimate concerning the effects of the work aid agencies do that we have at least some good reason to believe accurate?

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