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Category Archives: Ethical Egoism
Posted: February 15, 2017 at 9:07 pm
The global sports industry is estimated to carry a $1.5 trillion value. With that big of a presence in the business, it makes sense that Mendoza College of Business chose its Ethics Week theme for this year to be Sports and the Common Good.
Sports and the Common Good just seemed like a natural [pick for a theme], especially at a university like Notre Dame [with] a college of business like Mendoza, Brian Levey, one of the organizers for the event, said in an email. Educating the mind, body and spirit is at the heart of the Holy Cross mission.
Levey said Notre Dames emphasis on this complete education is evidenced not only in varsity sports, but also in activities such as Bengal Bouts, which starts this week, and Bookstore Basketball.
Now in its 20thyear, Mendoza College of Business Ethics Week was first started by accounting professor Ken Milani. Inspired by the work of John Houck, a Notre Dame management professor who died in 1996, Ethics Week has included themes such as sustainability, financial institutions, governing for the greater good (politics and public service) and ethics through a global lens.
Over the history of the event, the organizers have tried various approaches and activities with Ethics Week, including a brown bag lunch speaker series and an ethics case competition.
Recently, changes in the timing and formatting of the events, as well as an increased online presence through a Facebook page and Twitter account, have helped attendance spike to about 500 participants in 2014 and 2015.
Speakers from past Ethics Weeks have ranged from Fr. Jenkins to the chief ethics officer of the United Nations. This years agenda feature an equally diverse group, with backgrounds spanning sports psychology to wealth management.
Levey hopes incorporating sportswith this years Ethics Week will help students consider ethics on a different level.
By examining sports from a deeper perspective, we can explore business ethics issues in a relatable manner. Winning, losing, fair play, cheating, equality, discrimination, altruism, egoism sports has it all, he said. Just check the headlines; youll see a sports ethics issue, and, in turn, a business ethics issue almost every day.
Thursday offers a movie night that features the baseball movie The Natural, starring Robert Redford. The first 75 movie attendees who also stay for the panel after the movie will be treated to free pizza.
Its critically acclaimed its a sports movie, its a love story, its a tale of redemption and it presents the audience with an ethical dilemma, Levey said.
Posted: February 6, 2017 at 3:06 pm
The 2017 edition of Notre Dame Ethics Week will put a new spin on a popular topic sports.
The annual conference, held Feb. 14-17 at the University of Notre Dames Mendoza College of Business, will explore Sports and the Common Good through a series of panel discussions, speakers and even the showing of a classic baseball movie.
Sports is big business, said Brian Levey, Mendoza teaching professor and one of the Ethics Week organizers. Estimates peg the global sports market at $1.5 trillion. And by examining sports from a deeper perspective, we can explore business ethics issues in a relatable manner. Winning, losing, fair play, cheating, equality, discrimination, altruism, egoism -- sports has it all.
Ethics Week events, which are free and open to the public, take place in the Giovanini Commons located in the lower level of Mendoza College of Business unless otherwise noted in the following schedule:
Tuesday, Feb. 14, 4:30-5:30 p.m.: Panel discussion: Life Lessons from Sports: Performance & Purpose, featuring Christopher Adkins, executive director of the Notre Dame Deloitte Center for Ethical Leadership; and Amber Lattner, founder, Lattner Performance Group
Wednesday, Feb. 15, 12:20-1:30 p.m.: Panel discussion: Building Global Bridges through Sports, featuring Guiorgie Gia Kvaratskhelia, head fencing coach, University of Notre Dame; Notre Dame student-athletes Jonah Shainberg (fencing) and Sandra Yu (soccer); and Mario Berkeley, Mendoza teaching assistant (moderator)
Thursday, Feb. 16, 5:30-7:45 p.m.: Movie night: The Natural, showing in Mendozas Jordan Auditorium, immediately followed by Panel & Pizza
Thursday, Feb. 16, 7:45-8:30 p.m.: Panel & Pizza: Discussion of the novel, The Natural: Messiah in Uniform, by Bernard Malamud, featuring Michael Cozzillio, Widener University Commonwealth Law School; and Ed Edmonds, Notre Dame Law School. Note: Free pizza will be provided to the first 75 movie attendees who also attend the panel discussion
Friday, Feb. 17, 12-1 p.m.: "Prolanthrophy: The Business of Helping Athletes Give Back, featuring J. Jonathan Hayes, principal director, Pro Sports, Pegasus Partners Ltd.
Notre Dame Ethics Week takes place annually in February, and brings in experts from a diverse array of industries to explore current ethics issues. The event is sponsored by the Mendoza College of Business and the Notre Dame Deloitte Center for Ethical Leadership.
Now in its 20th year, Notre Dame Ethics Week was established to encourage the discussion of ethical matters in undergraduate and graduate business classes atNotreDame and to secure a foundation for future discussions inside and outside the classroom. The event continues the legacy of JohnHouck, aNotreDame management professor who authored numerous works on business ethics, including Is the Good Corporation Dead?Houckdied in 1996.
For more information aboutNotreDame Ethics Week, contact Brian Levey at(574) firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more here:
Posted: at 3:06 pm
Driving the Day
JUST A THOUGHT: Earlier this week, President Donald Trump mocked Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) for crying about the plight of immigrants, saying he was faking, and wondering aloud from the White House who his acting coach was. Yesterday, he followed that up by calling him Fake Tears Chuck Schumer to his 23 million Twitter followers. Now hes asking Schumer to expedite the consideration and support Neil Gorsuch, his nominee for the Supreme Court. Do you think thats how this works, Mr. President?
Story Continued Below
Good Wednesday morning and welcome to February. Yes, we expect Gorsuch to get confirmed. But Democrats are saying they want him to get 60 votes, daring Republicans to push him through on a majority vote. Gorsuch passed the Senate unanimously 2006 when President George W. Bush nominated him, but that matters little when talking about todays political dynamics. Eight Democrats would need to join with Republicans to break the expected Democratic filibuster.
AT LEAST SEVEN Democratic senators have signaled an openness to having a committee vote on Trump's Supreme Court nominee. Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Chris Coons (Del.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Jon Tester (Mont.).
**SUBSCRIBE to Playbook: http://politi.co/1M75UbX
THE REVIEWS TRUMP CARES ABOUT -- NYT -- 5 of 6 stories about Trump and ANOTHER six-column banner headline -- TRUMPS COURT PICK SETS UP POLITICAL CLASH. He probably likes this one, referring to Gorsuch, A Nominee Who Echoes Scalias Style, but probably doesnt care for this one, referring to Anthony Scaramucci, a hedge-fund manager turned adviser, A Trump Aide, a Chinese Firm And A Fear of Tangled Interests. http://nyti.ms/2jVIVII WaPo -- the entire front page is about Trump, and another banner headline -- Supreme Court nominee is Gorsuch Its still Justice Kennedys court Originalist pick seen as willing to compromise http://bit.ly/2kpN1tU N.Y. Post: BURN IT DOWN!: Dems go full blast to undermine Trump http://nyp.st/2jusKUo
THE BACKSTORY -- GREAT DETAILS -- How Trump got to yes on Gorsuch, by Shane Goldmacher, Eliana Johnson and Josh Gerstein: Behind the scenes, [Donald] Trump settled on [Neil] Gorsuch after only a single in-person interview in Trump Tower. Gorsuch was ushered into the building through a back door on Jan. 14 so he wouldnt be seen by the press gathered in the lobby. Trump personally interviewed four Supreme Court finalists, three at his home in New York before he moved to the White House, according to two people involved in the search. ... Only one other person was in the room during Trumps full interviews with the finalists: White House Counsel Don McGahn, the two officials said. And Trump only met with each of the finalists once before deciding, although he did later speak with some by phone. Trumps top lieutenants -- Vice President Mike Pence, McGahn, chief of staff Reince Priebus, and chief strategist Stephen Bannon -- also had their own interviews with the four finalists, along with several other candidates in New York. http://politi.co/2jul6t1 Video of Trump announcing Gorsuch http://bit.ly/2kqcgfx
THE ANALYSIS -- NYTs ADAM LIPTAK: In Judge Neil Gorsuch, an Echo of Scalia in Philosophy and Style: Judge Gorsuch ... is an originalist, meaning he tries to interpret the Constitution consistently with the understanding of those who drafted and adopted it. This approach leads him to generally but not uniformly conservative results. While he has not written extensively on several issues of importance to many conservatives, including gun control and gay rights, Judge Gorsuch has taken strong stands in favor of religious freedom, earning him admiration from the right. Judge Gorsuch has not hesitated to take stands that critics say have a partisan edge. He has criticized liberals for turning to the courts rather than legislatures to achieve their policy goals, and has called for limiting the power of federal regulators. http://nyti.ms/2kfP9lg
-- WAPOS ROBERT BARNES: Trump makes his pick, but its still Anthony Kennedys Supreme Court: Kennedy, 80 and celebrating his 29th year on the court this month, will remain the pivotal member of the court no matter how the warfare between Republicans and Democrats plays out. On almost every big social issue, neither the courts liberal, Democratic-appointed justices nor Kennedys fellow Republican-appointed conservative colleagues can prevail without him. That is why an undercurrent of Trumps first choice for the court was whether it would soothe Kennedy, making him feel secure enough to retire and let this president choose the person who would succeed him.
Who better, then, to put Kennedy at ease than one of his former clerks? Kennedy trekked to Denver to swear in his protege Neil Gorsuch on the appeals court 10 years ago. If Gorsuch is confirmed to the Supreme Court, it would be the first time that a justice has served with a former clerk. http://wapo.st/2jC6nYb
-- NEAL K. KATYAL in the NYT, Why Liberals Should Back Neil Gorsuch: I was an acting solicitor general for President Barack Obama; Judge Gorsuch has strong conservative bona fides and was appointed to the 10th Circuit by President George W. Bush. But I have seen him up close and in action, both in court and on the Federal Appellate Rules Committee (where both of us serve); he brings a sense of fairness and decency to the job, and a temperament that suits the nations highest court. http://nyti.ms/2jTXieo
-- A 2002 op-ed in UPI by Gorsuch excoriated the Senate for delaying hearings to appoint John Roberts and Merrick Garland to the U.S. Court of Appeals http://bit.ly/2kqVRXO
-- @ShaneGoldmacher: Gorsuchs classmate at Harvard Law: A certain gentleman named Barack Obama
WHO WILL HELP GORSUCH -- Ayotte to lead White House team shepherding Supreme Court nominee, by WaPos Phil Rucker and Ashley Parker: [Kelly] Ayotte will serve as the nominees so-called sherpa, personally introducing the pick to senators and escorting him or her to meetings and the confirmation hearing. The lead staffer on the nominees team will be Makan Delrahim, currently the director of nominations for the White House legislative affairs office. Delrahim will serve as the quarterback, in the words of the White House official, overseeing strategy and outreach with the Senate.
Delrahim will work closely with Mary Elizabeth Taylor, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), where she ran the Senate cloakroom and developed personal relationships with Republican senators. Also involved will be Rick Dearborn, a deputy White House chief of staff and a former chief of staff to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), and Marc Short, the White Houses director of legislative affairs. The communications strategy will be overseen by Ron Bonjean, a longtime Republican strategist who has served as chief of staff to the Senate Republican Conference and as the chief spokesman for former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.). http://wapo.st/2jUiEbb
-- BUZZ: The White House considered several other potential sherpas before settling on Ayotte. Kyle Simmons, former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, was among those who had been discussed. Typically, SCOTUS sherpas are veteran staffers like former Reagan chief of staff Ken Duberstein, who managed multiple Supreme Court and cabinet nominee picks.
** A message from the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs: Federal programs, state governments, employers, unions and others partner with PBMs to address rising prescription drug costs, keep patients healthy, and deliver value for the health system. Visit http://www.affordableprescriptiondrugs.org for more. **
TEAM OF RIVALS -- White House tries to course correct after messy travel restriction rollout, by CNNs Dana Bash: According to sources familiar with internal White House conversations, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus will now take more control of the systems dealing with basic functions, like executive orders. The way one source described it: Priebus already technically had the authority, but clearly the staff needed a reminder not to color outside their lines. Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner, two other senior advisers, still have considerable power and influence with Trump. Administration officials say no role has been diminished or expanded but rather existing roles clarified. It is unclear how that will fit in with Priebus exerting more control over White House operations. Additionally, White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway is expected to take more control of the communications strategy. http://cnn.it/2kQb6XX
SCARAMUCCI UNDER FIRE -- NYT A1, Trump Aides Deal With Chinese Firm Raises Fear of Tangled Interests, by Sharon LaFraniere, Michael Forsythe and Alexandra Stevenson: A secretive Chinese company with deep ties to the countrys Communist Party has become one of the biggest foreign investors in the United States over the past year, snapping up American firms in a string of multibillion-dollar deals. But it is one of its smaller deals that is apparently stalling the White House career of a top adviser to President Trump. Anthony Scaramucci, a flamboyant former campaign fund-raiser for Mr. Trump whom the president has appointed as the White House liaison to the business community, has been in limbo for more than a week since he agreed to sell his investment firm to a subsidiary of the Chinese conglomerate, HNA Group.
