Hurricane Charley 2004 2004 Sweeps across Florida. Sweeps across Florida. 22 dead. 22 dead. $11 billion in damages. $11 billion in damages.
$2 bags of ice now $10. $250 household generators no $2,000. $40 motel room now $160. Is it immoral for individual business owners to pursue their own interest of maximum financial gain by capitalizing on what others are willing to pay to pursue their own interest of survival in the wake of natural disaster?
“Ethical Egoism is the theory that the right action is the one that advances one’s own best interests” (78). Moral Theory vs. Moral Code. Right action. Interests and best interests.
Egoism vs. Egotism. Psychological Egoism vs. Ethical Egoism. Ethical Egoism vs. Ethical Subjectivism and Emotivism. Act-Egoism vs. Rule- Egoism. Selfish vs. Self-Interest.
Argument for Ethical Egoism #1: Altruism is Self Defeating Can we advocate for the interests of others? Without harming them? The Argument: 1. We ought to do whatever will best promote everyone’s interests. 2. The best way to promote everyone’s interests is for each of us to adopt a policy of pursuing our own interests exclusively. 3. Therefore, each of us should adopt the policy of pursuing our own interests exclusively. Can you spot the problem for Ethical Egoists with this argument?
Argument for Ethical Egoism #2: E.E. Respects the Value of the Individual Life 1.If we value the individual—that is, if the individual has moral worth—then we must agree that this life is of supreme importance. 2.The ethics of Altruism regards the life of the individual as something one must be ready to sacrifice for the good of others. 3.Ethical Egoism, which allows each person to view his or her own life as being of ultimate value, does take the human individual seriously. 4.Thus, Ethical Egoism is the philosophy we ought to accept. Is this a compelling argument?
Argument for Ethical Egoism #3: E.E. is Compatible with Commonsense Morality “Do unto others” because if we do, others will be more likely to “do unto us.” The duty to not harm others. The duty to not lie. The duty to keep promises.
The Morality Trap The Morality Trap What is the morality trap? For Browne, what is the function of morality? In Browne’s moral framework, what are “personal values” and how are they relevant to ethics? In Browne’s moral framework, what is the value of others’ interests? What, according to Browne, is “universal morality” and what is its weakness?
Browne’s Arguments by Analogy The morality trap is like the identity trap (i.e. it is like the trap that leads you to try to be something other than yourself). Fair analogy? Happiness is a like a big red rubber ball. I can hold the ball and keep my happiness or give it away to someone who will, in turn, give it away, and on and on. Fair analogy?
Can Ethical Egoism Be Defended against these Charges: Resolves conflicts of interest by encouraging people to fight as hard as possible for their own interests and to crush opponents. It is unacceptably arbitrary because it requires us to privilege our interests over the interests of others simply on the basis that these interests are ours.
What Does Ethical Egoism Look Like in Practice? A pharmacist fills prescriptions for cancer patients with watered down drugs and, thereby, increases his profits. A paramedic gives emergency patients injections of sterile water rather than morphine so he can sell the morphine. Parents feed a baby acid so they can fake a lawsuit, claiming the baby’s formula was tainted. A 13 year old girl is kidnapped by a neighbor and kept shackled in a basement for 181 days while she is sexually abused. If each person can get away with the act, what objection could the Ethical Egoist offer?
Assessment What are the strengths of Ethical Egoism? Its weaknesses? Is it a viable ethical theory? How would we explain it to a child? Is Social Contract Theory compatible with Ethical Egoism?