Below is Charlotte’s account of what texts inspired her to develop her idea further, whilst defining the key themes:

Key Themes

  1. The Panopticon – surveilence, control, security
  2. Bentham – Michael Foucault
  3. Utilitarianism
  4. Effect Alturism


Interest/subject taken from the lesson:


  • David Lyon argues in his journal ‘Surveillance society’that to try and manage risk and uncertainty, one could achieve this through using surveillance techniques.(Lyon,D. 2002)


  • A historical method of surveillance was created by Jeremy Bentham and his brother. The Panopticon is a tower centralised in the prison, surrounded by open prison cells. Each cell is visible to the Supervisor within the tower. The tower let out an enormous light so that the in-mates within their cells could not tell whether the supervisor was present or not. Michael Foucault states (1977, p.200) that “this invisibility is a guarantee of order. If the inmates are convicts, there is no danger of a plot, an attempt at collective escape, the planning of new crimes for the future.” Therefore, creating a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power. (Foucault, 1977, p. 201).


Jeremy Bentham/ John Stuart Mill – Utilitarianism


  • Utilitarianism is a philosophical theory created by Scholars Bentham and Mill. Although split into Act and Rule Utilitarianism, the overall idea is to enable people to help make the correct decisions that they may face through maxmising the possibility of the best consequence. (Nathanson,S. n.d.)
  • Bentham answered the question of what good is through the idea of hedonism. Hedonists define something to be good if they are ‘intrinsically’ good (good within themselves). Not, because they produce some further valuable thing. (Nathanson,S. n.d.)


Stop the robot apocalypse – Amia Srinivasan


  • This article has an interesting and close links with Utilitarianism, the ideology of ‘doing good’ is discussed as a modern theory/‘community’ called ‘Effective Altruism’.
  • This article discusses how a new generation of moral philosophers are set out to breaking the traditional thought process and ineffectuality. “The goal of the ‘effective altruists’ is not only to theorise the world, but to use their theories to leave the world a better place than they found it.” (Srinivasan,2015)
  • Srinivasan discusses Willim MacAskills(28-year-old lecturer from at Oxford University) book ‘ Doing good better’ and how within this book he argues that one should not only try and do good but, do the best we can. MacAskville created a charirty called Giving What We Can, which encourages people to give over 10% of their future incomes for ‘philanthropic’ purposes and advises them how to do the ‘best’ with your money.
  • His book is essentially a “feel-good guide to getting good done. It doesn’t dwell much on the horrors of global inequality, and sidesteps any diagnosis of its causes. The word ‘oppression’ appears just once.” (Srinivasan, 2015)
  • “MacAskill does not address the deep sources of global misery – international trade and finance, debt, nationalism, imperialism, racial and gender-based subordination, war, environmental degradation, corruption, exploitation of labour – or the forces that ensure its reproduction.” (Srinivasan, 2015)
  • Srinivasan questions whether we really need a sophisticated model such as that for effective altruists to tell us something needs doing about the world we live in? “Effective altruists, like everyone else, come up against the fact that the world is messy, and like everyone else who wants to make it better they must do what strikes them as best, without any final sense of what that might be or any guarantee that they’re getting it right.” (Srinivasan, 2015)
  • Srinivasan then explores how Utilitarianism, like effective altruism both demand too much. Ignoring the how a human’s emotion and personal attachments, which is what makes us different to any other animal, should be ignored in order to do what is best to maximise the good for the most amount of people.


I then looked at a thread for discussing this critical review of ‘Doing Good Better. Written by Ben Todd.


These are some of the most interesting responses to the disadvantages of effective altruism.


  • “Our worldview is inherently biased in favor supporting this existing economic system, because we share many of its key assumptions, which will mean we’ll fail to see potentially better ways of improving the world that involve changing the economic system.” (Todd, 2015)


  • The author focuses heavily on effective altruism’s roots in moral philosophy, which makes sense in the context of a review of Will’s book, but is a bit unfair on the movement overall. The founders of the other organisations mostly don’t have backgrounds in academic philosophy. (Todd, 2015)
  • Our worldview is inherently biased in favor supporting this existing economic system, because we share many of its key assumptions, which will mean we’ll fail to see potentially better ways of improving the world that involve changing the economic system. (Todd,2015)


Reference List

Lyon, D. (2002) Surveillance society. Buckingham [England]: Open University Press.

Foucault, M. (1977) Discipline and punish, The Birth of the Prison. Translated from French by Alan Sheridan. New York: Vintage Books.

Nathanson, S., The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Available from: [Accessed 06 December 2016].

Todd, B. (2015) Effective Altruism Forum. Available from:[Accessed 06 December 2016].

Srinivasan, A. (2015) London Review of Books. Available from:[Accessed 06 December 2016].


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