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Michael Lacewing. Self-interest and morality Can we say what is in our self-interest without referring to morality? E.g. cheating - might make you feel.

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Presentation on theme: "Michael Lacewing. Self-interest and morality Can we say what is in our self-interest without referring to morality? E.g. cheating - might make you feel."— Presentation transcript:

1 Michael Lacewing

2 Self-interest and morality Can we say what is in our self-interest without referring to morality? E.g. cheating - might make you feel happy at the time, but you dont gain what is of real value (achievement) Self-interest is getting what is truly valuable

3 Aristotle on flourishing We all aim at living the best life we can. But what this is depends on what we are. Human beings are capable of reason. So living well is living in accordance with reason. Our character is important here - to be virtuous is to have desires and emotions that are reasonable.

4 Virtue As we are social, we need to consider what counts as the most appropriate response to living with others. E.g. anger; to feel it at the right times, with reference to the right objects, towards the right people, with the right motive, and in the right way The moral life is the life that is best for us.

5 Objections Being moral because it benefits me doesnt recognise the value of other people. It doesnt recognise how morally good people think and feel – they arent aiming to get the best for themselves. It doesnt explain the importance of morality. In general, You ought to do x doesnt mean If you want to live the best life for you, you ought to do x.

6 Kants big idea If self-interest is irrelevant to morality, what reason to do we have to be moral? Kant: morality is reason itself Morality is meant to guide our actions. We act on maxims: principle of action, what we intend. Morality is universal, the same for everyone. So Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.

7 Imperatives An imperative is just a command. A hypothetical imperative is a command that presupposes some further goal or end. A categorical imperative is not hypothetical. It is irrational and immoral not to obey it.

8 Happiness and reason Only reason and happiness motivate us. Morality motivates us, so must be one of these. It cant be happiness, since what makes people happy differs, and happiness can be good or bad. And weve argued that self-interest is not the right motivation for morality. It is reason: morality is universal and categorical - so is reason.

9 Objections to Kant Is Kant right that reason alone can motivate me? Even knowing what I ought to do, dont I have to care about morality? Is Kant right that rationality requires me to act in a way in which everyone can act? The difference between theoretical reason and practical reason

10 Aristotles defence of self-interest Being moral because it benefits me doesnt recognise the value of other people. The best life for you involves recognising other peoples value, and treating them accordingly. It doesnt recognise how morally good people think and feel – they arent aiming to get the best for themselves. Morality is not distinct from self-interest - a good person does not think that being moral is no good for them. It doesnt explain the importance of morality. Failing to be motivated by other peoples rights or needs means not having the right relationship with them.


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