Being Good in a World of Need

We are pleased to announce details of the latest publication in the Uehiro Series in Practical Ethics, published by Oxford University Press.


Being Good in a World of Need book cover showing image of the good samaritan

Being Good in a World of Need

by Larry S. Temkin (2017 Uehiro Lecturer)

  • One of the world's foremost ethicists argues for a pluralistic approach to global need, engaging with the work of renowned economists Angus Deaton and Jeffrey Sachs to challenge the dominant views of Effective Altruism
  • Questions the effectiveness of international aid efforts and explores how aid agencies may overlook, ignore, or coverup any unintended negative consequences that their interventions produce
  • Staunchly defends the argument that ignoring global need is impermissible, despite the ethical and practical complexities, and considers alternative ways we may help those in need

In a world filled with both enormous wealth and pockets of great devastation, how should the well-off respond to the world's needy?

This is the urgent central question of Being Good in a World of Need. Larry S. Temkin, one of the world's foremost ethicists, challenges common assumptions about philanthropy, his own prior beliefs, and the dominant philosophical positions of Peter Singer and Effective Altruism. Filled with keen analysis and insightful discussions of philosophy, current events, development economics, history, literature, and age-old wisdom, this book is a thorough and sobering exploration of the complicated ways that global aid may incentivize disastrous policies, reward corruption, and foster “brain drains” that hinder social and economic development.

Using real-world examples and illuminating thought experiments, Temkin discusses ethical imperialism, humanitarian versus developmental aid, how charities ignore or coverup negative impacts, replicability and scaling-up problems, and the views of the renowned economists Angus Deaton and Jeffrey Sachs, all within the context of deeper philosophical issues of fairness, responsibility, and individual versus collective morality. At times both inspiring and profoundly disturbing, he presents the powerful argument that neglecting the needy is morally impermissible, even as he illustrates that the path towards helping others is often fraught with complex ethical and practical perils. Steeped in empathy, morality, pathos, and humanity, this is an engaging and eye-opening text for any reader who shares an intense concern for helping others in need.

Philosophy in Focus

We are delighted that Professor Temkin's book has been selected to feature in Oxford University Press' digital campaign 'Philosophy in Focus'.

For February 2022, 'Philosophy in Focus' shines a light on 'social justice' where OUP authors address questions on human rights, equality, social responsibility, and what is needed to achieve social justice. Explore a range of free content on topics such as race, gender, feminism, religion, democracy, the ethics foreign policy and more.

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Publication details

Published by Oxford University Press on 27 January 2022

ISBN: 9780192849977


Larry S. Temkin, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

For an overview and audio recordings of the lectures visit the 2017 Lectures page.

Visit the book's OUP webpage 

More details on the Uehiro Series in Practical Ethics on OUP website.

Philosophy in Focus hub (OUP)