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Ethical Egoism A Good Theory Or Not Philosophy Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 2177 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Is ethical egoism a good moral theory? Ethical egoism is the doctrine that each person ought to pursue his or her own self-interest exclusively. According to this theory morality is base on everyone promoting his or her self-interest or selfish motives.

The argument in favor of ethical egoism from Altruism point of view, we are not in a position to know the interests of others. Since we cannot know other’s interests, we cannot even try to help other because it is not in our interest. However, we are in a good position to know our own interests. Sometime, helping others can be very invasive and degrading to a individual; they might feel they are not competent to care for themselves. These assumptions say that we ought to do whatever it takes to promote the interests of everyone alike; and that is care for ourselves and no one else. The interests of others are best promoted if each of us pursues our own self interests exclusively and not others self interest. This argument of not looking out for the self interest of other is more an altruistic argument than an egoistic one.

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In addition, Ayn Rand’s argument states that a person has only one life to live, when we place a value on an individual then they have moral worth or then the individual has intrinsic and supreme worth. The ethics of altruism regards an individual’s life as something you must be willing to sacrifice for the good of others and therefore altruism does not take seriously the value of the individual, if it readily acknowledges the sacrifice of a life for another. Ethical egoism allows everyone to see their life as being of the ultimate value. It also takes the individual seriously and should be the philosophy that ought to be accepted.

Ethical Egoism can also be associated with the common-sense moral intuitions. It says that we ought not to do certain things like, don’t kill; don’t lie, etc. because in the long run it will serve our own self interests. If we make it a custom of harming others, people will be reluctant to help us. As the famous saying, “do unto others as you would like them to do unto you.” As a result, it is in our own self interests not to harm others. If we decided to make it a habit to lie, we will be known as the ones who lie and no one will trust us. We want people to be honest with us so it is in our own best interests to be truthful or honest to other.

The above arguments make a strong claim for ethical egoism but I will now look at the theory more in detail to see whether it is a good moral theory to follow. Also, whether, the idea that each person ought to pursue their self interest exclusively is a good theory or not.

Ethical Egoism endorses wickedness. [2] According to the theory each person has to look out for their self-interest and only their interest and no one else. The theory says that no matter the cost and action we will have to act in our own interest. For example a few years ago, Judith Leekin, a 63-year-old woman, made over $1 million from the subsidies offered to parents who adopt and take care of special needs children since they brought in the most money from NYC Children’s Services which was $55 a day. She handcuffed, battered, deprived the children of food and medicine and locked them in a room. She never sent them to school, and hid them from anyone who came to her home. She used the money to furnish her lavish lifestyle. This went on from 1988 until mid-2007. She used fake names, went to different adoption agencies and I suppose has some level of intelligence since she did things like forge report cards to appease NYC officials. These are all criminal, wicked and horrendous action but according to ethical egoism her actions would be justified, Leekin was acting in her own self interest and not the children’s, she adopted kids and used the money to furnish and adorn her lifestyles. With his example given it can clearly be seen that this debunked one of the arguments listed above in favor of ethical egoism.

The Ethical Egoism is logically inconsistent. [3] These consistencies can be proved in different ways. Say an ethical egoist recommends that Peter and John both for a promotion at the office. And each individual duty to do what is in their self interest. To protect Peter self interest he decides he is going to kill John to secure his promotion. It would be in John’s best interest to prevent Peter from killing him. Therefore it can be assumed that Peter duty is to kill John and John duty is to prevent Peter from killing him. But it is wrong to prevent someone from performing their duty, so it is wrong for John to prevent Peter from killing him. So it is wrong and not wrong for John to prevent Peter from killing him. It is clear that no act can both be right and wrong at the same time, which clearly is a contradiction and inconsistent. Therefore the theory that each person should promote their own self interest is not true and inconsistent.

Ethical egoism is unacceptably arbitrary, ethical egoism does not count as a moral theory. Ethical egoism theory says that we split the world up into two categories of people, ourselves and others and we regard the first group “ourselves” as more important than the interests of the second group “other”. What makes us more important or special than the other category? Nothing, others are equally important as us and it also goes against the Principle of Equal Treatment. Discriminating against gay and lesbians, what makes them different from those that are not straight? Nothing, they share the same moral values just like anyone else. This clearly shows that ethical egoism is an arbitrary theory as it promotes treating people differently although there are no differences between them and therefore this doctrine is unacceptable.

In concluding it can be realized that we are equal with one another, which is the reason why our morality must include some recognition of the needs of others. This is the reason why ethical egoism fails as a moral theory, we can positively claim that ethical egoism is not a moral theory because it is endorses bad actions, it’s locally inconsistent and it’s arbitrary.

