You are on page 1of 33

EthicalEgoism

CommonSenseMorality
Moralityasitiscommonlyunderstoodmakesthe generalimplicitassump9onthatotherpeoples interestshavemoralweightthatwemustweigh againstourowninterestsinmakingmoral decisions. [Morality]assumeswehavedu9estoothers, simplybecausetherearepeoplewhocouldbe helpedorharmedbywhatwedo.Rachelsp.63. Butperhapsweshouldques9onthisassump9on! Coulditbewrong?
EthicalEgoism 2

TheTwoEgoisms
Therearetworelatedtheoriesthatques9onthis assump9on:
1. PsychologicalEgoism:ThePsychologicalTheorythat humansdoalwaysactexclusivelyoutofself interest. 2. EthicalEgoism:TheMoralTheorythathumans shouldactexclusivelyoutofselfinterest.
1. PEIsadescrip9veclaimaboutthewaytheworldis. 2. EEIsanorma9veclaimabouthowtheworldshouldbe.
EthicalEgoism 3

PsychologicalEgoism
IfPEistrue,altruismisimpossibleandmoral theorizingabouttheinterestsofothers,andhow weshouldtakethemintoaccountinourac9ons, ispointlessanaveexercisedoomedtofailure. Isaltruismpossible?Canwe,intheend,be mo9vatedandactontheinterestsofothers besideourselves? Examplesofaltruism:?
EthicalEgoism 4

ExamplesofAltruism
RaoulWallenberg:
SwedishBusinessmanwhospentapor9onofWWIIin BudapestHungary. HisresponsetotheNaziswastoconvincetheHungarian governmenttostopdepor9ngJews. WhentheHungariangovernmentwasreplacedbyaNazi puppetregimehebeganissuingSwedishProtec9on PassestothousandsofJewsclaimingtheywereinvolved inac9vi9esvitaltotheSwedish. HealsofoundplacesforJewstohide,andwhentheywere discoveredhephysicallyplacedhimselfbetweenthemand theNazisandsaidyouwillhavetoshootmerst. Wallenbergiscreditedwithsavingover15,000lives.
EthicalEgoism 5

ExamplesofAltruism
OsceolaMcCarty:
AfricanAmericanwomanindeepsouthern Mississippiwhoworkedasamaidherwholelife. Sheneverownedacar,at80+yearsoldshes9ll walkedoveramiletothenearestgrocerystore pushingherownshoppingcart. Overherlife9meshesavedeverypennyshe could,andatage87shegaveheren9resavingsof $150,000toendowascholarshipfundatthe UniversityofSouthernMississippi.
EthicalEgoism 6

ExamplesofAltruism
MichealMonsoor:
Sta9onedatRamadi,IraqtohelptrainIraqiforces. OnSept.29,2006Michaelandhisplatoonfoundthemselvesbeing reduponfromseveraldirec9onsatonce.Michael,3othersealsand anumberIraqisoldierssoughtdesperaterefugeonaroofopandtook updefensiveposi9ons. Withtheplatoonspreadaroundtheroof,MichaelwastheNavySeal closesttoanescaperoute. Butwhenagrenadeewovertheledge,thumpedhiminthechest andfelltotheground,hedidntdiveforcover. Insteadhethrewhimselfontothegrenade,smotheringitsdeadlyblast withhisownbody.EveryoneontheroofopsurvivedbutMichael. MichaelwasposthumouslyawardedtheCongressionalMedalof Honor.

EthicalEgoism

TheSelfInterestasDesireFulllment Account
Perhaps,saysthepsychologicalegoist,these seemingactsofpurealtruismcanbeexplainedin awayconsistentwithegoism. 1. Nooneactsinten9onallyandoftheirownfree willwithoutdesiringtoactthus. 2. Inac9ngthuseveryoneisfulllingtheirown desires. 3. Fulllingonesowndesiresisac9nginones ownselfinterest. Therefore,allinten9onalac9onsaremo9vated byselfinterest.
EthicalEgoism 8

ProblemswiththeDesireFulllment Account
1stproblem:MakesPEtriviallytrue.Simply denesselfinterestedac9onasany inten9onalac9on. 2ndproblem:Makesforveryimplausible claimsregardingpreviousexamplesof altruism. ConsidertheMichealMonsoorCase:

EthicalEgoism

ProblemswiththeDesireFulllment Account
IftheselfinterestasdesireaccountholdsthenMichael Monsoorwasac9ngoutofselfinterest.OK,letusaccept thatforthemoment.
Nowimagineanothersoldierinthesamesitua9onwho,insteadof throwinghimselfonthegrenade,takeshisplatoonmatenextto him(whowasabouttodiveforcover)andthrowsthathimonthe grenade,savinghimselfattheunwillingexpenseofhisbuddy. Iftheselfinterestasdesirefulllmentaccountholds,thenboth Michaelandthesecondsoldierwereac9ngintheirownself interestintheexactsamesensebecausebothwerefullling theirdesires:onebywillinglythrowinghimselfonthegrenade,the otherbythrowinghisunwillingbuddyonthegrenade. Theseseemlikeactsattheoppositeendsoftheac9nginself interestscale.Doesitseemplausibletoclaimtheywereboththe exactsamekindofselfinterestedact?

