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Does Morality Override Self-Interest?

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1) AB: Does morality override self-interest? When there is conflict between the overall verdict of morality regarding what we ought to do and the overall verdict of self-interest regarding what we ought to do in our self-interest, which verdict is normatively more important? If morality is overriding, its verdicts must be normatively most important from a definitive standpoint, which could not be the standpoint of morality itself. I argue that there is no such definitive standpoint. Hence, neither morality nor self-interest is overriding. In situations where morality and self-interest conflict, there is no truth regarding what we ought simpliciter to do.

2) Suppose now that there were two such magic rings, and the just put on one of them and the unjust the other; no man can be imagined to be of such an iron nature that he would stand fast in justice. No man would keep his hands off what was not his own when he could safely take what he liked out of the market, or go into houses and lie with anyone at his pleasure, or kill or release from prison whom he would, and in all respects be like a god among men. Then the actions of the just would be as the actions of the unjust; they would both come at last to the same point. And this we may truly affirm to be a great proof that a man is just, not willingly or because he thinks that justice is any good to him individually, but of necessity, for wherever anyone thinks that he can safely be unjust, there he is unjust. For all men believe in their hearts that injustice is far more profitable to the individual than justice, and he who argues as I have been supposing, will say that they are right. If you could imagine anyone obtaining this power of becoming invisible, and never doing any wrong or touching what was another's, he would be thought by the lookers-on to be a most wretched idiot, although they would praise him to one another's faces, and keep up appearances with one another from a fear that they too might suffer injustice.



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