The ethical egoist may find pleasure in helping other

Info iconThis preview shows page 1. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

Unformatted text preview: our life – unless you succeed in compensating for ill health and brevity of life with increased quality. of It may be thought that an ethical egoist must be a very It unpleasant person, but this is not true. The ethical egoist may find pleasure in helping other people; he or she may have all sorts of altruistic interests. 68 Egoism Egoism However, once a conflict emerges it is clear how the However, ethical egoist, who wants to abide by his or her favored moral theory, ought to act: he or she ought to ensure that his or her own welfare is maximized. ensure From an egoistic point of view there seems to be little From reason to sacrifice one or two generations in the hope that some time in the future there will be compensation for these sacrifices. However, given egoism, it might be difficult to find reasons to make sacrifices now in order to avoid future disasters such as global warming. future 69 Egoism Egoism It may be thought, though, that if everybody cares his It or her own concerns the result will on the whole be better for everyone. better There are situations such that, even if everybody There succeeds in maximizing his or her welfare, everybody fares worse than they would have done if they had not abided by their favored moral theory. abided The argument to this effect (which dates back to the The 1950s) is known as ‘the prisoner’s dilemma’, and I will state it very briefly. It stems from rational game theory and it is usually attributed to A. W. Tucker. and 70 Prisoner’s Dilemma Prisoner’s Prisoner B stays Prisoner silent (cooperates) Prisoner B Prisoner confesses (defects) Prisoner A stays Each serves Prisoner Each silent one month one (cooperates) Prisoner A: 1 Y Prisoner B: Prisoner goes free goes Prisoner A Prisoner confesses (defects) Each serves Each three months three Prisoner A: Prisoner goes free goes Prisoner B:1 Prisoner year year 71 Egoism Egoism Two men are arrested, but the police do not possess Two enough information for a conviction. Following the separation of the two men, the police offer both a similar deal—if one testifies against his partner (defects/betrays), and the other remains silent (cooperates/assists), the betrayer goes free and the cooperator receives the full one-year sentence. If both remain silent, both are sentenced to only one month in jail for a minor charge. If each 'rats out' the other, each receives a three-month sentence. Each prisoner must choose either to betray or remain silent; the decision of each is kept quiet. What should they do? they 72 Egoism Egoism When many people interact in a rather anonymous When modern society, they often face situations that are in important respects like the prisoner’s dilemma. We face such situations when we contemplate how we should dispose of our litter at a picnic, we face them when we consider whether we should drive our own car or travel by public transport, and so forth. car In such situations each person has something to gain In by leaving litter behind or driving his or her own car, irrespective of what others do. irrespective 73 Egoism Egoism But if many people leave their litter (causing But environmental damage) or drive their own cars (causing traffic jams and adding to global warming), the situation of each will be worse than it would have been if they had all disposed of their litter carefully or opted for public transport. Situations such as these are often referred to as social dilemmas, and they are the rule rather than the exception. Given the existence of many social dilemmas, rational egoism begins to seem like a version of collective stupidity. stupidity. 74 Egoism Egoism There are other objections to egoism. First, egoism is There incompatible with many accepted human activities, such as giving advice and true friendship, and in such business activities as being an agent for another. Simply ask yourself, How can one who is always acting in his own interest give advice? Suppose the advice would hurt the advisor. If as an insurance agent you are to give your client the best advice, there will be times when you talk them out of a policy that would give you a bigger commission. of You do not just do this because you are concerned about your long-range self-interest; you do this because it’s your responsibility as an agent to look out 75 for your client’s best interest. for Egoism Egoism The incompatibility with friendship is even easier to The show. Who would consider someone a true friend if they knew that person was just around for what he could get out of the friendship? We expect friends to put themselves out for us, and we expect to put ourselves out for our friends. The consistent egoist, then, can be seen to be recommending against friendship. recommending Another difficulty with egoism is that it can’t resolve Another disputes. If everyone is to look out for themselves, what should two people do when both of them need the same thing? To say that both should look out for their own in...
View Full Document

This note was uploaded on 02/11/2014 for the course BSC 2501 taught by Professor Frigerio during the Fall '12 term at Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics and Strategic Research.

Ask a homework question - tutors are online