Mr. Scaramucci is on the job but has yet to be sworn in, partly because of concerns about the Jan. 17 deal, according to two administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to publicly discuss personnel matters. It is the second known transaction between a politically connected Chinese company and an incoming White House official. And it is evidence of the unusual confluence of interests between superrich members of the new Trump administration who need to unwind complex financial portfolios to comply with government rules and international firms eager to buy American assets. http://nyti.ms/2kfNfBd
-- Scaramucci fights to stay in the White House, by Tara Palmeri: Reince Priebus and Anthony Scaramucci were sucked into a bizarre episode of infighting Tuesday as the White House chief of staff tried to push Scaramucci out of a promised role as an adviser to President Donald Trump, only to later backtrack. http://politi.co/2kpXm93
PETRAEUS WARNING -- ONLY IN PLAYBOOK -- Former CIA Director, retired Gen. David Petraeus plans to warn the House Armed Services Committee this morning that U.S. global alliances are at risk, according to an advance copy of his testimony from someone close to Petraeus. In assessing the threats, Petraeus plans to tell the committee: Americans should not take the current international order for granted. It did not will itself into existence. We created it. Likewise, it is not naturally self-sustaining. We have sustained it. If we stop doing so, it will fray and, eventually, collapse. This is precisely what some of our adversaries seek to encourage. President Putin, for instance, understands that, while conventional aggression may occasionally enable Russia to grab a bit of land on its periphery, the real center of gravity is the political will of major democratic powers to defend Euro-Atlantic institutions like NATO and the EU.
NEW POLITICO/MORNING CONSULT POLL -- Poll: 1-in-4 voters believe Trump's vote-fraud claims, by Jake Sherman: One in four voters believe President Donald Trump's unsupported claim that millions of votes were illegally cast in the 2016 election, but more people believe that Trump benefited from any electoral malfeasance instead of Hillary Clinton. A new POLITICO/Morning Consult survey showed that 25 percent of registered voters say they agree with Trump that millions of people improperly cast ballots last November. But if the election was subject to voter fraud, 35 percent say its more likely any improper votes benefited Trump, and 30 percent say they benefited Clinton.
Trumps approval rating is ticking upward toward 50 percent: 49 percent of voters approve of how Trump is handling his job, and 41 percent disapprove. That is more positive than other polls; a 51-percent majority disapproves of Trump in the latest Gallup tracking poll. Even Trump's favorable rating -- 49 percent favorable to 44 percent unfavorable is a significant departure from other polls, which show Trump viewed more unfavorably. http://politi.co/2juUSGA
OTHER POLL HIGHLIGHTS
-- SEAN SPICER IS WELL KNOWN. 60% say they have seen, read or heard a lot or some of Spicer. He has a 24% favorable rating, 32% unfavorable, 16% have no opinion and 28% dont know him.
-- AS NETANYAHU READIES FOR TRIP TO THE U.S., AMERICANS SAY DONT MOVE THE EMBASSY TO JERUSALEM. Across the board, our new poll shows that Americans dont want the U.S. to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. When told of the history of the issue, 41% say to leave the embassy in Tel Aviv and 33% say move the embassy to Jerusalem.
THE JUICE --
-- EU ANXIETY -- POSTCARD FROM BRUSSELS: From our POLITICO Europe Playbook colleague Ryan Heath in Brussels: "European Commission Vice President Maro efovi just stood up in the EU press room and said that the College of European Commissioners discussed at their weekly Cabinet meeting that it and the EU have to choose between the 'inequality, national egoism' displayed by the Trump administration or 'openness, social equality and solidarity' that the defines the EU. Sefcovic said there was 'growing anxiety' about the transatlantic relationship and urged the Trump team to cool it because: 'The U.S. never had a better ally than Europe.'"
-- BIDEN LAUNCHES FOUNDATION: The Biden Foundation is launching to build on Vice President and Dr. Bidens lifelong commitment to protecting and advancing rights and opportunities of all people, according to a release off embargo at 5 a.m. The board of the foundation: Former Sen. Ted Kaufman, a longtime Biden adviser; Valerie Biden Owens, the VPs sister; Mark Gitenstein, a former Biden aide who later was ambassador to Romania; Mark Angelson, a long time Biden adviser; and Jeff Peck of Peck Madigan and Jones. Peck also worked for Biden on the Hill. Louisa Terrell, Sen. Cory Bookers former chief of staff, a former Facebook lobbyist and FCC aide, will be executive director of the foundation.
-- KEY MCCARTHY AIDE TO THE WHITE HOUSE: Ben Howard, who ran the House floor for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), has gone to work for President Donald Trumps legislative affairs office. This is not only big for Howard, but also for McCarthy, whose stature continues to grow in Trump World. I cant begin to express my gratitude for all Ben has done not only for me and my team, but the entire Republican Conference, McCarthy emails. Over the years Ive relied on Ben for both his wisdom and his wit. Hes been an integral part of my senior staff, but President Trump and his team will be well served by Ben as we work to enact the American peoples legislative priorities.
-- SPOTTED: Eric Trump in first class and Don Trump Jr. in coach flying from DCA to LaGuardia on the 10 p.m. American shuttle after the Supreme Court announcement House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, who is under heat for several of his aides agreeing to sign non-disclosures with the Trump team, chatting with Steve Bannon at the White House Supreme Court announcement Tuesday night NFIB President and CEO Juanita Duggan at the White House for the SCOTUS announcement.
HAPPENING TODAY -- PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff will interview Vice President Mike Pence Wednesday morning in his first sitdown since inauguration. It will air Wednesday night. Trump is attending an African American History Month listening session. In the afternoon, he is participating in a legislative affairs strategy session.
PHOTO DU JOUR: President Donald Trump walks through the Cross Hall to the East Room of the White House to nominate Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court on Jan. 31. | Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
THE RESISTANCE -- GET WITH THE PROGRAM, OR NOT -- State Dept. Dissent Cable on Trumps Ban Draws 1,000 Signatures, by NYTs Jeffrey Gettleman on A1: It started out in Washington. Then it went to Jakarta. Then across Africa. One version even showed up on Facebook. Within hours, a State Department dissent cable, asserting that President Trumps executive order to temporarily bar citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries would not make the nation safer, traveled like a chain letter -- or a viral video. The cable wended its way through dozens of American embassies around the world, quickly emerging as one of the broadest protests by American officials against their presidents policies. And it is not over yet. By 4 p.m. on Tuesday, the letter had attracted around 1,000 signatures, State Department officials said, far more than any dissent cable in recent years. It was being delivered to management, and department officials said more diplomats wanted to add their names to it. The State Department has 7,600 Foreign Service officers and 11,000 civil servants. http://nyti.ms/2jutOr1
-- Resistance from within: Federal workers push back against Trump, by WaPos Juliet Eilperin, Lisa Rein, and Marc Fisher: Less than two weeks into Trumps administration, federal workers are in regular consultation with recently departed Obama-era political appointees about what they can do to push back against the new presidents initiatives. Some federal employees have set up social media accounts to anonymously leak word of changes that Trump appointees are trying to make. ... At a church in Columbia Heights last weekend, dozens of federal workers attended a support group for civil servants seeking a forum to discuss their opposition to the Trump administration. And 180 federal employees have signed up for a workshop next weekend, where experts will offer advice on workers rights and how they can express civil disobedience. http://wapo.st/2jVGN3H
COMING ATTRACTIONS -- Trump administration circulates more draft immigration restrictions, focusing on protecting U.S. jobs, by WaPos Abigail Hauslohner and Janell Ross: The Trump administration is considering a plan to weed out would-be immigrants who are likely to require public assistance, as well as to deport --- when possible -- immigrants already living in the United States who depend on taxpayer help, according to a draft executive order obtained by The Washington Post. A second draft order under consideration calls for a substantial shake-up in the system through which the United States administers immigrant and nonimmigrant visas, with the aim of tightly controlling who enters the country and who can enter the workforce, and reducing the social services burden on U.S. taxpayers. http://wapo.st/2jup5FU
BRIAN FALLON in POLITICO, Why Trumps Firing of Sally Yates Should Worry You: [F]or Yates, if this weeks events did mark the conclusion of her career at Justice, she can at least depart knowing she was true to herself and to the finest traditions of the institution until the very end. But theres always the chance her leave from Justice is only temporary. It seems quite likely she will be at the top of any list for attorney general in a future administrationonly next time, on a full-time basis. http://politi.co/2kqJOK5
WHAT THE HILL IS READING -- Staffers secret work on immigration order rattles the Capitol, by Rachael Bade: News that House Judiciary Committee staffers secretly collaborated on Donald Trumps controversial immigration order reverberated through the Capitol on Tuesday: Democrats denounced the arrangement, the GOP panel stonewalled, and an outside ethics group requested an investigation. And the man most on the hot seat over the unusual arrangement, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, was in full-on cleanup mode. At a private GOP conference meeting, Goodlatte (R-Va.) tried to calm fellow Republicans who were incensed to learn that some of his aides helped craft Trump's immigration directive without telling him or GOP leaders or about it. Democrats, meanwhile, almost immediately began raising ethical concerns about nondisclosure agreements signed by the Judiciary aides and questioned whether such work infringes on separation of powers. http://politi.co/2jUjRiQ
-- WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Several government employees signed a non-disclosure agreement to secretly work on an executive order on immigration for the Trump team. And Goodlattes staff -- whose salaries are funded by taxpayer money -- refuses to answer if the chairman approved of this, and why it was allowed.
SHOW ME THE MONEY -- Trump raised $15 million in December, by Ken Vogel: President Donald Trumps reelection efforts are off to a strong start financially, according to Tuesday evening campaign finance reports showing that Trumps three committees brought in a combined $15 million last month and finished the year with $16 million in the bank. The committees Trumps campaign and two joint fundraising vehicles created by the campaign and various Republican Party committees - disbursed nearly $32 million from Nov. 29 through Dec. 31. http://politi.co/2kPZTH2
--TEXT FROM TRUMP President Trump took office only 10 days ago and the media has waged a nasty fight every day. Fight back. Donate by the 11:59p deadline: http://www.bit.ly/2jSqMsN
** A message from the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs: Federal programs, state governments, employers, unions and others partner with PBMs to address rising prescription drug costs, keep patients healthy, and deliver value for the health system. Visit http://www.affordableprescriptiondrugs.org for more. **
THE CABINET -- Treasury secretary nominees foreign money links bring new scrutiny, by CNNs Phil Mattingly: In a private interview with committee staff, aides said, Mnuchin acknowledged that his responses to the committee had not, as he had stated, been true, accurate and complete. He twice was forced to revise his initial disclosure questionnaire. He stated his role in the entities was inadvertently missed during the disclosure process. http://cnn.it/2kQrcEh
WHAT PELOSI TOLD TAPPER -- CNNs town hall with the House minority leader -- TAPPER: You still think you can work with [Trump]? PELOSI: Well, I certainly hope so. Hes the president of the United States. And by the way, I told him at the meeting, so Ill tell you, I said, Mr. President, we have -- I worked, when I had the majority, I was the speaker, I had the gavel, and President George W. Bush was president, we worked with him even though we disagreed on the war in Iraq. What could be worse than that? And privatizing Social Security, we disagreed on those. But we passed some of the most progressive legislation to help poor children, the biggest energy bill in the history of our country. He wanted nuclear; we wanted renewables. We had a big bill. The list goes on. Drugs for HIV-AIDS, all of those kinds of things. So we disagree on certain issues. We respect that hes the president of the United States. We want to work together. But where we will draw the line is if he wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
-- FOR YOUR RADAR: Pelosi and Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst will speak at the 132nd Gridiron Club and Foundation dinner on March 4.
MOVING ON -- Strobe Talbott stepping down from Brookings, by Michael Crowley: Talbott, a former TIME magazine journalist who became deputy secretary of state under Bill Clinton, has led Brookings for 15 years. He will resign in October. ... He served at the State Department from 1993 to 2001, including seven years as Deputy Secretary of State. http://politi.co/2kfHLGD Release http://politi.co/2kUx0IN
SCHOCK UPDATE -- @kenvogel: Ex-Rep. @AaronSchocks campaign cmte paid a $10k compliance penalty to the @USTreasury, & $16k+ in legal fees. http://bit.ly/2kQ9c9X
VALLEY TALK -- Googles Eric Schmidt: Trump Administration Will Do Evil Things, by BuzzFeeds William Alden and Nitasha Tiku: Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Googles parent company, told an audience of Google employees on Thursday that the Trump administration is going to do these evil things as theyve done in the immigration area and perhaps some others. Schmidts remarks were made during the companys weekly meeting at its headquarters in Mountain View, California, on January 26. http://bzfd.it/2kfQLeU
MEMO FROM CARRIE BUDOFF BROWN AND JOHN HARRIS -- Please join me in offering thanks and congratulations to our colleague, Roger Simon, who is retiring from the business after 42 years of writing columns 10 of which were for POLITICO. Roger was the first person in this newsroom hired after John Harris joined Matt Wuerker and Ken Vogel from the Capitol Leader gang in late 2006. In this peevish age, in which combatants seem never to relinquish the self-righteous pose, and the language of politics often is infused with contempt, Roger uses his gift for language for a different cause. He respects politics and its practitioners, even when he is being searingly critical. He is shrewd in assessing character and motive and views politics and the work of government less through an ideological prism than human one. These are real people, often quite powerful, making decisions that affect other real people, often quite powerless.
