This essay confronts Peter Singer’s vision of the gift with Jacques Derrida’s by examining the claims of “effective altruism,” a movement of which Singer is the most prominent representative. While Derrida argues that giving for the sake of giving is impossible to the extent that the circle of reciprocity can never be transgressed, Singer affirms the existence of nonreciprocal altruism. By “earning to give,” that is, giving as much as we can to strangers, we can do the most possible good and thus contradict economic capitalistic expansion. To what extent is this affirmation convincing? To what extent does it allow for a way out from the aporia of the gift described by Derrida?
Earning to Give
catherine malabou is a professor of philosophy at the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy at Kingston University in the United Kingdom and at the University of California, Irvine, where she regularly teaches in the spring. Her most recent books include Before Tomorrow: Epigenesis and Rationality (Polity, 2016) and Morphing Intelligence: From IQ Measurement to Artificial Brains (Columbia University Press, 2018). She is currently working on a new book project on anarchism and philosophy.
Catherine Malabou; Earning to Give. differences 1 December 2020; 31 (3): 12–20. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-8744441
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