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Egoism And Altruism Notes

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This is an extract of our Egoism And Altruism document, which we sell as part of our Ethics Notes collection written by the top tier of Oxford University students.

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Egoism & Altruism Ethics - Mackie
? "In the narrow sense, a morality is a system of a particular sort of constraints on conduct - ones whose central task is to protect the interests of persons other than the agent and which present themselves to an agent as checks on his natural inclinations or spontaneous tendencies to act." - moral scepticism
? "A morality in the broad sense would be a general, all-inclusive theory of conduct: the morality to which someone subscribed would be whatever body of principles he allowed ultimately to guide or determine his choices of action."
? "The function of morality is primarily to counteract this limitation of men's sympathies." (As well as limited resources) o "We can decide what the content of morality must be by inquiring how this can best be done." o Hobbes tries to do this in his theory of state. o Justice, according to Hobbes, "is an artificial virtue, it is not something of which we would have any natural, instinctive, tendency to approve, but a device which is beneficial because of certain contingent features of the human condition."
? Hume claims that it is in everyone's long-term interests to obey the rules that make society and cooperation possible - the only human weakness is to prefer smaller immediate benefits to greater but more distant ones. o Doesn't point out the free-rider problem as Hobbes does.
? "Hobbes does not allow for the development of what we might call secondary instinct in favour of morality." But Hume does.
? Can do a game-theoretic analysis: take the prisoner's dilemma - in order to reach the efficient outcome rather than the Nash equilibrium one needs a kind of restraint for each player which assures the other that they will perform a certain action. Morality serves as a metaphorical/psychological binding in these situations. o If you look at repeated games rather than single-shot ones, there can be learning/a convention can be established - as long as probability of defection < 0.5, it will work. o Seems to show "that the rational calculation of long-term selfinterest is not sufficient in itself to lead men to make mutually beneficial agreements, or, once made, to keep them." But doesn't it show the opposite of this? That we need to move beyond rationality?
? On Hobbes' sovereign: "It is indeed hard to see how such a construction could be brought into existence by the operation of selfish motives, however rationally directed; but it is not so hard to see how once in existence it could be maintained by such motives alone."
? "Even if we took the most optimistic view possible, and assumed that in general men's consciences have been appropriately moulded by evolutionary forces, the best we could hope for is that they should lay down principles which have been useful."
? NB Mackie is a moral error theorist i.e. he claims that all moral claims are false and we have good reason to believe that this is so.

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Moral sceptics merely hold that we are unjustified in holding any moral proposition. The Elements of Moral Philosophy - J. Rachels
? "[M]oral judgements must be backed by good reasons; and...
morality requires the impartial consideration of each individual's interests."
? "Morality is, first and foremost, a matter of consulting reason: The morally right thing to do, in any circumstance, is determined by what there are the best reasons for doing."
? Requirement of impartiality: each individual's interests are equally important. A proscription against arbitrariness in dealing with people.
? "Morality is, at the very least, the effort to guide one's conduct by reason - that is, to do what there are the best reasons for doing - while giving equal weight to the interests of each individual who will be affected by one's conduct." o Philosophers disagree not about this minimal conception but about how it should be expanded in order to achieve a fully satisfying account.
? Ethical Egoism: each person ought to pursue his or her own selfinterest exclusively.
? You can't argue for Ethical Egoism via the claim that altruism is selfdefeating, since the reasons provided call upon claims that certain behaviours will be better for everyone, which contradicts Ethical Egoism.
? Ayn Rand thinks altruism leads to a denial of the value of the individual. o DQ: "If a man accepts the ethics of altruism, his first concern is not how to live his life, but how to sacrifice it." o Also metaphysical basis for egoism - only type of ethics that takes seriously the reality of the individual person. o But seems to assume we have only 2 choices - could find a compromise.
? Some argue Ethical Egoism is compatible with commonsense morality, e.g. duty not to harm others, not to lie, etc. o "At best, it shows only that mostly it is to one's advantage to avoid harming others." o Nothing in the argument supports the claim that self-interest is the only (or even most basic) reason why one should e.g. give money to starving people.
? There is the arg that egoism can't handle conflicts of interest, but this only detracts from it if it is plausible that an adequate morality must provide solutions for conflicts of interest.
? Also egoism sometimes claimed to be logically inconsistent - can in some situations prescribe both an action and its opposite as morally correct, because of different points of view. But this only works if one assumes that it is wrong to prevent someone else from doing his or her duty.
? Finally, sometimes seen to be unacceptably arbitrary, just as racism is. o There is no relevant difference between ourselves and others and so cannot justify only attending to our own needs.

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