-- ROGERS LAST COLUMN: A majority of one walks away from his keyboard: This is the end, my friends. It is time to say goodbye. I realize this is the worst possible time for a political columnist to retire, but what I didnt realize is that any of you cared. Robert Feder, a famous media writer from Chicago, found out about my retirement a few days ago and I have been flooded with farewells ever since. I have also been flooded -- really, you can read them -- with messages on Facebook and Twitter asking me not to retire. Not now. Not, Im told, when America needs you. I know, I know: It is preposterous. It is laughable. But not to some.
For some, I have been the friend they have never met for more than 40 years. For all those years, my job took me all over the world. My wife and I had precious little time for extended vacations. She stayed behind working at newspapers for 35 years and then running her own editing business. Now she wants to see the world. And Id like to go with her while I still can. http://politi.co/2jCde3I
MEDIAWATCH -- White House ices out CNN, by Hadas Gold: The White House has refused to send its spokespeople or surrogates onto CNN shows, effectively icing out the network from on-air administration voices. Were sending surrogates to places where we think it makes sense to promote our agenda, said a White House official, acknowledging that CNN is not such a place, but adding that the ban is not permanent. A CNN reporter, speaking on background, was more blunt: The White House is trying to punish the network and force down its ratings. Theyre trying cull CNN from the herd, the reporter said. Administration officials are still answering questions from CNN reporters. But administration officials including White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and senior counselor Kellyanne Conway haven't appeared on the network's programming in recent weeks. http://politi.co/2jVAPje
--Upset in WSJ newsroom over editors directive to avoid majority Muslim in immigration ban coverage, by Joe Pompeo: [Gerry] Baker conveyed the message in an internal email Monday night, responding to a breaking news story about Trumps firing of Acting Attorney General Sally Q. Yates for refusing to defend the executive order temporarily barring citizens of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia from entering the country. Can we stop saying seven majority Muslim countries? Its very loaded, Baker wrote in an email to editors obtained by POLITICO. ... Would be less loaded to say seven countries the US has designated as being states that pose significant or elevated risks of terrorism. http://politi.co/2jC3gzg
--Fox News Tops Cable News Ratings for 15 Straight Years With January Win, by The Wraps Brian Flood: http://bit.ly/2jC70kA
KATY TUR PROFILE -- Taunted by Trump, Little Katy stood her ground. And became a star because of it, by WaPos Paul Farhi: Trumps attacks on [Megyn] Kelly may have had a higher profile, but few reporters took as much flak from the future president as Tur. Turs reaction to the tumult was like that during her first confrontations in New Hampshire and in Trump Tower. She stood her ground. She didnt fire back. She continued reporting. Now she smiles at the memory, as composed as a sonnet. Generally, I find the hotter the temperature, the cooler I am, she says. Its times of relative calm and ease that I start to wind myself up. http://wapo.st/2kOGlWA
SPOTTED -- Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump eating at RPM Italian Monday night. They also took a jog Saturday with their security detail on the trails on Rock Creek Parkway.
OUT AND ABOUT -- Democratic campaign hands gathered last night to celebrate former Howard Dean campaign manager and longtime political strategist, Rick Ridder, and his new book at the Hawk n Dove. Ridders book Looking for Votes in All the Wrong Places: Tales and Rules from the Campaign Trail draws from his decades leading campaigns and the party featured friends old and new. $16.99 on Amazon http://amzn.to/2jCacg1 SPOTTED mingling in the crowd: Stephanie Schriock and Jess OConnell from EMILYs List, Colorado Reps. Diana DeGette and Ed Perlmutter, Mark Putnam, the DSCCs Lauren Passalacqua, Andrew Piatt, Danny Kazin, Jay Marlin, Rich Pelletier, Mark Blumenthal, Glen Totten, and Amy Pritchard. Also spotted: Ricks proud daughter and DCCC alum Jenn Ridder.
WELCOME TO THE WORLD -- Doug Calidas, legislative counsel for Sen. Joe Manchin III and Wharton and Duke Law alum, and Katie Calidas, a designer for an advertising agency and Parsons alum, on Sunday at 12:05 a.m. welcomed William Kristopher Calidas, 7 pounds, 11 ounces, 21 inches. Mother and baby are doing great and came home from the hospital Monday. Pic http://bit.ly/2jBYYYW
TRANSITIONS -- Victoria Glynn, former deputy press secretary at the Veterans Affairs Department, has joined Rep. Henry Cuellars (D-Texas) office as communications director. My Brothers Keeper Alliance (MBK Alliance) has elected former Obama administration official Broderick D. Johnson as chairman of the board of directors effective yesterday. http://politi.co/2jUDozP
NSC DEPARTURE LOUNGE -- Adam Strickler departs the NSC today after nine years of service to four National Security Advisers, most recently Ambassador Susan Rice. He plans to take some time off with Lauren and Toby. (h/t Suitestaff44)
BIRTHDAYS OF THE DAY: Jake Siewert, head of corporate comms at Goldman Sachs, father of four, and Bill Clinton alumnus, celebrating with a pancake breakfast at my kids school, a full days work, and dinner with my wife near our apartment -- read his Playbook Plus Q&A: http://politi.co/2kQnzuV ABC News Ali Dukakis, celebrating with friends and co-workers likely at Edgar -- Q&A: http://politi.co/2kUk1qP ... BuzzFeed White House correspondent Adrian Carrasquillo, celebrating with operatives, reporters, BuzzFeed colleagues and friends on Friday at Hawthorne -- Q&A: http://politi.co/2kpVEoi
BIRTHDAYS: CAAs Michael Kives ... Liz Breckenridge of Sen. Caseys office and is the pride of Chesterfield, Mo. Hudson Lee (Carol Lees son) is 4 ... Fred Barnes is 74 ... Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) is 73 ... Jamie Radice, head of comms and public policy at Shift Technologies, and a McAuliffe and HRC 2008 campaign alum ... Christine Halloran ... Marc Elias of Perkins Coie (h/ts Jon Haber) Mara Sloan Mat Lapinski, Jeff Kimbell protg and EVP of Crossroads Strategies (h/t Krueger) ... Matt Moon, EVP at Delve DC and a Rick Scott and RNC alum ... Politicos Andrew Friedman (h/t wife Taylor) ... Ashley Hicks, manager of corporate alliances at USO and a Politico alum ... Joseph Jones, pride of Des Moines and beloved friend of ACYPL ... Miguel Ayala, SBA and Hillary campaign alum, is 38 ... L.A. Dodgers President and CEO Stan Kasten, the pride of Lakewood, N.J., is 65 ... David Thomas of Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti Alexa Kissinger, Obama White House and 12 alum, now 2L at Harvard Law School (h/t Gareth Rhodes) ... Dan Arbell, 25-year veteran of the Israeli foreign service, now a scholar-in-residence at AU ... Tara Brown, Mid-Atlantic regional director for AIPAC (h/ts Jewish Insider) ... Jordyn Phelps, ABC News superstar White House producer (h/ts Jonathan Karl and Arlette Saenz) ... ABC News Erin Dooley (h/t Arlette) ...
... Tara McGowan, digital director at Priorities USA Willa Prescott, the pride of Omaha and Rep. Tom OHallerans scheduler and director of operations (h/t Zac Andrews) ... Bloomberg News U.S. economy reporter Michelle Jamrisko -- her Twitter bio: I like to tell my stories with pictures and numbers (h/t Ben Chang) ... Meet the Press producer Natalie Cucchiara, celebrating half of the day at 30 Rock and half of the day in D.C. (h/t Olivia Petersen) ... Locust Street Group founding partner David Barnhart (h/t Ben Jenkins) ... Andrew Oberlander ... Emmett McGroarty, education director at American Principles Project ... CBS News Alana Anyse ... Ubers Alex Luzi ... David Redl, counsel for the Senate Energy and Commerce Committee ... Susan Coll, director of events and programs at Politics & Prose ... Catherine Kim, executive editor at NBC News digital ... Maria Reppas ... Dan Chmielewski ... Josh Nelson, deputy political director of CREDO Mobile ... Alex Otwell of Cvent ... Karl Bach ... Bill Sweeney, former deputy DNC chair and now president and CEO at International Foundation for Electoral Systems ... Carrie Goux Luke Peterson ... Kelly Collins ... Zachary Tumin, deputy commissioner of strategic initiatives at NYPD ... Emily Laird ... Jordan Lillie Michael Frias Karl Bach, Human Rights Campaign alum Princess Stephanie of Monaco is 52 ... Lisa Marie Presley is 49 ... Pauly Shore is 49 ... Harry Styles (One Direction) is 23 (h/ts AP)
** A message from the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs: PBMs use their purchasing power, sophisticated analytics and clinical expertise to help government programs, employers and unions get the most effective drug at the lowest cost possible. In fact, a 2016 study found that for every $100 in prescription drug expenditures, costs would be $45 higher without PBMs negotiating directly with drug manufacturers. With drug costs on the rise, it's good to know there are private-market solutions to lower them. Check out http://www.affordableprescriptiondrugs.org for more. **
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CLARIFICATION: This version of Playbook has been updated to better clarify the stance of seven Democratic senators toward Neil Gorsuch.
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Posted: December 25, 2016 at 10:52 pm
Consequentialism is the class of normative ethical theories holding that the consequences of one's conduct are the ultimate basis for any judgment about the rightness or wrongness of that conduct. Thus, from a consequentialist standpoint, a morally right act (or omission from acting) is one that will produce a good outcome, or consequence. In an extreme form, the idea of consequentialism is commonly encapsulated in the saying, "the end justifies the means", meaning that if a goal is morally important enough, any method of achieving it is acceptable.
Consequentialism is usually contrasted with deontological ethics (or deontology), in that deontology, in which rules and moral duty are central, derives the rightness or wrongness of one's conduct from the character of the behaviour itself rather than the outcomes of the conduct. It is also contrasted with virtue ethics, which focuses on the character of the agent rather than on the nature or consequences of the act (or omission) itself, and pragmatic ethics which treats morality like science: advancing socially over the course of many lifetimes, such that any moral criterion is subject to revision. Consequentialist theories differ in how they define moral goods.
Some argue that consequentialist and deontological theories are not necessarily mutually exclusive. For example, T. M. Scanlon advances the idea that human rights, which are commonly considered a "deontological" concept, can only be justified with reference to the consequences of having those rights. Similarly, Robert Nozick argues for a theory that is mostly consequentialist, but incorporates inviolable "side-constraints" which restrict the sort of actions agents are permitted to do.
It is the business of the benevolent man to seek to promote what is beneficial to the world and to eliminate what is harmful, and to provide a model for the world. What benefits he will carry out; what does not benefit men he will leave alone.
Mozi, Mozi (5th century BC) Part I
Mohist consequentialism, also known as state consequentialism, is an ethical theory which evaluates the moral worth of an action based on how much it contributes to the welfare of a state. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Mohist consequentialism, dating back to the 5th century BCE, is the "world's earliest form of consequentialism, a remarkably sophisticated version based on a plurality of intrinsic goods taken as constitutive of human welfare." Unlike utilitarianism, which views utility as the sole moral good, "the basic goods in Mohist consequentialist thinking are... order, material wealth, and increase in population". During Mozi's era, war and famines were common, and population growth was seen as a moral necessity for a harmonious society. The "material wealth" of Mohist consequentialism refers to basic needs like shelter and clothing, and the "order" of Mohist consequentialism refers to Mozi's stance against warfare and violence, which he viewed as pointless and a threat to social stability.Stanford sinologist David Shepherd Nivison, in the The Cambridge History of Ancient China, writes that the moral goods of Mohism "are interrelated: more basic wealth, then more reproduction; more people, then more production and wealth... if people have plenty, they would be good, filial, kind, and so on unproblematically." The Mohists believed that morality is based on "promoting the benefit of all under heaven and eliminating harm to all under heaven." In contrast to Jeremy Bentham's views, state consequentialism is not utilitarian because it is not hedonistic or individualistic. The importance of outcomes that are good for the community outweigh the importance of individual pleasure and pain. The term state consequentialism has also been applied to the political philosophy of the Confucian philosopher Xunzi.
Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do. On the one hand the standard of right and wrong, on the other the chain of causes and effects, are fastened to their throne. They govern us in all we do, in all we say, in all we think...
Jeremy Bentham, The Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789) Ch I, p 1
In summary, Jeremy Bentham states that people are driven by their interests and their fears, but their interests take precedence over their fears, and their interests are carried out in accordance with how people view the consequences that might be involved with their interests. "Happiness" on this account is defined as the maximization of pleasure and the minimization of pain. Historically, hedonistic utilitarianism is the paradigmatic example of a consequentialist moral theory. This form of utilitarianism holds that what matters is the aggregate happiness; the happiness of everyone and not the happiness of any particular person. John Stuart Mill, in his exposition of hedonistic utilitarianism, proposed a hierarchy of pleasures, meaning that the pursuit of certain kinds of pleasure is more highly valued than the pursuit of other pleasures. However, some contemporary utilitarians, such as Peter Singer, are concerned with maximizing the satisfaction of preferences, hence "preference utilitarianism". Other contemporary forms of utilitarianism mirror the forms of consequentialism outlined below.
