Lecture 6 - Lecture 6 Objectives: After learning this...

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Lecture 6 Objectives: After learning this material you will be able to: 1. Present the basic arguments concerning ethical egoism. 2. Understand Objectivist Ethics and its relationship to laissez-faire capitalism. 3. Discuss the differences between self-interest and happiness and their relationship to ethical self-understanding. 4. Understand the issues concerned with the theory of ethics called Utilitarianism 5. Compare and contrast utilitarianism and the moral community. 6. Reflect on the principle of utility in public policy. Welcome back! In the last lecture we presented some of the ideas that are leading us past relativism and toward universalism. We studied whether or not religion is necessary to morality and tried to understand the differences between natural law, divine command, and American civil religion. We also explored ideas concerned with conscience and moral development, compared the affective and cognitive sides of our conscience and reflected on what it means to be a morally mature person. In this lecture we will continue to explore some of the ideas that imply that morality and ethics are based on universal principles. Specifically we will study ethical egoism and utilitarianism to help us understand how these theories influence our understanding of ethics. What is Ethical Egoism? The first universal principle sounds like subjectivism, but it is not. It simply says that one ought to do what one perceives is in his or her own best interest. The universality comes from saying that all people ought to do this all of the time with no exceptions. “Ethical egoism differs from ethical subjectivism because it is concerned with a person’s best self-interest. Our best self-interests are those that are rational. Ethical subjectivism, in contrast, asks only what people desire or feel is right for them. The ethical egoist identifies happiness with the pursuit of rational self-interest. Egoism is not the same as egotism. An egotist is a person who is arrogant, boastful, inconsiderate, and self-centered. Egotistical behavior is not necessarily in one’s best self-interest because egotists tend to alienate others and, by doing so, limit their opportunities for happiness” (Judith A. Boss, Ethics For Life: A Text With Readings, Fourth Edition , [New York, New York: McGraw Hill, 2008] p. 238. Hereafter referred to as Boss.) I don’t really like this word “egoism” because it is so easily confused with egotism, but this is the word that comes down to us. The main thing to keep in mind is that egoism is rational and thus thoughtful, whereas egotism is immature and hasty and therefore not necessarily helpful. Egoism is really setting itself up as an alternative to altruism, where you put others before yourself. But this is not the same thing as ignoring others. Even on planes they remind us that in the case of an emergency we should put our own oxygen masks on first. We do this so that we can help others and not become a 1
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burden to them. Egotism ignores the needs of others while egoism simply
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Lecture 6 - Lecture 6 Objectives: After learning this...

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