Act Utilitarianism vs Rule Utilitarianism

Act Utilitarianism states that the right action or option is the one that produces the greatest amount of happiness or pleasure. In Act Utilitarianism the consequences should be evaluated by the amount of happiness the action will produce and happiness is a mental state of an individual. Each individual’s happiness of counted as one unit of happiness.

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In the scenario in choosing the right candidate for the position either Dwight who is more qualified. They both have the same qualification an MBA, but Dwight’s is from a more prestigious program. They both have good working experience in big corporations, but Dwight has more years of service. Both have good letters of reference but Dwight’s letter is better. While conducting the interview, I found that Jim has a family member who is in the hospital. Since I am act utilitarian I automatically thought of the life and I also discover that Jim doesn’t have health insurance, which I think if I gave him the job would be a immense benefit to himself and his family since one of the benefits of the job includes a comprehensive health plan that would cover his family. He is also in debt , so if he gets the job he would be able to afford his medical bills and have health insurance for his family member that is in the hospital and maybe be able to get himself out of debt.

In addition to his family member that is in the hospital, I would be happy if you should get the job and that would bring about a lot of happiness and since the act utiliariansim says that the moral rightness of an action and every decision is based solely of the result greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. On the other, hand Dwight is single person and has enough money saved up from his previous job to buy private insurance and he doesn’t have any dire emergencies that the job would benefit him more than Jim. But he is also qualified and better experience. But since I am an Act utilitarian, and my actions are solely based on the amount of happiness of the outcome; it would be Jim, his family member in the hospital and other family members that would be happy as well about Jim getting the job. In the case of Dwight he would be the only one happy about getting the job and he doesn’t have family member that needs his help and clearly he can support himself unlike Jim who is suffering in debt. Because I am act utilitarian I will have to give the job to Jim, it would benefit him and my action would produce the greatest amount of happiness and that is my only concern.

But if I was rule utilitarian, which says that one behavior is evaluated by rules that would lead to the greatest good. It also says that we shouldn’t judge the rightness or wrongness of the act by its consequences, but the impact of the consequences universally.

The same scenario both Dwight and Jim has the same qualification, an MBA. But Dwight came from a more prestigious program has better working experience, a better letter of recommendation and more experience in a big corporation. But Jim has a family member in the hospital that would benefit if he gets the job. In addition, Jim would also benefit from the situation since he is also in debt also Jim had a better personality that Dwight who has a lukewarm personality.

Being a rule utilitarian, I would hire Jim because he has a good personality he is a warm and fun person to be around. I am thinking that if I hire Jim, it would make my clients and other staff happy would make everyone happy, he also has the qualification for the job. In the case of Dwight, he might have graduated from a better program, have a better reference and more experience but with his serious and direct personality it would be very difficult for everyone to work together as a team within the corporation and since he has to work directly with me I would prefer a more warm and fun person to be around to make my job more comfortable. We would be able to work together and do great thing for the company. On the other hand with Dwight I don’t think I would feel comfortable working with him since I really didn’t like his direct personality. I wouldn’t be hiring Jim because he has a family member in the hospital and he has a lot of debt but I would hire because he would be a great addition to my company and a nice person to be my assistant unlike the other candidate with a lukewarm personality. Being a rule utilitarian it would be wrong to choose Jim just because he has a sick family member. If that was the only reason why, the process of interviewing would be a mockery, people would lose faith in the interviewing process. It would seem like all you have to do is have a sick family member in hospital or have a lot of debt and you will get the job. In the long run it would have been the wrong choice but instead I didn’t even consider his portion of the situation.

Based on my choice in the case of act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism, the choice was the same in both cases but my reasoning for choosing the candidate was different. Because, in act-utilitarianism, we are required to choose the act that will result in the greatest amount good for most people as possible and in this case I was thinking about his family member in the hospital and his family. Whereas in the case of rule utilitarianism, I was thinking more broadly and the impact it would have if I was to choose based on his sick family member or choose his because he has the qualification and has a good personality. The reasoning for rule utilitarianism was better because it allows me to think about the great happiness if I did choose and if I didn’t choose a candidate. There are a lot of flaws in act utilitarianism also it is such a broad theory, it seem like there is no limitations. Whereas, in rule utilitarianism this theory refines the theory of act utilitarianism and in addition humanizes it. It is a vast improvement over the terrible bluntness of strict act utilitarianism. It tackles the flaw with act utilitarianism. That is, the way in which it often seems to trample blindly over the rights of individuals. Something we are naturally inclined to object to, being individuals ourselves. It does so by easily incorporating a respect for those rights into itself and therefore Rule utilitarianism is the best for of Utilitarianism.


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