Ethical egoism can be understood as a consequentialist theory according to which the consequences for the individual agent are taken to matter more than any other result. Thus, egoism will prescribe actions that may be beneficial, detrimental, or neutral to the welfare of others. Some, like Henry Sidgwick, argue that a certain degree of egoism promotes the general welfare of society for two reasons: because individuals know how to please themselves best, and because if everyone were an austere altruist then general welfare would inevitably decrease.
Ethical altruism can be seen as a consequentialist ethic which prescribes that an individual take actions that have the best consequences for everyone except for himself. This was advocated by Auguste Comte, who coined the term "altruism," and whose ethics can be summed up in the phrase "Live for others".
In general, consequentialist theories focus on actions. However, this need not be the case. Rule consequentialism is a theory that is sometimes seen as an attempt to reconcile deontology and consequentialismand in some cases, this is stated as a criticism of rule consequentialism. Like deontology, rule consequentialism holds that moral behavior involves following certain rules. However, rule consequentialism chooses rules based on the consequences that the selection of those rules have. Rule consequentialism exists in the forms of rule utilitarianism and rule egoism.
Various theorists are split as to whether the rules are the only determinant of moral behavior or not. For example, Robert Nozick holds that a certain set of minimal rules, which he calls "side-constraints", are necessary to ensure appropriate actions. There are also differences as to how absolute these moral rules are. Thus, while Nozick's side-constraints are absolute restrictions on behavior, Amartya Sen proposes a theory that recognizes the importance of certain rules, but these rules are not absolute. That is, they may be violated if strict adherence to the rule would lead to much more undesirable consequences.
One of the most common objections to rule-consequentialism is that it is incoherent, because it is based on the consequentialist principle that what we should be concerned with is maximizing the good, but then it tells us not to act to maximize the good, but to follow rules (even in cases where we know that breaking the rule could produce better results).
Brad Hooker avoided this objection by not basing his form of rule-consequentialism on the ideal of maximizing the good. He writes:
the best argument for rule-consequentialism is not that it derives from an overarching commitment to maximise the good. The best argument for rule-consequentialism is that it does a better job than its rivals of matching and tying together our moral convictions, as well as offering us help with our moral disagreements and uncertainties
Derek Parfit described Brad Hooker's book on rule-consequentialism Ideal Code, Real World as the "best statement and defence, so far, of one of the most important moral theories."
The two-level approach involves engaging in critical reasoning and considering all the possible ramifications of one's actions before making an ethical decision, but reverting to generally reliable moral rules when one is not in a position to stand back and examine the dilemma as a whole. In practice, this equates to adhering to rule consequentialism when one can only reason on an intuitive level, and to act consequentialism when in a position to stand back and reason on a more critical level.
This position can be described as a reconciliation between act consequentialism in which the morality of an action is determined by that action's effects and rule consequentialism in which moral behavior is derived from following rules that lead to positive outcomes.
The two-level approach to consequentialism is most often associated with R. M. Hare and Peter Singer.
Another consequentialist version is motive consequentialism which looks at whether the state of affairs that results from the motive to choose an action is better or at least as good as each of the alternative state of affairs that would have resulted from alternative actions. This version gives relevance to the motive of an act and links it to its consequences. An act can therefore not be wrong if the decision to act was based on a right motive. A possible inference is, that one can not be blamed for mistaken judgements if the motivation was to do good.
Most consequentialist theories focus on promoting some sort of good consequences. However, Negative utilitarianism lays out a consequentialist theory that focuses solely on minimizing bad consequences.
One major difference between these two approaches is the agent's responsibility. Positive consequentialism demands that we bring about good states of affairs, whereas negative consequentialism requires that we avoid bad ones. Stronger versions of negative consequentialism will require active intervention to prevent bad and ameliorate existing harm. In weaker versions, simple forbearance from acts tending to harm others is sufficient.
Often "negative" consequentialist theories assert that reducing suffering is more important than increasing pleasure. Karl Popper, for example, claimed "from the moral point of view, pain cannot be outweighed by pleasure...". (While Popper is not a consequentialist per se, this is taken as a classic statement of negative utilitarianism.) When considering a theory of justice, negative consequentialists may use a statewide or global-reaching principle: the reduction of suffering (for the disadvantaged) is more valuable than increased pleasure (for the affluent or luxurious).
Teleological ethics (Greek telos, "end"; logos, "science") is an ethical theory that holds that the ends or consequences of an act determine whether an act is good or evil. Teleological theories are often discussed in opposition to deontological ethical theories, which hold that acts themselves are inherently good or evil, regardless of the consequences of acts.
Teleological theories differ on the nature of the end that actions ought to promote. Eudaemonist theories (Greek eudaimonia, "happiness") hold that the goal of ethics consists in some function or activity appropriate to man as a human being, and thus tend to emphasize the cultivation of virtue or excellence in the agent as the end of all action. These could be the classical virtuescourage, temperance, justice, and wisdomthat promoted the Greek ideal of man as the "rational animal", or the theological virtuesfaith, hope, and lovethat distinguished the Christian ideal of man as a being created in the image of God.
Utilitarian-type theories hold that the end consists in an experience or feeling produced by the action. Hedonism, for example, teaches that this feeling is pleasureeither one's own, as in egoism (the 17th-century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes), or everyone's, as in universalistic hedonism, or utilitarianism (the 19th-century English philosophers Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, and Henry Sidgwick), with its formula of the "greatest pleasure of the greatest number."
Other utilitarian-type views include the claims that the end of action is survival and growth, as in evolutionary ethics (the 19th-century English philosopher Herbert Spencer); the experience of power, as in despotism; satisfaction and adjustment, as in pragmatism (20th-century American philosophers Ralph Barton Perry and John Dewey); and freedom, as in existentialism (the 20th-century French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre).
The chief problem for eudaemonist theories is to show that leading a life of virtue will also be attended by happinessby the winning of the goods regarded as the chief end of action. That Job should suffer and Socrates and Jesus die while the wicked prosper, then seems unjust. Eudaemonists generally reply that the universe is moral and that, in Socrates' words, "No evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death," or, in Jesus' words, "But he who endures to the end will be saved." (Matt 10:22).
Utilitarian theories, on the other hand, must answer the charge that ends do not justify the means. The problem arises in these theories because they tend to separate the achieved ends from the action by which these ends were produced. One implication of utilitarianism is that one's intention in performing an act may include all of its foreseen consequences. The goodness of the intention then reflects the balance of the good and evil of these consequences, with no limits imposed upon it by the nature of the act itselfeven if it be, say, the breaking of a promise or the execution of an innocent man. Utilitarianism, in answering this charge, must show either that what is apparently immoral is not really so or that, if it really is so, then closer examination of the consequences will bring this fact to light. Ideal utilitarianism (G.E. Moore and Hastings Rashdall) tries to meet the difficulty by advocating a plurality of ends and including among them the attainment of virtue itself, which, as John Stuart Mill affirmed, "may be felt a good in itself, and desired as such with as great intensity as any other good."
Since pure consequentialism holds that an action is to be judged solely by its result, most consequentialist theories hold that a deliberate action is no different from a deliberate decision not to act. This contrasts with the "acts and omissions doctrine", which is upheld by some medical ethicists and some religions: it asserts there is a significant moral distinction between acts and deliberate non-actions which lead to the same outcome. This contrast is brought out in issues such as voluntary euthanasia.
One important characteristic of many normative moral theories such as consequentialism is the ability to produce practical moral judgements. At the very least, any moral theory needs to define the standpoint from which the goodness of the consequences are to be determined. What is primarily at stake here is the responsibility of the agent.
One common tactic among consequentialists, particularly those committed to an altruistic (selfless) account of consequentialism, is to employ an ideal, neutral observer from which moral judgements can be made. John Rawls, a critic of utilitarianism, argues that utilitarianism, in common with other forms of consequentialism, relies on the perspective of such an ideal observer. The particular characteristics of this ideal observer can vary from an omniscient observer, who would grasp all the consequences of any action, to an ideally informed observer, who knows as much as could reasonably be expected, but not necessarily all the circumstances or all the possible consequences. Consequentialist theories that adopt this paradigm hold that right action is the action that will bring about the best consequences from this ideal observer's perspective.
In practice, it is very difficult, and at times arguably impossible, to adopt the point of view of an ideal observer. Individual moral agents do not know everything about their particular situations, and thus do not know all the possible consequences of their potential actions. For this reason, some theorists have argued that consequentialist theories can only require agents to choose the best action in line with what they know about the situation. However, if this approach is navely adopted, then moral agents who, for example, recklessly fail to reflect on their situation, and act in a way that brings about terrible results, could be said to be acting in a morally justifiable way. Acting in a situation without first informing oneself of the circumstances of the situation can lead to even the most well-intended actions yielding miserable consequences. As a result, it could be argued that there is a moral imperative for an agent to inform himself as much as possible about a situation before judging the appropriate course of action. This imperative, of course, is derived from consequential thinking: a better-informed agent is able to bring about better consequences.
Moral action always has consequences for certain people or things. Varieties of consequentialism can be differentiated by the beneficiary of the good consequences. That is, one might ask "Consequences for whom?"
A fundamental distinction can be drawn between theories which require that agents act for ends perhaps disconnected from their own interests and drives, and theories which permit that agents act for ends in which they have some personal interest or motivation. These are called "agent-neutral" and "agent-focused" theories respectively.
Agent-neutral consequentialism ignores the specific value a state of affairs has for any particular agent. Thus, in an agent-neutral theory, an actor's personal goals do not count any more than anyone else's goals in evaluating what action the actor should take. Agent-focused consequentialism, on the other hand, focuses on the particular needs of the moral agent. Thus, in an agent-focused account, such as one that Peter Railton outlines, the agent might be concerned with the general welfare, but the agent is more concerned with the immediate welfare of herself and her friends and family.
These two approaches could be reconciled by acknowledging the tension between an agent's interests as an individual and as a member of various groups, and seeking to somehow optimize among all of these interests. For example, it may be meaningful to speak of an action as being good for someone as an individual, but bad for them as a citizen of their town.
Many consequentialist theories may seem primarily concerned with human beings and their relationships with other human beings. However, some philosophers argue that we should not limit our ethical consideration to the interests of human beings alone. Jeremy Bentham, who is regarded as the founder of utilitarianism, argues that animals can experience pleasure and pain, thus demanding that 'non-human animals' should be a serious object of moral concern. More recently, Peter Singer has argued that it is unreasonable that we do not give equal consideration to the interests of animals as to those of human beings when we choose the way we are to treat them. Such equal consideration does not necessarily imply identical treatment of humans and non-humans, any more than it necessarily implies identical treatment of all humans.
One way to divide various consequentialisms is by the types of consequences that are taken to matter most, that is, which consequences count as good states of affairs. According to utilitarianism, a good action is one that results in an increase in pleasure, and the best action is one that results in the most pleasure for the greatest number. Closely related is eudaimonic consequentialism, according to which a full, flourishing life, which may or may not be the same as enjoying a great deal of pleasure, is the ultimate aim. Similarly, one might adopt an aesthetic consequentialism, in which the ultimate aim is to produce beauty. However, one might fix on non-psychological goods as the relevant effect. Thus, one might pursue an increase in material equality or political liberty instead of something like the more ephemeral "pleasure". Other theories adopt a package of several goods, all to be promoted equally.
Consequentialism can also be contrasted with aretaic moral theories such as virtue ethics. Whereas consequentialist theories posit that consequences of action should be the primary focus of our thinking about ethics, virtue ethics insists that it is the character rather than the consequences of actions that should be the focal point. Some virtue ethicists hold that consequentialist theories totally disregard the development and importance of moral character. For example, Philippa Foot argues that consequences in themselves have no ethical content, unless it has been provided by a virtue such as benevolence.
However, consequentialism and virtue ethics need not be entirely antagonistic. Philosopher Iain King has developed an approach which reconciles the two schools. Other consequentialists consider effects on the character of people involved in an action when assessing consequence. Similarly, a consequentialist theory may aim at the maximization of a particular virtue or set of virtues. Finally, following Foot's lead, one might adopt a sort of consequentialism that argues that virtuous activity ultimately produces the best consequences.[clarification needed]
The ultimate end is a concept in the moral philosophy of Max Weber, in which individuals act in a faithful, rather than rational, manner.
We must be clear about the fact that all ethically oriented conduct may be guided by one of two fundamentally differing and irreconcilably opposed maxims: conduct can be oriented to an "ethic of ultimate ends" or to an "ethic of responsibility." This is not to say that an ethic of ultimate ends is identical with irresponsibility, or that an ethic of responsibility is identical with unprincipled opportunism. Naturally, nobody says that. However, there is an abysmal contrast between conduct that follows the maxim of an ethic of ultimate endsthat, is in religious terms, "the Christian does rightly and leaves the results with the Lord"and conduct that follows the maxim of an ethic of responsibility, in which case one has to give an account of the foreseeable results of one's action.
Max Weber, Politics as a Vocation, 1918
The term "consequentialism" was coined byG. E. M. Anscombe in her essay "Modern Moral Philosophy" in 1958, to describe what she saw as the central error of certain moral theories, such as those propounded by Mill and Sidgwick.
The phrase and concept of "The end justifies the means" are at least as old as the first century BC. Ovid wrote in his Heroides that Exitus acta probat "The result justifies the deed".
