First Paper Prompt




Rhys Southan “Is Art a Waste of Time?”

and your choice TED talk-

“Can art amend history?” by Titus Kaphar

“How painting can transform communities” by Haas and Hahn


“The Transformative Power of Classical Music” by Benjamin Zander


Rhys Southan’s “Is Art a Waste of Time?” describes the Effective Altruism movement, a movement comprised by people who base an individual’s net worth on the amount of unique goodness an individual performs in a suffering world. Southan describes EAs as valuing utilitarianism and rationality as necessary to make meaningful change, and Southan places these values in opposition to the values held by the average artist. While the podcast “How Art Changes Us” does not directly address EA convictions, Raz’s interviewees seem to believe that they have the power to incite meaningful change.


Consider how your choice TED talk and Southan’s essay complicate each other. Pay particular attention to how Southan describes EA ethics and note possible differences in how Southan, the EAs, and your TED artist covertly define abstractions such as art, change, and good.


Please write a 1,100-1,400 word essay (5 pages) responding to Southan’s title question. When you consider the suffering world and your choice TED talk, do you believe that art is an indulgence or, in Southan’s words, “a waste of time?” How do you believe society should value art? Please directly reference Peter Singer’s shallow pond analogy and the EA’s concept of replaceability as you reflect on the value you believe an individual artist’s self-expression carries in this world.


Remember: This is your argument, your voice in the conversation. Use Southan and your choice TED talk to serve your ideas. Each summary, paraphrase, and quote should either advance, support, or complicate your own argument or claim.