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Responding to Objections

Published 26th September 2019

Responding to Objections

There are a variety of objections to EA, and to specific activities common in the EA community.

Common Categories of Objections:

  • A narrow understanding: The EA community works on a wide variety of things, and it isn’t always possible to explain the breadth of EA in one conversation. For example, you might illustrate one approach to doing good by explaining the merits of the Against Malaria Foundation. The person may then object to EA working only on interventions that don’t address underlying issues. Note that explaining the breadth of EA doesn’t completely resolve these objections, but instead be an objection about one aspect of EA, or to the balance of efforts in the EA community.
  • A difference in empirical beliefs: E.g. someone might believe that charity hinders development.
  • A difference in morals: E.g. that we have a much greater responsibility to our own generation than future generations.

Above all, it is important to listen carefully, ask questions, and keep an open mind. You can read some common objections of EA, and possible responses to these objections in this article on effectivealtruism.org. Do your best to discuss objections in a positive way.

One Strategy for Responding to Objections:

  • Acknowledge the truth in the objection. This could involve acknowledging the concern they have behind the objection and/or, if true, saying that you also believed it, or that it is a common belief, so that you show some level of agreement.
  • If you disagree with the objection, explain why. It often helps to pose this in terms of your personal position or beliefs so it doesn’t seem like you are pushing this point onto the other person.
  • Check for shared understanding at the end. This is a good way to draw out more objections, to get to the heart of any difference in opinion.

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