Presentation on theme: "Morality: constitutive of or overcoming self-interest?"— Presentation transcript:
1 Morality: constitutive of or overcoming self-interest? 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 don’t 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 VirtueAs 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 ObjectionsBeing moral because it benefits me doesn’t recognise the value of other people.It doesn’t recognise how morally good people think and feel – they aren’t aiming to get the best for themselves.It doesn’t explain the importance of morality.In general, ‘You ought to do x’ doesn’t mean ‘If you want to live the best life for you, you ought to do x’.
6 Kant’s big ideaIf self-interest is irrelevant to morality, what reason to do we have to be moral?Kant: morality is reason itselfMorality 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 reasonOnly reason and happiness motivate us. Morality motivates us, so must be one of these.It can’t be happiness, since what makes people happy differs, and happiness can be good or bad.And we’ve 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 KantIs Kant right that reason alone can motivate me? Even knowing what I ought to do, don’t 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 Aristotle’s defence of self-interest Being moral because it benefits me doesn’t recognise the value of other people.The best life for you involves recognising other people’s value, and treating them accordingly.It doesn’t recognise how morally good people think and feel – they aren’t 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 doesn’t explain the importance of morality.Failing to be motivated by other people’s rights or needs means not having the right relationship with them.