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Ethical Egoism

Essay by review  •  November 18, 2010  •  Essay  •  547 Words (3 Pages)  •  1,138 Views

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Starting on the morning of April 20, 1999 at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorodo, two masked students named Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold began shooting people. Before they were done, they had killed 12 fellow students, one teacher, and themselves (Lin). Understandably, most people rushed out in terror, but some put their lives in jeopardy to save others. One teacher, named Dave Sanders, helped students and teachers to safety, and he was shot more than once for his efforts. According to an ethical egoist, Sanders was morally wrong, because he failed to maximize is own well being. However, most people will agree that his sacrifice saved many and he is a hero because of it. This example is just one way to show how ethical egoism is not the best possible moral philosophy to follow.

One argument against ethical egoism is that the theory does not provide a way to solve conflicts of interest. For example, if Harris and Klebold's interest to kill opposes another's interst to live, then ethical egoism--by telling everyone to maximally pursue his or her own interest--does not identify some solution that people should morally agree to. It just tells each person to do his or her best themselves, and whatever happens, happens. And yet many people thing that a moral theory ought to resolve these conflicts in some principled way. The thought here is not that a moral theory will provide a solution to conflicts that makes everyone happy, because any resolution will ultimately lead to compromise and sacrifice, The thought is just that a good moral theory will have some better way to resolve conflict than resorting to fighting.

A second argument against ethical egoism is related to the first, in that it does not offer a compromise to the conflicts that arise in people's interest. The difference in complaint from the first is that the ethical egoism seems to have self-contradictory implications. The claim that tells a person to maximize his or her own intersts also seems to tell others not to stand in that person's way, yet this conflicts with the theory tell these others to advance their interests (which are supposed to be in conflict) In appears to be advising conflicting courses of action.

A third argument against ethical egoism is that it is unacceptably arbitrary, because it requires a person to privilege himself or herself over everyone else. Since there really is no moral difference between oneself



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