EthicalEgoism

10

ResponsetotheDesireFulllment Account
AwaytorespondtotheDesireFulllmentAccountis tooerabener,moreplausibleandintui9veaccount ofwhatselfinterestmeans. Inassessingwhetheranac9onisselfinterested,the issueisnotwhethertheac9onisbasedonadesire;the issueiswhatkindofdesireitisbasedon.Ifwhatyou wantistohelpsomeoneelse,thenyourmo9veis altruis9c,notselfinterested.RachelsP.72 Howwouldthisunderstandingofselfinterestassess thetwosoldiercasesjustdiscussed?Wouldit dis9nguishthemasdierentkindofacts?Onwhat basis?Isthedis9nc9onintui9velyplausible?
EthicalEgoism 11

TheAwfulArgument
InthepastPsychologicalEgoismandEthical Egoismhavebeenlinkedinthefollowing deeplyawedargument:
1. PsychologicalEgoismistrue.Humanscanonly actoutofselfinterest. 2. Thereforeitmustbetruethathumansshould onlyactoutofselfinterest. Conclusion:EthicalEgoismmustbetrue.
EthicalEgoism 12

TheAwfulArgument
WhyistheAwfulArgumentnotsound? Firstandforemostwehavejustarguedthat premise1isnottrue.Sothatisenoughto insurethefailureofthisargument. Butevenifweweretograntthetruthof Premise1(PE),theargumentwouldfail. Cananyonetellmewhy?

EthicalEgoism

13

TheAwfulArgument
1. PsychologicalEgoismistrue.Humanscanonly actoutofselfinterest. 2. Thereforeitmustbetruethathumansshould onlyactoutofselfinterest. Conclusion:EthicalEgoismmustbetrue.

EthicalEgoism

14

TheIs/OughtGap
Theargumentcrossestheis/oughtgap,thisis otherwiseknownasthenaturalis9cfallacy. Youcannotdrawanorma9veconclusionfromapurely descrip9vepremise.Justbecausesomethingistheway itis,doesntmeanitshouldbethewayitis. Justbecauseeveryknownhumansocietyhashad murderscomminedinitdoesntmeanthatallsocie9es shouldhavemurderers. Similarly,justbecausewemaynotpsychologicallyhave anychoicebuttoactselshly,doesnotmeanthat thereisalsonorma9vepressureonustoactselshly.
EthicalEgoism 15

TheAwfulArgument
ThereforetheAwfulArgumentisneithervalid norSound. 1. Evenifwegrantthepremises,the conclusiondoesnotfollow(invalid). 2. Furthermore,thepremisesarenottrue.

EthicalEgoism

16

EthicalEgoism
SoatthispointwewillsetasidePsychological EgoismandfocusonEthicalEgoism exclusively. EE:Thedoctrinethateachpersonought alwaystopursuehisorherownselfinterest exclusively.

EthicalEgoism

17

Clarica9onsonEE
TwoClarica9onsofEE. 1. Doesnotruleouthelpingothersincidentally.
Coincidentalaid(orharm)toothersisnotruledout,butitis alsonotarelevantmoralreasonfororagainstanac9on. EectsonothersaremorallyneutralaccordingtoEE. Cancelledassignmentcase. Insteadselfinterestisdenedbyouractualobjec9velong terminterests. Partyingandnotstudyingcase. Heroinxcase.

2. Selfinterestisnotdenedbyoursimpleshortterm desireswhatwewanttodo.

EthicalEgoism

18

2ArgumentsforEthicalEgoism
1. Theargumentthataltruismisself defea9ng. 2. TheargumentthatEthicalEgoism isconsistentwithcommonsense morality. Wewilltakeeachoftheseinturn.
EthicalEgoism 19

TheArgumentthatAltruismisSelf defea9ng
FirstArgumentforEE:Theargumentthat altruismisselfdefea9ng.
Eachofushasprivilegedaccesstoourowninterests andnotthoseofothers.Thereforewhenweaimto helpotherswithwhatweperceiveastheirinterests wewillofendomoreharmthangood. Lookingoutforothersmakesthoseothersobjects ofcharityandisaninvasionofprivacy. Makingothersobjectsofcharityrobsthemoftheir dignityandselfrespect.
EthicalEgoism 20

ResponsestotheAltruismisSelf defea9ngArgument
First,itseemsclearthatatleastinsome instancesIknowtheinterestsofothersandcan actonthemwithoutsignicantriskofdoing moreharmthangood.
Shipwreckcase.

Second,thebiggerproblemisthattheargument reliesonahiddenpremisethatiscompletely inconsistentwithEthicalEgoism.