G. E. M. Anscombe objects to consequentialism on the grounds that it does not provide ethical guidance in what one ought to do because there is no distinction between consequences that are foreseen and those that are intended.[full citation needed]
Bernard Williams has argued that consequentialism is alienating because it requires moral agents to put too much distance between themselves and their own projects and commitments. Williams argues that consequentialism requires moral agents to take a strictly impersonal view of all actions, since it is only the consequences, and not who produces them, that are said to matter. Williams argues that this demands too much of moral agentssince (he claims) consequentialism demands that they be willing to sacrifice any and all personal projects and commitments in any given circumstance in order to pursue the most beneficent course of action possible. He argues further that consequentialism fails to make sense of intuitions that it can matter whether or not someone is personally the author of a particular consequence. For example, that participating in a crime can matter, even if the crime would have been committed anyway, or would even have been worse, without the agent's participation.
Some consequentialistsmost notably Peter Railtonhave attempted to develop a form of consequentialism that acknowledges and avoids the objections raised by Williams. Railton argues that Williams's criticisms can be avoided by adopting a form of consequentialism in which moral decisions are to be determined by the sort of life that they express. On his account, the agent should choose the sort of life that will, on the whole, produce the best overall effects.
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Posted: at 10:52 pm
In this lesson, you will explore two different ways of explaining the motivations of your actions. Discover what they have in common and how they are different, and test your understanding with a brief quiz.
My, what an ego you've got. No, don't worry, that's not an insult. I don't mean you're prideful or arrogant; I just mean that you're very self-interested. No, still not an insult. You see, many psychologists believe that self-interest is the basis for all human interactions. And many philosophers believe that even if self-interest isn't necessarily the basis for every action, well, then it should be.
But there's a big difference between what is and what should be. Here, let's take a look at that ego. I promise it's not an insult.
On one side of this is the simple belief about why we act the way we do. Psychological egoism states that human actions are based in self-interest. In this doctrine, we are making a factual claim about human behavior, with absolutely no moral judgments attached. See, I told you not to worry - no one's judging you here.
Psychological egoism is a descriptive theory, meaning that it describes something based on observation and leaves it at that. Descriptive doctrines don't try and describe actions as moral or immoral, good or bad; they simply observe and describe those actions. That also means that we are basing this doctrine in empirical, observable science. Those who believe in psychological egoism do so because their scientific research about human behavior, attitudes, and motivations supports it. And, for it to be a scientific fact, it has to apply to every person, all the time. So, according to this theory, this is just the way things are. People are motivated by self-interest.
Now, one important clarification we should make is that self-interest and selfishness are very different things. Your actions can be purely motivated by doing what's best for you, but sometimes it's in your best interest not to be selfish. In fact, psychologists have observed that selfishness is very commonly not in your best interest. For example, it's selfish to want to take something from a store without paying. But that would be theft, and stealing is against your best interest because you would be arrested. Also, people would treat you differently for being a thief; you could lose your job, and you'll end up in a state prison with face tattoos and fermenting wine in a toilet. It's in your best interest to avoid that.
All right, get the shrinks out of here. We're done talking about scientific facts; it's time to talk some philosophy. Philosophers don't necessarily believe that all human actions are motivated by self-interest, but many believe that they ought to be. Ethical egoism is the theory that a moral action is one that is based in self-interest. According to this doctrine, at the end of the day, the only real value to a person is their own welfare, so acting in your own best interest is always a moral choice.
See the difference between ethical and psychological egoism? While the psychologists state as a fact with no moral judgment that self-interest is the basis of all action, ethicists state that an action should be morally judged for being self-interested.
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Since ethical egoism does not describe what is, but instead what should be, it is a normative theory. Normative doctrines state what is right and wrong and indicate how people should act, so they're not scientific theories, and therefore require philosophical, not scientific, evidence. But, just as with psychological egoism, ethical egoism also advises against being selfish. From a philosophical standpoint, being selfish can be against your best interest, and therefore is immoral.
Say that you have all the apples in town. You could be selfish and keep all the apples; you know you'll eat well, but if you don't share them, everybody in town will hate you. They like apples too, and now they aren't going to help you with other things that you need. So, you've got no friends and nothing but apples. Once again, we see that the moral action is the one that is least selfish, because sharing your apples is actually in your best interest. Turns out, taking an interest in yourself can really take you far.
What motivates our actions? What ought to motivate our actions? Even if the answer is the same, these are two different questions. Psychological egoism is the scientific theory that all human actions are motivated by self-interest. This does not judge any actions as right or wrong, but simply observes and describes them as fact, making this a descriptive doctrine.
On the other side is ethical egoism, the philosophical theory that judges the morality of actions based on their level of self-interest. According to this theory, a moral action is one that is in your best interest, so although people don't always act in their self-interest, they should. That's the difference - psychological egoism states what is; ethical egoism states what should be. But, they both agree that self-interest is in your best interest. See, I told you it wasn't an insult.
See original here:
Posted: December 21, 2016 at 6:50 pm
Psychological egoism is the thesis that we are always deep down motivated by what we perceive to be in our own self-interest. Psychological altruism, on the other hand, is the view that sometimes we can have ultimately altruistic motives. Suppose, for example, that Pam saves Jim from a burning office building. What ultimately motivated her to do this? It would be odd to suggest that its ultimately her own benefit that Pam is seeking. After all, shes risking her own life in the process. But the psychological egoist holds that Pams apparently altruistic act is ultimately motivated by the goal to benefit herself, whether she is aware of this or not. Pam might have wanted to gain a good feeling from being a hero, or to avoid social reprimand that would follow had she not helped Jim, or something along these lines.
Several other egoistic views are related to, but distinct from psychological egoism. Unlike ethical egoism, psychological egoism is merely an empirical claim about what kinds of motives we have, not what they ought to be. So, while the ethical egoist claims that being self-interested in this way is moral, the psychological egoist merely holds that this is how we are. Similarly, psychological egoism is not identical to what is often called psychological hedonism. Psychological hedonism restricts the range of self-interested motivations to only pleasure and the avoidance of pain. Thus, it is a specific version of psychological egoism.
The story of psychological egoism is rather peculiar. Though it is often discussed, it hasnt been explicitly held by many major figures in the history of philosophy. It is most often attributed to only Thomas Hobbes (1651) and Jeremy Bentham (1781). Most philosophers explicitly reject the view, largely based on famous arguments from Joseph Butler (1726). Nevertheless, psychological egoism can be seen as a background assumption of several other disciplines, such as psychology and economics. Moreover, some biologists have suggested that the thesis can be supported or rejected directly based on evolutionary theory or work in sociobiology.
While psychological egoism is undoubtedly an empirical claim, there hasnt always been a substantial body of experimental data that bears on the debate. However, a great deal of empirical work beginning in the late 20th century has largely filled the void. Evidence from biology, neuroscience, and psychology has stimulated a lively interdisciplinary dialogue. Regardless of whether or not the empirical evidence renders a decisive verdict on the debate, it has certainly enriched discussion of the issue.
Psychological egoism is a thesis about motivation, usually with a focus on the motivation of human (intentional) action. It is exemplified in the kinds of descriptions we sometimes give of peoples actions in terms of hidden, ulterior motives. A famous story involving Abraham Lincoln usefully illustrates this (see Rachels 2003, p. 69). Lincoln was allegedly arguing that we are all ultimately self-interested when he suddenly stopped to save a group of piglets from drowning. His interlocutor seized the moment, attempting to point out that Lincoln is a living counter-example to his own theory; Lincoln seemed to be concerned with something other than what he took to be his own well-being. But Lincoln reportedly replied: I should have had no peace of mind all day had I gone on and left that suffering old sow worrying over those pigs. I did it to get peace of mind, dont you see?
The psychological egoist holds that descriptions of our motivation, like Lincolns, apply to all of us in every instance. The story illustrates that there are many subtle moves for the defender of psychological egoism to make. So it is important to get a clear idea of the competing egoistic versus altruistic theories and of the terms of the debate between them.
Egoism is often contrasted with altruism. Although the egoism-altruism debate concerns the possibility of altruism in some sense, the ordinary term "altruism" may not track the issue that is of primary interest here. In at least one ordinary use of the term, for someone to act altruistically depends on her being motivated solely by a concern for the welfare of another, without any ulterior motive to simply benefit herself. Altruism here is a feature of the motivation that underlies the action (Sober & Wilson 1998, p. 199). (Another sense of "altruism"often used in a fairly technical sense in biologyis merely behavioral; see 4a.) To this extent, this ordinary notion of altruism is close to what is of philosophical interest. But there are differences. For instance, ordinarily we seem to only apply the term altruism to fairly atypical actions, such as those of great self-sacrifice or heroism. But the debate about psychological egoism concerns the motivations that underlie all of our actions (Nagel 1970/1978, p. 16, n. 1).
Regardless of ordinary terminology, the view philosophers label psychological egoism has certain key features. Developing a clear and precise account of the egoism-altruism debate is more difficult than it might seem at first. To make the task easier, we may begin with quite bare and schematic definitions of the positions in the debate (May 2011, p. 27; compare also Rosas 2002, p. 98):
We will use the term desire here in a rather broad sense to simply mean a motivational mental statewhat we might ordinarily call a motive or reason in at least one sense of those terms. But what is an ultimate desire, and when is it altruistic rather than egoistic? Answering these and related questions will provide the requisite framework for the debate.
We can begin to add substance to our bare theses by characterizing what it is to have an altruistic versus an egoistic desire. As some philosophers have pointed out, the psychological egoist claims that all of ones ultimate desires concern oneself in some sense. However, we must make clear that an egoistic desire exclusively concerns ones own well-being, benefit, or welfare. A malevolent ultimate desire for the destruction of an enemy does not concern oneself, but it is hardly altruistic (Feinberg 1965/1999, 9, p. 497; Sober & Wilson 1998, p. 229).
Similarly, despite its common use in this context, the term selfish is not appropriate here either. The psychological egoist claims that we ultimately only care about (what we consider to be) our own welfare, but this neednt always amount to selfishness. Consider an ultimate desire to take a nap that is well-deserved and wont negatively affect anyone. While this concerns ones own benefit, there is no sense in which it is selfish (Henson 1988, 7; Sober & Wilson 1998, p. 227). The term self-interest is more fitting.
With these points in mind, we can characterize egoistic and altruistic desires in the following way:
Its important that the desire in some sense represents the person as oneself (or, as the case may be, as another). For example, suppose that John wants to help put out a fire in the hair of a man who appears to be in front of him, but he doesnt know that hes actually looking into a mirror, and its his own hair thats ablaze. If Johns desire is ultimate and is simply to help the man with his hair in flames, then it is necessary to count his desire as concerning someone other than himself, even though he is in fact the man with his hair on fire (Oldenquist 1980, pp. 27-8; Sober & Wilson 1998, p. 214).
The reason for the focus on ultimate desires is that psychological egoists dont deny that we often have desires that are altruistic. They do claim, however, that all such altruistic desires ultimately depend on an egoistic desire that is more basic. In other words, we have an ulterior motive when we help othersone that likely tends to fly below the radar of consciousness or introspection.
Thus, we must draw a common philosophical distinction between desires that are for a means to an end and desires for an end in itself. Instrumental desires are those desires one has for something as a means for something else; ultimate desires are those desires one has for something as an end in itself, not as a means to something else (see Sober & Wilson 1998, pp. 217-222). The former are often called extrinsic desires and the latter intrinsic desires (see e.g. Mele 2003 Ch. 1.8.). Desires for pleasure and the avoidance of pain are paradigmatic ultimate desires, since people often desire these as ends in themselves, not as a mere means to anything else. But the class of ultimate desires may include much more than this.
There are two important aspects to highlight regarding how psychological egoism and altruism relate to one another. First, psychological egoism makes a stronger, universal claim that all of our ultimate desires are egoistic, while psychological altruism merely makes the weaker claim that some of our ultimate desires are altruistic. Thus, the former is a monistic thesis, while the latter is a pluralistic thesis (Sober & Wilson 1998, p. 228). Consequently, psychological egoism is easier to refute than the opposing view. If one were to successfully demonstrate that someeven just oneof a persons ultimate desires are altruistic, then we can safely reject psychological egoism. For example, if Thomas removes his heel from anothers gouty toe because he has an ultimate desire that the person benefit from it, then psychological egoism is false.
Second, the positions in the debate are not exactly the denial of one another, provided there are desires that are neither altruistic nor egoistic (Stich, Doris, & Roedder 2010, sect. 2). To take an example from Bernard Williams, a madman might have an ultimate desire for a chimpanzees tea party to be held in the cathedral (1973, p. 263). He does not desire this as a means to some other end, such as enjoyment at the sight of such a spectacle (he might, for example, secure this in his will for after his death). Assuming the desire for such a tea party is neither altruistic nor egoistic (because it doesnt have to do with anyones well-being), would it settle the egoism-altruism debate? Not entirely. It would show that psychological egoism is false, since it would demonstrate that some of our ultimate desires are not egoistic. However, it would not show that psychological altruism is true, since it does not show that some of our ultimate desires are altruistic. Likewise, suppose that psychological altruism is false because none of our ultimate desires concern the benefit of others. If that is true, psychological egoism is not thereby true. It too could be false if we sometimes have ultimate desires that are not egoistic, like the madmans. The point is that the theses are contraries: they cannot both be true, but they can both be false.
