Chapter 8: ETHICS
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capitalized word READ.)
In this approach to ethics it is the consequence of the act that is
the basis for determining its worth.
One of the most basic of consequences is the impact on people and
one of the most basic of all values for determining whether something is
good or not is the pleasure that it brings to someone.
Some think that emotional and physical PLEASURE is the ONLY basis
for determining what is GOOD
Theories of the GOOD based on pleasure are termed HEDONISM
There are two popular theories of the GOOD based on pleasure.
One is based on pleasure to one self.
The other is based on the pleasure that results for all
humans in the world. UTILITARIANISM.
This section will focus on EGOISM.
There are five types of Egoism the focus here is on the last:
Assuming that my killing him will be in my best interest but detrimental to my grandfather, while refraining from killing him will be to my detriment but in my grandfather’s interest, then if ethical conflict-regulation is sound, there can be a sound moral guideline regulating this conflict (presumably by forbidding this killing). But then ethical egoism cannot be sound, for it precludes the interpersonally authoritative regulation of interpersonal conflicts of interest, since such a regulation implies that conduct contrary to one’s interest is sometimes morally required of one, and conduct in one’s best interest is sometimes morally forbidden to one. Thus, ethical egoism is incompatible with ethical conflict-regulation.
References: Baier, Kurt. 1991 "Egoism" in a Companion to Ethics. (ed. P. Singer) Oxford: Blackwell, 197-204.
A famous Egoist was Thomas Hobbes
Ethical Egoism and EGOISTS
Literature on Egoism-links to sites
View: Dr. Richard Brown on Ethical Egoism http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OIzHaLbJA0
An action is morally right if and only if it is to the advantage of
the person doing it.
ARGUMENTS FOR ETHICAL EGOISM
1. An altruistic moral theory that demands
total self-sacrifice is degrading to the moral agent.
Objection: This is a false dilemma: there are
many non-egoistic moral theories that do not demand total self-sacrifice.
2. Everyone is better off if each pursues his
or her self-interest.
Objection: (a) This probably is not true in
practice; and (b) True egoism isn't concerned with what will make everyone
ARGUMENTS AGAINST ETHICAL EGOISM
Provides no moral basis for
solving conflicts between people.
Obligates each person to
prevent others from doing the right thing.
Has the same logical basis
The egoist cannot advise others to be egoists because it works
against the first egoists interest.
No one person can expect the entire world’s population to act in
such a way as to produce the most benefit (pleasure) for that one person.
The Truth in Psychological Egosim by
So although we all know people who attempt to live their lives as
egoists, they are not generally well liked.
Being so totally focused on the self is not likely to make someone
many friends. Egoists can but
friends but most people avoid egoists as they are thought to be
EGOISM is not the basis for the moral foundation needed for social
There are other options.
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© Copyright Philip A. Pecorino 2000. All Rights reserved. Web Surfer's Caveat: These are class notes, intended to comment on readings and amplify class discussion. They should be read as such. They are not intended for publication or general distribution.
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