Sacrifice and philanthropy: what's in it for me?

Saturday 19 October, 10.30am until 12.00pm, Frobisher Auditorium 2 Private or public morality?

At the beginning of this year, billionaire Bill Gates promised to use his wealth to create a polio-free world. This was in addition to the £478million he had pledged in 2012 to the Global Fund to fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Gates has not been alone in making a display of his generosity. Footballer David Beckham, upon joining Paris St Germain earlier this year, announced that he would give his wages away to a children’s charity. But what are we to make of these examples of philanthropy? Should more people be following them?

Some commentators argue that today all relatively well-off people ought to be giving away more to help the poorest in society. As one writer notes, we need to ‘reverse the decline in charitable giving and persuade the rich to commit to civil society, both by paying tax and giving’. But should we be making the well-off feel morally obliged to donate a substantial proportion of their income to good causes? More deeply, what are individuals’ responsibilities towards those in need? And to what extent can such philanthropy be encouraged without it becoming something that is no longer voluntary, that is no longer, well, philanthrophic?

And what of the motives of philanthropists and charitable givers? Beckham’s announcement that he was going to give away his wages was met by no little cynicism. This was just a PR gesture, some said, an attempt to make himself look good. But should his motives matter? Or are the ends of giving more important than the possibly narcissistic reasons for giving? Indeed, does genuine altruism exist, or is it always mixed up with varieties of self interest?

Speakers
Dr Piers Benn
philosopher; author, Commitment and Ethics; visiting lecturer in ethics, Heythrop College, London and Fordham University, New York

Antony Lewis-Crosby
fundraiser and concert promoter

Colin Tweedy
chief executive, The Building Centre Trust; formerly chief executive, Arts & Business

Dr Jamie Whyte
philosopher and writer; author, Crimes Against Logic and Quack Policy

Chair:
Pauline Hadaway
writer and researcher

Produced by
Dr Piers Benn philosopher; author, Commitment and Ethics; visiting lecturer in ethics, Heythrop College, London and Fordham University, New York

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