Philosophers dont have much sympathy for psychological egoism. Indeed, the only major figures in the history of philosophy to endorse the view explicitly are arguably Thomas Hobbes and Jeremy Bentham. Some might also include Aristotle (compare Feinberg 1965/1999, p. 501) and John Stuart Mill (compare Sidgwick 1874/1907, 220.127.116.11), but there is some room for interpreting them otherwise. Hobbes explicitly states in Leviathan (1651/1991):
no man giveth but with intention of good to himself, because gift is voluntary; and of all voluntary acts, the object is to every man his own good; of which, if men see they shall be frustrated, there will be no beginning of benevolence or trust, nor consequently of mutual help. (Ch. XV, p. 47)
In a similar vein, Bentham famously opens his Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1781/1991) with this:
Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do. On the one hand the standard of right and wrong, on the other the chain of causes and effects, are fastened to their throne. (p. 313)
Here Bentham appears to endorse a specific version of psychological egoism, namely psychological hedonism. This view restricts the kind of self-interest we can ultimately desire to pleasure or the avoidance of pain. Unfortunately, Hobbes and Bentham dont offer much in the way of arguments for these views; they tend to just assume them.
One tempting argument for psychological egoism is based on what seem to be conceptual truths about (intentional) action. For example, many hold that all of ones actions are motivated by ones own desires. This might seem to directly support psychological egoism because it shows that we are all out to satisfy our own desires (compare Hobbes). In his famous Fifteen Sermons, Bishop Butler (1726/1991) anticipates such an argument for the universality of egoistic desires (or self-love) in the following manner:
[B]ecause every particular affection is a mans own, and the pleasure arising from its gratification his own pleasure, or pleasure to himself, such particular affection must be called self-love; according to this way of speaking, no creature whatever can possibly act but merely from self-love. (Sermon XI, p. 366)
However, as Butler goes on to say, this line of argument rests on a mistake or at least a play on words. Many philosophers have subsequently reinforced Butlers objection, often pointing to two intertwined confusions: one based on our desires being ours, another based on equivocation on the word satisfaction. On the former confusion, C. D. Broad says it is true that all impulses belong to a self but it is not true that the object of any of them is the general happiness of the self who owns them (1930/2000, p. 65).
Similarly, the second confusion fails to distinguish between what Bernard Williams calls desiring the satisfaction of ones desire and desiring ones own satisfaction (1973, p. 261). The word satisfaction in the latter case is the more ordinary use involving ones own pleasure or happiness. If all actions are motivated by a desire for this, then psychological egoism is indeed established. But the basic consideration from the theory of action we began with was merely that all actions are motivated by a desire of ones own, which is meant to be satisfied. However, this employs a different notion of satisfaction, which merely means that the person got what she wanted (Feinberg 1965/1999, p. 496). The claim that everyone is out to satisfy their own desires is a fairly uninteresting one, since it doesnt show that we are motivated by self-interest. If Mother Teresa did have an altruistic desire for the benefit of another, it is no count against her that she sought to satisfy itthat is, bring about the benefit of another. This argument for psychological egoism, then, seems to rely on an obviously false view of self-interest as desire-satisfaction.
A major theoretical attraction of psychological egoism is parsimony. It provides a simple account of human motivation and offers a unified explanation of all our actions. Although actions may vary in content, the ultimate source is self-interest: doing well at ones job is merely to gain the favor of ones boss; returning a wallet is merely to avoid the pang of guilt that would follow keeping it; saying thank you for a meal is merely to avoid social reprimand for failing to conform to etiquette; and so on.
One might dispute whether psychological egoism is any more parsimonious than psychological altruism (Sober & Wilson 1998, pp. 292-3). More importantly, however, it is no argument for a view that it is simpler than its competitors. Perhaps we might employ Ockhams Razor as a sort of tie-breaker to adjudicate between two theories when they are equal in all other respects, but this involves more than just simplicity (Sober & Wilson 1998, pp. 293-5). As David Hume puts it, psychological egoism shouldnt be based solely on that love of simplicity which has been the source of much false reasoning in philosophy (1751/1998, p. 166). The heart of the debate then is whether there are other reasons to prefer one view over the other.
Perhaps the psychological egoist neednt appeal to parsimony or erroneous conceptions of self-interest. Bentham, after all, suggests that ordinary experience shows that we are ultimately motivated to gain pleasure or avoid pain (1781/1991, Ch. 3). Perhaps one could extrapolate an argument on behalf of psychological egoism along the following lines (Feinberg 1965/1999, sect. 4, p. 495). Experience shows that people must be taught to care for others with carrots and stickswith reward and punishment. So seemingly altruistic ultimate desires are merely instrumental to egoistic ones; we come to believe that we must be concerned with the interests of others in order to gain rewards and avoid punishment for ourselves (compare the argument in 5a).
This line of reasoning is rather difficult to evaluate given that it rests on an empirical claim about moral development and learning. Ordinary experience does show that sometimes its necessary to impose sanctions on children for them to be nice and caring. But even if this occurs often, it doesn't support a universal claim that it always does. Moreover, there is a growing body of evidence gathered by developmental psychologists indicating that young children have a natural, unlearned concern for others. There is some evidence, for example, that children as young as 14-months will spontaneously help a person they believe is in need (Warneken & Tomasello 2007). It seems implausible that children have learned at such a young agethat this behavior will be benefit themselves. On the other hand, such empirical results do not necessarily show that the ultimate motivation behind such action is altruistic. The psychological egoist could argue that we still possess ultimately egoistic desires (perhaps we are simply born believing that concern for others will benefit oneself). However, the developmental evidence still undermines the moral education argument by indicating that our concern for the welfare others is not universally learned from birth by sanctions of reward and punishment.
Another argument for psychological egoism relies on the idea that we often blur our conception of ourselves and others when we are benevolent. Consider the paradigm of apparently selfless motivation: concern for family, especially ones children. Francis Hutcheson anticipates the objection when he imagines a psychological egoist proclaiming: Children are not only made of our bodies, but resemble us in body and mind; they are rational agents as we are, and we only love our own likeness in them (1725/1991, p. 279, Raphael sect. 327). And this might seem to be supported by recent empirical research. After all, social psychologists have discovered that we tend to feel more empathy for others we perceive to be in need when they are similar to us in various respects and when we take on their perspective (Batson 1991; see 5b). In fact, some psychologists have endorsed precisely this sort of self-other merging argument for an egoistic view (for example, Cialdini, Brown, Lewis, Luce, and Neuberg 1997).
One might doubt, however, whether a self-other merging account is able to explain helping behavior in an egoistic way. For example, it would be quite implausible to say that we literally believe we exist in two different bodies when feeling empathy for someone. The most credible reading of the proposal is that we conceptually blur the distinction between ourselves and others in the relevant cases. Yet this would seem to require, contrary to fact, that our behavior reflects this blurring. If we think of the boundary between ourselves and another as indeterminate, presumably our helping behavior would reflect such indeterminacy. (For further discussion, see Hutcheson 1725/1991, pp. 279-80; Batson 2011, ch. 6; May 2011.)
Considering the arguments, the case for psychological egoism seems rather weak. But is there anything to be said directly against it? This section examines some of the most famous arguments philosophers have proposed against the view.
Bishop Joseph Butler provides a famous argument against psychological egoism (focusing on hedonism) in his Fifteen Sermons. The key passage is the following:
That all particular appetites and passions are towards external things themselves, distinct from the pleasure arising from them, is manifested from hence; that there could not be this pleasure, were it not for that prior suitableness between the object and the passion: there could be no enjoyment or delight from one thing more than another, from eating food more than from swallowing a stone, if there were not an affection or appetite to one thing more than another. (1726/1991, Sermon XI, p. 365)
Many philosophers have championed this argument, whichElliott Sober and David Sloan Wilson (1998) have dubbed Butlers stone. Broad (1930/2000), for example, writes that Butler killed the theory [of psychological egoism] so thoroughly that he sometimes seems to the modern reader to be flogging dead horses (p. 55).
Butlers idea is that the experience of pleasure upon attaining something presupposes (or at least strongly indicates) a desire for the thing attained, not the pleasure itself. After all, we typically do not experience pleasure upon getting something (like food) unless we want it.The pleasure that accompanies the fulfillment of our desires is often a mere byproduct of our prior desire for the thing that gave us pleasure. Often we feel pleasure upon getting what we want precisely because we wanted what gave us pleasure. Consider, for example, getting second place in a race. This would make a runner happy if she wants to get second place; but it would not if she doesn't want this at all (e.g. she only wants first place).
While Butler's version of the argument may be overly ambitious in various respects (Sidgwick1874/1907, 18.104.22.168;Sober and Wilson 1998, p. 278), the best version is probably something like the following (compare the"disinterested benevolence" argument in Feinberg1965/1999, c8):
The basic idea is that pleasure (or self-interest generally) cant be our universal concern because having it sometimespresupposes a desire for something other than pleasure itself.Many philosophers have endorsed this sort of argument, not only against hedonism but more generally against egoism (Hume 1751/1998, App. 2.12; Broad 1950/1952; Nagel 1970/1978, p. 80, n. 1; Feinberg 1965/1999).
Sober and Wilson, however, make the case that such arguments are seriously flawed at least because the conclusion does not follow from the premises (1998, p. 278).That is, the premises, even if true, fail to establish the conclusion. The main problem is that such arguments tell us nothing about which desires are ultimate. Even if the experience of pleasure sometimes presupposes a desire for the pleasurable object, it is still left open whether the desire for what generated the pleasure is merely instrumental to a desire for pleasure (or some other form of self-interest). Consider the following causal chain, using to mean caused (see Sober & Wilson 1998, p. 278):
Desire for food Eating Pleasure
According to Butler, the experience of pleasure upon eating some food allows us to infer the existence of a desire for food. This is all the argument gets us. Yet Butler's opponent, the egoist, maintains that the desire for food is subsequent to and dependent on an ultimate desire for pleasure (or some other form of self-interest):
Ultimate desire for pleasure Desire for food Eating Pleasure
This egoistic picture is entirely compatible with Butler's claims about presupposition. So, even if the premises are true, it does not follow that egoism is false.
Butler would need a stronger premise, such as: pleasurepresupposes an ultimate desire for what generated it, not for the resulting benefit. But this revision would plausibly make the argument question-begging. The new premise seems to amount to nothing more than the denial of psychological egoism: sometimes people havean ultimate desire for something other than self-interest. At the very least, the argument is dialectically unhelpfulit offers premises in support of the conclusion that are as controversial as the conclusion is, and for similar reasons.
Still, a general lesson can clearly be gained from arguments like Butler's. Psychological egoists cannot establish their view simply by pointing to the pleasure or self-benefit that accompanies so many actions. After all, often self-benefit only seems to be what we ultimately desire, though a closer look reveals benefits like pleasure are likely justbyproducts while the proximate desire is for that which generates them. As Hume puts it, sometimes "we are impelled immediately to seek particular objects, such as fame or power, or vengeance without any regard to interest; and when these objects are attained a pleasing enjoyment ensues, as the consequence of our indulged affections" (1751/1998, App. 2.12, emphasis added). Perhaps Butler's point is best seen as a formidable objection to a certain kind of argument for egoism, rather than a positive argument against the theory.
A simple argument against psychological egoism is that it seems obviously false. As Francis Hutcheson proclaims: An honest farmer will tell you, that he studies the preservation and happiness of his children, and loves them without any design of good to himself (1725/1991, p. 277, Raphael sect. 327). Likewise, Hume rhetorically asks, What interest can a fond mother have in view, who loses her health by assiduous attendance on her sick child, and afterwards languishes and dies of grief, when freed, by its death, from the slavery of that attendance? (1751/1998, App. 2.9, p. 167). Building on this observation, Hume takes the most obvious objection to psychological egoism to be that:
as it is contrary to common feeling and our most unprejudiced notions, there is required the highest stretch of philosophy to establish so extraordinary a paradox. To the most careless observer there appear to be such dispositions as benevolence and generosity; such affections as love, friendship, compassion, gratitude.  And as this is the obvious appearance of things, it must be admitted, till some hypothesis be discovered, which by penetrating deeper into human nature, may prove the former affections to be nothing but modifications of the latter. (1751/1998, App. 2.6, p. 166)
Here Hume is offering a burden-shifting argument. The idea is that psychological egoism is implausible on its face, offering strained accounts of apparently altruistic actions. So the burden of proof is on the egoist to show us why we should believe the view; yet the attempts so far have hitherto proved fruitless, according to Hume (1751/1998, App. 2.6, p. 166). Similarly, C. D. Broad (1950/1952) and Bernard Williams (1973, pp. 262-3) consider various examples of actions that seem implausible to characterize as ultimately motivated by self-interest.
Given the arguments, it is still unclear why we should consider psychological egoism to be obviously untrue. One might appeal to introspection or common sense; but neither is particularly powerful. First, the consensus among psychologists is that a great number of our mental states, even our motives, are not accessible to consciousness or cannot reliably be reported on through the use of introspection (see, for example, Nisbett and Wilson 1977). While introspection, to some extent, may be a decent source of knowledge of our own minds, it is fairly suspect to reject an empirical claim about potentially unconscious motivations. Besides, one might report universally egoistic motives based on introspection (e.g. Mercer 2001, pp. 229-30). Second, shifting the burden of proof based on common sense is rather limited. Sober and Wilson (1998, p. 288) go so far as to say that we have no business taking common sense at face value in the context of an empirical hypothesis. Even if we disagree with their claim and allow a larger role for shifting burdens of proof via common sense, it still may have limited use, especially when the common sense view might be reasonably cast as supporting either position in the egoism-altruism debate. Here, instead of appeals to common sense, it would be of greater use to employ more secure philosophical arguments and rigorous empirical evidence.
