Larissa MacFarquhar: Strangers Drowning

Hosted by

New Yorker staff writer Larissa MacFarquhar writes about people who are changing the definition of altruism. Effective altruism, as it is called, helps only in the most utilitarian ways. Actions are determined by evidence and data. These altruists not only give away most of their income but also make extreme choices. For example, the Philadelphia adoption-case worker and her husband who adopt twenty special-needs children. Do those who lead morally committed lives rebuke us? The do-gooders MacFarquhar writes about in Strangers Drowning: Grapping with Impossible Idealism, Drastic Choices, and the Overpowering Urge to Help (Penguin Press) are unconventional people who don’t care what others think of them. They care about being effective.  

Read an excerpt from Strangers Drowning.

Photo by: Alex Pieros