Ethical egoism


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Ethical egoism

  1. 1. Ethical Egoism<br />‘The achievement of his own happiness is man’s highest moral purpose.’<br />Ayn Rand – The Virtue of Selfishness<br />
  2. 2. Read Handouts <br />Read through the handouts and discuss the questions and ideas presented on <br />Hedonism<br />Psychological Egoism <br />Egoistic Hedonism<br />
  3. 3. Background – Is there a duty to contribute to famine relief?<br />Watch video – Starvation in Ethiopia (6mins)<br />15,000 children every day die of malnutrition<br />5,500,000 every year<br />
  4. 4. Whilst in wealthy countries<br />Materialism rules supreme <br />Watch video <br />
  5. 5. Moral Problem<br />We could forego luxury spending and give money to famine relief to help assist starving children <br />The fact that we don’t implies our luxuries are more important than feeding/keeping alive the hungry<br />Why do we behave like this? - Discuss<br />
  6. 6. Reasons aside<br />What is our duty?<br />What should we do?<br />Morality requires that we balance our own interests against the interests of others<br />Eg $100 dollars to go and watch a movie or donate that money to relieve famine/provide medicine and so help dying children<br />Common sense – leads to famine relief<br />
  7. 7. Moral duties<br />The previous example leads to an assumption of moral duties<br />‘we have ‘natural’ duties to others simply because they are people who could be helped or harmed by our actions’<br />However, not everyone agrees with this<br />
  8. 8. Ethical Egoism<br />The idea that each person ought to pursue his/her own self-interest exclusively<br />It differs from Psychological Egoism which is a theory of human nature concerned with how people do behave<br />Ethical Egoism by contrast is a normative theory (a theory about how we ought to behave)<br />It argues we have no duty except to do what is best for ourselves<br />There is only one ultimate principle of conduct – the principle of self-interest<br />All duties and obligations are subject to self-interest<br />Is this a self evident theory?<br />
  9. 9. Important<br />Ethical Egoism does not say that you should avoid actions that help others<br />It could be that by helping others you help yourself<br />‘You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’<br />Or your interests coincide with the interests of others and by helping yourself you inadvertently help others<br />The important point is that in such cases the benefit to others is not what makes the action right<br />
  10. 10. Selfishness not foolishness <br />It is also important to realise it doesn’t endorse the idea that we ought always to do what we want to <br />Short term pleasures may be harmful in the long run<br />It doesn’t lead to a debauched hedonistic lifestyle <br />It says that a person really ought to do what really is in his/her own best advantage over the long run – It endorses selfishness not foolishness<br />
  11. 11. Two arguments in support of Ethical Egoism<br />a) Each of us is intimately familiar with our own individual needs and wants but we cannot know the desires and needs of other people<br />b) The policy of looking out for others is an offensive intrusion into other people’s privacy<br />c) Making other people the object of one’s ‘charity’ is degrading to them it robs them of their dignity and self-respect<br />Discuss these claims <br />
  12. 12. Basically<br />The previous arguments amount to the idea that a policy of ‘looking out for others’ is self defeating<br />
  13. 13. Ayn Rand<br />2. The second argument was put forward by Ayn Rand<br />She argues the ethics of altruism is a totally destructive idea both in terms of society and individuals taken in by it<br />Altruism leads to a denial of the value of the individual<br />‘ If a man accepts the ethics of altruism…his first concern is not how to live his life but how to sacrifice it’<br />Discuss the quote – watch video (9)<br />
  14. 14. Value of the human individual<br />Rand is arguing along these lines<br />A person has only one life to live. If we value the individual – that is, if the individual has moral worth – then we must agree that this life is of supreme importance<br />If your willing to sacrifice for the good of others (altruism) you are not truly valuing the human individual<br />Therefore Ethical Egoism is the philosophy that ought to be accepted<br />
  15. 15. James Rachels - Two Arguments against Ethical Egoism<br />1. Rachels argues that …Ethical Egoism cannot provide solutions for conflicts of interest<br />We need moral rules because our interests some times come into conflict<br />Read pg 91 – Booklet and summarise in your own words this argument<br />
  16. 16. Differences between people are not arbitrary<br />2. Ethical Egoism advocates that each of us divides the world into two categories of people – ourselves and the rest – and we regard the interests of the first group as more important than the interests of the second group<br />But what is the difference between myself and others that justifies placing myself in this special category<br />Am I more intelligent?<br />Do I enjoy my life more?<br />Are my achievements greater?<br />What makes me so special?<br />Failing an answer Ethical Egoism is an arbitrary doctrine<br />
  17. 17. In deductive form <br />Any moral doctrine that assigns greater importance to interests of one group than to those of another is unacceptably arbitrary unless there is some difference between the members of the groups that justifies treating them differently<br />Therefore<br />Ethical Egoism would have each person assign greater importance to his or her own interests than to the interests of others. But there is no general difference between oneself and others, to which each person can appeal, that justifies this difference in treatment<br />Therefore<br />Ethical Egoism is unacceptably arbitrary and not a valid theory<br />
  18. 18. Finally <br />We should care about the interests of others for the same reason we care about our own interests – because their needs and desires are the same as our own<br />Consider again – the starving people we could help to feed by giving up some of our luxuries <br />Why should we care about them?<br />Because there is no difference between us and them – we would go to any lengths to feed ourselves if we were starving<br />Their needs are the same as ours<br />They are no less deserving than us – If our needs should be met then so should theirs<br />This realization that we are equal to one another is the deepest reason why our morality must include some recognition of the needs of others and why Ethical Egoism fails as a moral theory<br />
  19. 19. Peter Singer <br />What arguments does Peter Singer put forward to contribute to this debate<br />Read the short chapter in the booklet to summarise his ideas<br />
  20. 20. Summary of debate<br />Read the main points given in the booklet<br />Essay/Debate<br />Is it unreasonable to ask people to sacrifice their own pleasures/luxuries for those in poverty in other areas of the world?<br />