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Boston Review Magazine Jul-Aug 2015 Back Issue

View Reviews   |   Write Review Only £4.49 Founded in 1975, Boston Review is a non-profit, reader-supported political and literary magazine—a public space for discussion of ideas and culture. We put a range of voices and views in dialogue on the web (without paywalls or commercial ads) and in print (four times a year)—covering lots of ground from politics and philosophy to poetry, fiction, book reviews, and criticism. One premise ties it all together: that a flourishing democracy depends on public discussion and the open exchange of ideas.

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Boston Review  |  Jul-Aug 2015  


Acting well and doing good is the topic of our forum in this issue. Philosopher Peter Singer endorses a growing philanthropic movement, effective altruism, whose proponents believe that living a morally decent life requires committing a significant percentage of personal income to charity. Indeed, some effective altruists pursue high-paying careers in order
to maximize giving. They believe, too, that they ought to give in ways that maximize impact: do “the most good you can,” as Singer puts it.

Such targeted giving means that philanthropic choices should be guided by measurable results, not warm and fuzzy feelings for identifiable individuals. Some contributors to our forum— from economist Angus Deaton to social entrepreneur Leila Janah—question the efficacy of effective altruism. Others challenge its utilitarian ethics; does it undermine the agency of aid recipients and lead their governments to mistake short-term successes for longterm solutions? Others focus on the agency of the givers: Daron Acemoglu wonders if the movement might eventually change what we think of as a meaningful life. Will we come to judge our lives by the sum of money we’ve
earned and donated to help strangers?

In his reflections on David Brooks’s
new book, The Road to Character, Claude Fischer (“The Problem with David Brooks,” p. 10) suggests other criteria for a meaningful life. Fischer recognizes the individualistic road to virtue that Brooks applauds—and that effective altruists might well endorse—as a deeply American impulse.

Nowhere have Americans struggled more with the imperative of building such institutions than in the arena of racial justice. On the fiftieth anniversary of the Moynihan report, Stephen Steinberg documents just how sharply American liberals turned away from the pursuit of just institutions at the very moment the country seemed most ready to lay their foundations.
Founded in 1975, Boston Review is a non-profit, reader-supported political and literary magazine—a public space for discussion of ideas and culture. We put a range of voices and views in dialogue on the web (without paywalls or commercial ads) and in print (four times a year)—covering lots of ground from politics and philosophy to poetry, fiction, book reviews, and criticism. One premise ties it all together: that a flourishing democracy depends on public discussion and the open exchange of ideas.
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Great publication—their quarterly issues are some of my favorite reads throughout the year. And they're a nonprofit, so I like supporting their mission. Reviewed 05 August 2019

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