Wecanseethisifwelaytheargumentoutinamore formalway.
EthicalEgoism 21

ResponsestotheAltruismisSelf defea9ngArgument
1. Weoughttodowhateverwillbestpromote everyonesinterests. 2. Thebestwaytopromoteeveryonesinterestsis foreachofustopursueourowninterests exclusively. 3. Therefore,eachofusshouldpursueourown interestsexclusively. Premise1.isaaltruis9cpremise,notan egois9cone,butitisnecessaryforthe argumenttosucceed.
EthicalEgoism 22

TheArgumentthatEEisconsistent withCommonsenseMorality
SomeadvocatesofEEhavearguedthatit supportscommonmoralrules.
Dontlie.(peoplewilldistrustus,lietousin return,thisfrustratesourinterests) Dontharm.(peopleharmusinreturn,this frustratesourinterests) KeepPromises.(Canttrustotherstokeeptheir promises,thisfrustratesourinterests)
EthicalEgoism 23

TheArgumentthatEEisconsistent withCommonsenseMorality
Thereasonineachcasethattherulesshould befollowedisthatnotdoingsofrustrates longterminterests. Therstproblemisthatiftheseeectscanbe takenaway,thenlying,harmingandbreaking promisesbecomenotjustpermissible,but obligatory.
Hermitcase.
EthicalEgoism 24

TheArgumentthatEEisconsistent withCommonsenseMorality
Thesecondproblemisthatevenifweacceptthe argument,itdoesnotproveenoughtoestablishEEas thecorrectmoraltheory. Itmaybetruethatyourselfinterestleansinthe direc9onofnotcommiungmurderduetothelong termconsequences,butthisdoesnotestablishthefact thatthesearetheonlyreasonsnottocommitmurder. Instead,itseemsperfectlyconsistentwiththeseclaims tosaythatmurderisalso(oractually)wrongbecauseit istheunjus3eddestruc3onofanautonomousmoral being.
EthicalEgoism 25

ThreeArgumentsAgainstEthical Egoism
1. EEendorseswickedness. 2. KurtBaiersargumentsthatEEcanthandle conictsofinterest. 3. ThechargeofArbitrariness. Wewilltakeeachargumentinturn.

EthicalEgoism

26

1.EEEndorsesWickedness
Truenewspaperstories:
1. Aparamedicinjectsemergencypa9entswithsterile waterinordertosellthemorphine. 2. Parentsfeedtheirbabyacidsotheycanfakealawsuit abouttaintedformula. 3. Anurserapestwopa9entswhiletheyareunconscious. 4. Amanwhowas$90,000indebtshootshismailman seven9mesbecauseheprefersprisontohomelessness. Clearly,iftheyhadntbeenfoundout,theseac9onswould havebeenineachoftheactorsinterests.Shouldwe reallyendorsethemasmoral????
EthicalEgoism 27

2.BaiersConictofInterestArgument
Ques9on:Whogetsthelastpieceofpizza?

Thespoiledkid Orthehungryhomelessveteran?
EthicalEgoism 28

2.BaiersConictofInterestArgument
AccordingtoBaier,EEdoesntgiveusaclearanswerin caseswherethereisaconictofinterestsuchasthis one. TheEthicalEgoistcouldsimplyclaimthatitis obligatoryforboththespoiledkidandtheveteranto goforthepizza,andtheonewhogetsitisthemoral victor. Butisjustghtitoutamoraltheory? Shouldntamoraltheoryatleastgiveusaframework forevalua9ngwhichonedeservesitmore?This certainlyseemspreferabletomightmakesright.
EthicalEgoism 29

3.TheArbitrarinessArgument
PrincipleofEqualTreatment:
Weshouldtreatpeoplethesamewayunlessthere isarelevantdierencebetweenthem.Todosois arbitrarydiscrimina9on.

Clarica9on:
Thisdoesnotmeaninsuringthesameoutcome foreveryone!Butgivingeveryoneanequal opportunityforapar9cularoutcome. VietnamDrafExample.
EthicalEgoism 30

3.TheArbitrarinessArgument
Therearelotsofdoctrinesthatviolatethis requirementagainstarbitrarydiscrimina9on.
Canyouthinkofsomeexamples? 1. Racism 2. Sexism 3. Ageism 4. Classism 5. Sizeism 6. Na9onalism? Thesedoctrinesprivilegeacertaingroupforno relevantreason.
EthicalEgoism

31

3.TheArbitrarinessArgument
Egoismalsoprivilegesonpar9cularsetofpersons overothers,namelyyourselfovereveryoneelse. Theques9onis:IsEgoismoneofthebadisms? Ifthereisagoodreasontodiscriminateagainst everyoneelseitisnotabadism. Ifthereisnogoodreason,itisasbadasracismor sexism,andtobedismissedasreadily.

EthicalEgoism

32

3.TheArbitrarinessArgument
ImagineyourselfasarefugeeinDarfur.Youstumbleupona cacheoffood.Egoismsaysyoushouldtakeitforyourselfas foodisscarce. Nowwemightask,whyshouldntyousharethefood?Why doyouprivilegeyourselfovereveryoneelse?
Doeshungeraectothersanylessthanyou? Areotherslessdeserving? Areyoumoreintelligent? Doyouenjoylifemorethaneveryoneelse? Inshort,whatmakesyousospecial?

Failingasa9sfactoryansweregoismisanunacceptably arbitrarydoctrineandshouldbedismissedasaserious moralcontender.


EthicalEgoism 33