Another popular complaint about psychological egoism is that it seems to be immune to empirical refutation; it is unfalsifiable. And this is often taken to be a criterion for an empirical theory: any view that isnt falsifiable isnt a genuine, credible scientific theory (see Karl Poppers Falsificationism). The worry for psychological egoism is that it will fail to meet this criterion if any commonly accepted altruistic action can be explained away as motivated by some sort of self-interest. Joel Feinberg, for example, writes:
Until we know what they [psychological egoists] would count as unselfish behavior, we cant very well know what they mean when they say that all voluntary behavior is selfish. And at this point we may suspect that they are holding their theory in a privileged positionthat of immunity to evidence, that they would allow no conceivable behavior to count as evidence against it. What they say then, if true, must be true in virtue of the way they defineor redefinethe word selfish. And in that case, it cannot be an empirical hypothesis. (1965/1999, 18, p. 503; see also 14-19)
As we have seen (1b), psychological egoism neednt hold that all our ultimate desires are selfish. But Feinbergs point is that we need to know what would count as empirical evidence against the existence of an egoistic ultimate desire.
This objection to psychological egoism has three substantial problems. First, falsification criteria for empirical theories are problematic and have come under heavy attack. In addition its unclear why we should think the view is false. Perhaps it is a bad scientific theory or a view we shouldnt care much about, but it is not thereby false. Second, any problems that afflict psychological egoism on this front will also apply to the opposing view (Sober & Wilson 1998, p. 290). After all, psychological altruism is a pluralistic thesis that includes both egoistic and altruistic motives. Third, and most importantly, a charitable construal of psychological egoism renders it falsifiable. As we have seen, psychological egoists have a clear account of what would falsify it: an ultimate desire that is not egoistic. While it may be difficult to detect the ultimate motives of people, the view is in principle falsifiable. In fact, it is empirically testable, as we shall see below.
Another popular objection to various forms of psychological egoism is often called the paradox of hedonism, which was primarily popularized by Henry Sidgwick (1874/1907, 22.214.171.124). It is usually directed at psychological hedonism, but the problem can be extended to psychological egoism generally.
When the target is only hedonism, the paradox is that we tend to attain more pleasure by focusing on things other than pleasure. Likewise, when directed at egoism generally, the idea is that we will tend not to benefit ourselves by focusing on our own benefit. Consider someone, Jones, who is ultimately concerned with his own well-being, not the interests of others (the example is adapted from Feinberg 1965/1999, p. 498, sect. 11). Two things will seemingly hold: (a) such a person would eventually lack friends, close relationships, etc. and (b) this will lead to much unhappiness. This seems problematic for a theory that says all of our ultimate desires are for our own well-being.
Despite its popularity, this sort of objection to psychological egoism is quite questionable. There are several worries about the premises of the argument, such as the claim that ultimate concern for oneself diminishes ones own well-being (see Sober & Wilson 1998, p. 280). Most importantly, the paradox is only potentially an issue for a version of egoism that prescribes ultimate concern for oneself, such as normative egoism (Sober & Wilson 1998, p. 280). The futility of ultimate concern for oneself can only undermine claims such as We should only ultimately care about our own well-being since this allegedly would not lead to happiness. But psychological egoism is a descriptive thesis. Even if egoistic ultimate desires lead to unhappiness, that would only show that egoistically motivated people will find this unfortunate.
Despite its widespread rejection among philosophers, philosophical arguments against psychological egoism arent overwhelmingly powerful. However, the theses in this debate are ultimately empirical claims about human motivation. So we can also look to more empirical disciplines, such as biology and psychology, to advance the debate. Biology in particular contains an abundance of literature on altruism. But, as we will see, much of it is rather tangential to the thesis of psychological altruism.
The ordinary (psychological) sense of altruism is different from altruism as discussed in biology. For example, sociobiologists, such as E. O. Wilson, often theorize about the biological basis of altruism by focusing on the behavior of non-human animals. But this is altruism only in the sense of helpful behavior that seems to be at some cost to the helper. It says nothing about the motivations for such behavior, which is of interest to us here. Similarly, altruism is a label commonly used in a technical sense as a problem for evolutionary theory (see Altruism and Group Selection). What we might separately label evolutionary altruism occurs whenever an organism reduces its own fitness and augments the fitness of others regardless of the motivation behind it (Sober & Wilson 1998, p. 199). Distinguishing the psychological sense of altruism from other uses of the term is crucial if we are to look to biology to contribute to the debate on ultimate desires.
Given the multiple uses of terms, discussion of altruism and self-interest in evolutionary theory can often seem directly relevant to the psychological egoism-altruism debate. One might think, for example, that basic facts about evolution show were motivated by self-interest. Consider our desire for water. We have this perhaps solely because it enhanced the evolutionary fitness of our ancestors, by helping them stay alive and thus to propagate their genes. And evolutionary theory plausibly uncovers this sort of gene-centered story for many features of organisms. Richard Dawkins offers us some ideas of this sort. Although he emphasizes that the term selfish, as he applies it to genes, is merely metaphorical, he says we have the power to defy the selfish genes of our birth let us try to teach generosity and altruism because we are born selfish (1976/2006, p. 3).
But we should be careful not to let the self-centered origin of our traits overshadow the traits themselves. Even if all of our desires are due to evolutionary adaptations (which is a strong claim), this is only the origin of them. Consider again the desire for water. It might exist only because it can help propagate ones genes, but the desire is still for water, not to propagate ones genes (compare the Genetic Fallacy). As Simon Blackburn points out, Dawkins is following a long tradition in implying that biology carries simple messages for understanding the sociology and psychology of human beings (1998, p. 146). To be fair, in a later edition of The Selfish Gene, Dawkins recognizes his folly and asks the reader to ignore such rogue sentences (p. ix). In any event, we must avoid what Blackburn polemically calls the biologists fallacy of inferring the true psychology of the person from the fact that his or her genes have proved good at replicating over time (p. 147). The point is that we must avoid simple leaps from biology to psychology without substantial argument (see also Stich et al. 2010, sect. 3).
Philosopher Elliott Sober and biologist David Sloan Wilson (1998) have made careful and sophisticated arguments for the falsity of psychological egoism directly from considerations in evolutionary biology. Their contention is the following: Natural selection is unlikely to have given us purely egoistic motives (p. 12). To establish this, they focus on parental care, an other-regarding behavior in humans, whose mechanism is plausibly due to natural selection. Assuming such behavior is mediated by what the organism believes and desires, we can inquire into the kinds of mental mechanisms that could have evolved. The crucial question becomes: Is it more likely that such a mechanism for parental care would, as psychological egoism holds, involve only egoistic ultimate desires? To answer this question, Sober and Wilson focus on just one version of egoism, and what they take to be the most difficult to refute: psychological hedonism (p. 297). The hedonistic mechanism always begins with the ultimate desire for pleasure and the avoidance of pain. The mechanism consistent with psychological altruism, however, is pluralistic: some ultimate desires are hedonistic, but others are altruistic.
According to Sober and Wilson, there are three main factors that could affect the likelihood that a mechanism evolved: availability, reliability, and energetic efficiency (pp. 305-8). First, the genes that give rise to the mechanism must be available in the pool for selection. Second, the mechanism mustnt conflict with the organisms reproductive fitness; they must reliably produce the relevant fitness-enhancing outcome (such as viability of offspring). And third, they must do this efficiently, without yielding a significant cost to the organisms own fitness-enhancing resources. Sober and Wilson find no reason to believe that a hedonistic mechanism would be more or less available or energetically efficient. The key difference, they contend, is reliability: Pluralism was just as available as hedonism, it was more reliable, and hedonism provides no advantage in terms of energetic efficiency (p. 323).
Sober and Wilson make several arguments for the claim that the pluralistic mechanism is more reliable. But one key disadvantage of a hedonistic mechanism, they argue, is that its heavily mediated by beliefs (p. 314). For example, in order to produce parental care given the ultimate desire for pleasure, one must believe that helping ones child will provide one with sufficient pleasure over competing alternative courses of action:
(Ultimate) Desire for Pleasure Believe Helping Provides Most Pleasure Desire to Help
Moreover, such beliefs must be true, otherwise it's likely the instrumental desire to help will eventually extinguish, and then the fitness-enhancing outcome of parental care wont occur. The pluralistic model, however, is comparatively less complicated since it can just deploy an ultimate desire to help:
(Ultimate) Desire to Help
Since the pluralistic mechanism doesnt rely on as many beliefs, it is less susceptible to lack of available evidence for maintaining them. So yielding the fitness-enhancing outcome of parental care will be less vulnerable to disruption. Sober and Wilson (p. 314) liken the hedonistic mechanism to a Rube Goldberg machine, partly because it accomplishes its goal through overly complex means. Each link in the chain is susceptible to error, which makes the mechanism less reliable at yielding the relevant outcome.
Such arguments have not gone undisputed (see, for example, Stich et al. 2010, sect. 3). Yet they still provide a sophisticated way to connect evolutionary considerations with psychological egoism. In the next section well consider more direct ways for addressing the egoism-altruism debate empirically.
Psychological egoism is an empirical claim; however, considerations from biology provide only one route to addressing the egoism-altruism debate empirically. Another, perhaps more direct, approach is to examine empirical work on the mind itself.
In the 20th century, one of the earliest philosophical discussions of egoism as it relates to research in psychology comes from Michael Slote (1964). He argues that there is at least potentially a basis for psychological egoism in behavioristic theories of learning, championed especially by psychologists such as B. F. Skinner. Slote writes that such theories posit a certain number of basically selfish, unlearned primary drives or motives (like hunger, thirst, sleep, elimination, and sex), and explain all other, higher-order drives or motives as derived genetically from the primary ones via certain laws of reinforcement (p. 530). This theory importantly makes the additional claim that the higher-order motives, including altruistic ones, are not functionally autonomous. That is, they are merely instrumental to (functionally dependent on) the egoistic ultimate desires. According to Slote, the basic support for functional dependence is the following: If we cut off all reinforcement of [the instrumental desire] by primary rewards (rewards of primary [egoistic] drives), then the altruistic desire actually does extinguish (p. 531). Thus, all altruistic desires are merely instrumental to ultimately egoistic ones; we have merely learned through conditioning that benefiting others benefits ourselves. That, according to Slote, is what the behavioristic learning theory maintains.
Like the moral education argument, Slote's is vulnerable to work in developmental psychology indicating that some prosocial behavior is not conditioned (see 2c). Moreover, behavioristic approaches throughout psychology have been widely rejected in the wake of the cognitive revolution. Learning theorists now recognize mechanisms that go quite beyond the tools of behaviorism (beyond mere classical and operant conditioning). Slote does only claim to have established the following highly qualified thesis: It would seem, then, that, as psychology stands today, there is at least some reason to think that the psychological theory we have been discussing may be true (p. 537); and he appears to reject psychological egoism in his later work. In any event, more recent empirical research is more apt and informative to this debate.
Philosopher Carolyn Morillo (1990) has defended a version of psychological hedonism based on more recent neuroscientific work primarily done on rats. Morillo argues for a strongly monistic theory of motivation that is grounded in internal reward events, which holds that we [ultimately] desire these reward events because we find them to be intrinsically satisfying (p. 173). The support for her claim is primarily evidence that the reward center of the brain, which is the spring of motivation, is the same as the pleasure center, which indicates that the basic reward driving action is pleasure.
Morillo admits though that the idea is "highly speculative" and based on "empirical straws in the wind." Furthermore, philosopher Timothy Schroeder (2004) argues that later work in neuroscience casts serious doubt on the identification of the reward event with pleasure.In short, by manipulating rats' brains, neuroscientist Kent Berridge and colleagues have provided substantial evidence thatbeing motivated to get something is entirely separable from "liking" it (that is, from its generating pleasure). Against Morillo, Schroeder concludes that the data are better explained by the hypothesis that the reward center of the brain can indirectly activate the pleasure center than by the hypothesis that either is such a center (p. 81, emphasis added; see also Schroeder, Roskies, and Nichols 2010, pp. 105-6.)
Other empirical work that bears on the existence of altruistic motives can be found in the study of empathy-induced helping behavior. Beginning around the 1980s, C. Daniel Batson and other social psychologists addressed the debate head on by examining such phenomena.Batson (1991; 2011), in particular, argues that the experiments conducted provide evidence for an altruistic model, the empathy-altruism hypothesis, which holds that as empathic feeling for a person in need increases, altruistic motivation to have that persons need relieved increases (1991, p. 72). In other words, the hypothesis states that empathy tends to induce in us ultimate desires for the well-being of someone other than ourselves. If true, this entails that psychological egoism is false.
Batson comes to this conclusion by concentrating on a robust effect of empathy on helping behavior discovered in the 1970s.The empathy-helping relationship is the finding that the experience of relatively high empathy for another perceived to be in need causes people to help the other more than relatively low empathy. However, as Batson recognizes, this doesnt establish psychological altruism, because it doesnt specify whether the ultimate desire is altruistic or egoistic. Given that there can be both egoistic and altruistic explanations of the empathy-helping relationship, Batson and others have devised experiments to test them.
