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Philosophers on why be moral Michael Lacewing

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1 Philosophers on why be moral Michael Lacewing

2 Hobbes on contract Morality is product of a contract, which it is rational for each of us to agree to Because it is in my self- interest (egoism) Morality as means to end, given by egoism This is also ‘rational’: it is rational to do what benefits oneself

3 The moral contract Better not to be harmed by others – hence constraints on others’ behaviour; but better not to be constrained Solution: agree to constraints given that others agree; not best for me, but best I can get Better to trust and co-operate; agreement to be moral generates trust

4 The ‘free rider’ problem In a situation of trust, if everyone else is acting morally, it is even better to act self- interestedly – at least if you can get away with it. But how can I trust others to keep the contract? Morality is collectively in everyone’s self- interest, but it is in each person’s self- interest to break the agreement – knowing this, we won’t trust each other!

5 Plato on self-interest Would it be bad for you to get away with being immoral? Yes: the soul has ‘parts’ that can be in conflict, e.g. desire v. reason –Desires do not consider what is good for us; when desires control us, we cannot recognise what is good Only when reason is in charge is inner conflict avoided –We recognise what is morally right and want to do it –We are happier

6 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 don’t gain what is of real value (‘achievement’) Self-interest is getting what is truly valuable –But some values are moral values - so morality precedes self-interest, and can’t be defined as a means to self-interest

7 Objections to Plato Plato shows that we must be prudent, but not that prudence is the same as morality. –He assumes that reason will lead us to act morally – but this is what we are questioning. Is happiness the absence of inner conflict?

8 Kant on reason Being moral because it benefits me doesn’t explain the importance of morality. Morality is the same for everyone. Therefore, to act morally is to act in a way everyone can act. This can be worked out using reason alone, independent of desires. –Why be moral? Because it is the same as being rational.

9 Hume on sympathy It is not irrational to do what not everyone can do. Reason only works out how to get what we want (means-end reasoning). Morality is based on sympathy, which is a natural human motivation. –We are moral because we care. So it would be inconsistent with your own desires to act immorally. –If you really don’t care about other people, you are probably a sociopath.

10 More on sympathy This doesn’t mean that morality is subjective. –You might not care the ‘right’ amount: ‘in order to pave the way for [sympathy], and give a proper discernment of its object, it is often necessary, we find, that much reasoning should precede’. Someone who is immoral is not always irrational – but we can still criticise them for being immoral.

11 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’.

12 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.

13 Development The best life for you involves recognising other people’s value, and treating them accordingly. Failing to be motivated by other people’s rights or needs means not having the right relationship with them. Morality is not distinct from self-interest - a good person does not think that being moral is no good for them.

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