The general experimental approach involves placing ordinary people in situations in which they have an opportunity to help someone they think is in need while manipulating other variables in the situation. The purpose is to provide circumstances in which egoistic versus altruistic explanations of empathy-induced helping behavior make different predictions about what people will do. Different hypotheses then provide either egoistic or altruistic explanations of why the subjects ultimately chose to help or offer to help. (For detailed discussions of the background assumptions involved here, see Batson 1991, pp. 64-67; Sober & Wilson 1998, Ch. 6; Stich, Doris, and Roedder 2010.)
Several egoistic explanations of the empathy-helping relationship are in competition with the empathy-altruism hypothesis.Each one claims that experiences of relatively high empathy (empathic arousal) causes subjects to help simply because it induces an egoistic ultimate desire; the desire to help the other is solely instrumental to the ultimate desire to benefit oneself. However, the experiments seem to rule out all the plausible (and some rather implausible) egoistic explanations. For example, if those feeling higher amounts of empathy help only because they want to reduce the discomfort of the situation, then they should help less frequently when they know their task is over and they can simply leave the experiment without helping. Yet this prediction has been repeatedly disconfirmed (Batson 1991, ch. 8). A host of experiments have similarly disconfirmed a range of egoistic hypotheses. The cumulative results evidently show that the empathy-helping relationship is not put in place by egoistic ultimate desires to either:
Furthermore, according to Batson, the data all conform to the empathy-altruism hypothesis, which claims that empathic arousal induces an ultimate desire for the person in need to be helped (see Batson 1991; for a relatively brief review, see Batson & Shaw 1991).
Some have argued against Batson that there are plausible egoistic explanations not ruled out by the data collected thus far (e.g. Cialdini et al. 1997; Sober & Wilson 1998, Ch. 8; Stich, Doris, and Roedder 2010). However, many egoistic explanations have been tested along similar lines and appear to be disconfirmed. While Batson admits that more studies can and should be done on this topic, he ultimately concludes that we are at least tentatively justified in believing that the empathy-altruism hypothesis is true. Thus, he contends that psychological egoism is false:"Contrary to the beliefs of Hobbes, La Rochefoucauld, Mandeville, and virtually all psychologists, altruistic concern for the welfare of others is within the human repertoire" (1991, p. 174).
It seems philosophical arguments against psychological egoism arent quite as powerful as we might expect given the widespread rejection of the theory among philosophers. So the theory is arguably more difficult to refute than many have tended to suppose. It is important to keep in mind, however, that the theory makes a rather strong, universal claim that all of our ultimate desires are egoistic, making it easy to cast doubt on such a view given that it takes only one counter-example to refute it.
Another important conclusion is that empirical work can contribute to the egoism-altruism debate. There is now a wealth of data emerging in various disciplines that addresses this fascinating and important debate about the nature of human motivation. While some have argued that the jury is still out, it is clear that the rising interdisciplinary dialogue is both welcome and constructive. Perhaps with the philosophical and empirical arguments taken together we can declare substantial progress.
Joshua May Email: email@example.com University of Alabama at Birmingham U. S. A.
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Posted: December 7, 2016 at 8:00 am
Definition. Individuals naturally act in their own interest; i.e., act to increase their own good or benefit.
Some of the Strongest Arguments in Favor
1. Many examples of such behavior, a known, sufficient, representative number of cases to allow induction.
2. Explanations of counter-examples as actually instances of egoism. A person desires some kind of good or benefit whether fame, being well-liked, or eternal life. Even someone who gives away most of their money to charity anonymously gets a sense of satisfaction---even if there is no other reward. Even a soldier who jumps on a grenade to save the lives of her buddies is actually doing action for own good or benefit.
Some of the Strongest Arguments Against Psychological Egoism:
1. Counter-examples of altruism, especially if these are "natural" impulses. (E.g., Mencius passerby who rescues a child from falling into a well.) Note: One does not have to demonstrate that persons always act altruistically--only that this has happened at least once.
2. Responses to psychological egoist claims that any counter-example is actually an example of egoism:
a) Is satisfaction or a good feeling the same as self-interest?
b) A person can have multiple motives, only one of which is self-interest. Often altruism and egoism co-exist and are compatible.
c) Whatever counter-examples opponents offer, psychological. egoists will always explain them as boiling down to self-interest. Therefore, psychological. egoism is an A priori premise, a closed argument, not an empirically demonstrable thesis.
3. Free will/determinism.
For more detailed arguments see article on "Egoism" in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy at http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/egoism/ , the article in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy at http://www.iep.utm.edu/e/egoism.htm ,, and on e-reserve Tom L. Beauchamp, Philosophical Ethics: An Introduction to Moral Philosophy, 56-66.
Definition. Individuals ought to act in their own interest; i.e., act to increase their own good or benefit. They have a choice. They should choose to act in their own interest.
Some of the Strongest Arguments in Favor.
a. Each person most knowledgeable judge.
b. Adam Smiths "Invisible Hand" type of argument (called "conditional egoism" in the IEP web reading listed below.)
c. To criticisms of egoism as causing unacceptable harm to others: replies that caring for others and cooperation are actually in each individuals long run best interest.
Some of the Strongest Arguments Against.
a. Universalism: Should everyone be an ethical egoist? Related to b.
b. Conflict of Interests - no way to resolve
c. Actually, in many cases an argument for utilitarianism as with Smith.
d. Humans have a social character that ethical egoism may cause them to seek to buck. .
For more detailed arguments see the article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy online at http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/egoism/the article in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy at http://www.iep.utm.edu/e/egoism.htm , and on e-reserve Tom L. Beauchamp, Philosophical Ethics: An Introduction to Moral Philosophy, 56-66.
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Posted: November 21, 2016 at 11:05 am
Rational egoism (also called rational selfishness) is the principle that an action is rational if and only if it maximizes one's self-interest. The view is a normative form of egoism. It is distinct from psychological egoism (according to which people are motivated only to act in their own self-interest) and ethical egoism (that moral agents ought only to do what is in their own self-interest).
Rational egoism was embodied by Russian author Nikolay Chernyshevsky in the 1863 book What Is to Be Done?. Chernyshevsky's standpoint was ultimately socialistic, and was criticised by Fyodor Dostoyevsky in the 1864 book Notes from Underground.
English philosopher Henry Sidgwick discussed rational egoism in his book The Methods of Ethics, first published in 1872. A method of ethics is "any rational procedure by which we determine what individual human beings 'ought' or what it is 'right' for them to do, or seek to realize by voluntary action". Sidgwick considers three such procedures, namely, rational egoism, dogmatic intuitionism, and utilitarianism. Rational egoism is the view that, if rational, "an agent regards quantity of consequent pleasure and pain to himself alone important in choosing between alternatives of action; and seeks always the greatest attainable surplus of pleasure over pain".
Sidgwick found it difficult to find any persuasive reason for preferring rational egoism over utilitarianism. Although utilitarianism can be provided with a rational basis and reconciled with the morality of common sense, rational egoism appears to be an equally plausible doctrine regarding what we have most reason to do. Thus we must "admit an ultimate and fundamental contradiction in our apparent intuitions of what is Reasonable in conduct; and from this admission it would seem to follow that the apparently intuitive operation of Practical Reason, manifested in these contradictory judgments, is after all illusory".
Two objections to rational egoism are given by the English philosopher Derek Parfit, who discusses the theory at length in Reasons and Persons. First, from the rational egoist point of view, it is rational to contribute to a pension scheme now, even though this is detrimental to one's present interests (which are to spend the money now). But it seems equally reasonable to maximize one's interests now, given that one's reasons are not only relative to him, but to him as he is now (and not his future self, who is argued to be a "different" person). Parfit also argues that since the connections between the present mental state and the mental state of one's future self may decrease, it is not plausible to claim that one should be indifferent between one's present and future self.
The author and philosopher Ayn Rand also discusses a theory that she called 'rational egoism'. She holds that it is both irrational and immoral to act against one's self-interest. Thus, her view is a conjunction of both rational egoism (in the standard sense) and ethical egoism, because according to Objectivist philosophy, egoism cannot be properly justified without an epistemology based on reason:
Her book The Virtue of Selfishness (1964) explains the concept of rational egoism in depth. According to Rand, a rational man holds his own life as his highest value, rationality as his highest virtue, and his happiness as the final purpose of his life.
Conversely, Rand was sharply critical of the ethical doctrine of altruism:
Do not confuse altruism with kindness, good will or respect for the rights of others. These are not primaries, but consequences, which, in fact, altruism makes impossible. The irreducible primary of altruism, the basic absolute is self-sacrificewhich means self-immolation, self-abnegation, self-denial self-destructionwhich means the self as a standard of evil, the selfless as a standard of the good.
Do not hide behind such superficialities as whether you should or should not give a dime to a beggar. This is not the issue. The issue is whether you do or do not have the right to exist without giving him that dime. The issue is whether you must keep buying your life, dime by dime, from any beggar who might choose to approach you. The issue is whether the need of others is the first mortgage on your life and the moral purpose of your existence. The issue is whether man is to be regarded as a sacrificial animal. Any man of self-esteem will answer: No. Altruism says: Yes."
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Posted: October 29, 2016 at 11:46 am
Egoism : Develop the criticism that ethical egoism is an inadequate moral theory because it does not resolve moral conflicts. Recall that ethical egoism simply denies that theories must do this. I will be arguing that ethical egoism is an inadequate moral theory because it does not resolve moral conflicts. I will first give you the basic background information on ethical egoism as well as information about egoism required to see the flaw in it. Then I will discuss the hole in ethical egoism that makes it an inadequate theory. To fully understand the flaw in ethical egoism you must first know certain principles behind ethical egoism. Ethical egoism is a normative theory which means it states how we ought to act. There are two types of ethical egoism; individual ethical egoism and universal ethical egoism. I will be referring to universal ethical egoism in the rest of the paper. Universal ethical egoism states that everyone should or ought to look out for themselves and their own best interest. It also says that one should only help others when it benefits themselves in the long run. It states that in any conflict, instead of reaching a compromise, each person should reach their own best interest. It is the opposite of altruism which states that everyone should dedicate their lives to helping others whereas ethical egoism states that everyone should lookout for themselves. A definition of what a moral theory should do must also be given. A moral theory should set principles in order to determine what actions are right and what are wrong and from that be able to conclusively end an argument by having the parties reach an agreement. The problem that arises from ethical egoism is that everyone cannot always look out for their own best interests. It is like a chess game in which one person has the opportunity to block the others check, which is in his best interest, but on the other hand it is in the others best interest to tak...
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Posted: September 20, 2016 at 7:10 pm
Ethical egoism is the idea that people have moral obligations only to themselves and that they ought to pursue their own ends exclusively. An ethical egoist would say that one has no duty to help others in need unless doing so happens to coincide with one's own needs. Because ethical egoism prescribes actions, it is distinct from psychological egoism (discussed in the previous selection by Joel Feinberg), which is a descriptive claim about the nature of people's motivations.
Rachels provides several arguments both for and against ethical egoism. The first argument for ethical egoism is that we actually harm other people by looking out for their interests. For example, we may misinterpret their interests and bungle attempts at help, or we may intrude on other people's lives in ways that they dislike, or we may degrade others by offering them handouts. But this justification of egoism is premised upon the value of the general welfare precisely the thing that ethical egoism denies is important. Rather than claiming that only one's own interests matter, this argument states that paying attention to one's own interests is the most effective means to furthering the interests of everyone. It is thus an empirical claim about the best way to benefit people generally, not a normative claim about whose interests ought to count. A second argument for ethical egoism is that altruistic ethics (i.e., those that require one to help others even without benefit to oneself) requires one to sacrifice oneself for the benefit of others, and that were one to follow altruistic ethics one would have nothing to give one's projects, goals, and relationships. But those things are precisely what make life valuable; thus, altruistic ethics denies the importance of the very things that are valuable. Rachels dismisses this argument quickly because it is a false dichotomy; having obligations to others does not entail that one give up all of one's projects.
The final (and most powerful) argument for ethical egoism is that egoism is what underlies our common-sense morality. For example, the reason there are proscriptions against lying and stealing and obligations to help the needy is that we all benefit from those rules. There are two problems with this argument. First, it only provides general rules; thus, even though it might generally behoove us to tell the truth (in order to gain people's trust), it does not proscribe lying when it is in fact advantageous to do so. Second, just because acting for the good of others is to one's advantage, it does not follow that that is the only reason doing so is good.
Ultimately Rachels finds ethical egoism implausible; he concludes this on the basis of an argument concerning morally relevant differences. There is a general moral principle that requires us to treat likes alike, which Rachels articulates as follows:
We can justify treating people differently only if we can show that there is some factual difference between them that is relevant to justifying the
difference in treatment.
For example, the reason why racism is wrong is that racists seek to treat people differently despite there being no morally difference between races. In fact, racist stereotypes (e.g., that black people are lazy or that Jewish people are greedy) are often used to provide morally relevant reasons to treat people differently on the basis of race. Ethical egoism runs afoul of this principle, for it demands that one assign oneself greater moral importance than every other person, despite there being no factual difference that justifies assigning oneself greater importance. Thus, Rachels concludes that ethical egoism is mistaken.