Ethics Part II: Ethical Egoism and Utilitarianism

Ethics Part II
Ethical Egoism and Utilitarianism
The “Lucky” Man
An 85 year-old man with no family who lives in a cabin in a remote part of
Vietnam has a one-in-a-trillion biochemical property that allows his body to
produce a powerful antibody against what is for others worldwide a
common fatal and painful disease.
This antibody is produced when he is subjected to a particular kind of
intense pain.
Researchers strongly believe they can develop a cure for the disease if they
can access the antibody regularly.
Accessing the antibody requires deliberate infliction of pain on the
Is this individual morally compelled to submit to these painful procedures to
help save millions of people?
Should he be forced to submit if he is not willing?
What if the “Lucky” Man were You?
Are you morally
required to
Why shouldn’t we
force you to
Promises Promises…. (page 471)
You’re shipwrecked with a friend who is near death.
He allows you to have all the available food as long as you promise to tell
his nephew where the million dollars is hidden.
Your friend dies, you’re rescued, you track down his nephew—who turns
out to be a total wasteful loser.
Do you keep your promise or keep the money for your self or give it to
some other more worthy person/organization?
Ethical Egoism
Are people psychologically
driven to satisfy their own
desires/needs before the
desires/needs of others?
Should they do so?
Why should I ever take an
action that does not serve
my own interests?
Is valuing self-interest the
same as valuing
Argument for Ethical Egoism #1: Altruism is Self Defeating
Why can’t we advocate for
the interests of others
without harming them?
Really know only our own interests.
Intrusive into the lives of others when
we try to act on their behalf.
Charity is degrading.
Therefore, if everyone is
responsible for advocating
for his/her interests only,
everyone will be better off.
Fair point?
The Argument:
1. We ought to do whatever will
best promote everyone’s interests.
2. The best way to promote
everyone’s interests is for each of us
to adopt a policy of pursuing our
own interests exclusively.
3. Therefore, each of us should
adopt the policy of pursuing our
own interests exclusively.
Can you spot the problem for Ethical
Egoists with this argument?
Argument for Ethical Egoism #2: E.E. Respects the Value of the
Individual Life
If we value the individual—that is,
if the individual has moral
worth—then we must agree that
this life is of supreme importance.
The ethics of Altruism regards the
life of the individual as something
one must be ready to sacrifice for
the good of others.
Ethical Egoism, which allows each
person to view his or her own life
as being of ultimate value, does
take the human individual
Thus, Ethical Egoism is the
philosophy we ought to accept.
• Is this a compelling argument?
Would an Ethical Egoist….
Refuse to cheat on a test,
even if he/she could get away
with it?
Help his/her neighbor move
some furniture?
Diminish his/her business
profits in order to give highperforming employees a
Save the life of someone who
means a great deal to
You and I are on a lifeboat at sea.
I’m an ethical egoist and have
brought plenty of food and water for
You’ve brought none.
I don’t need you to survive, and
we’re simply waiting for a rescue
Why should I share my supplies with
Should you kill me and take my
Goodness/rightness and
badness/wrongness are located in
the consequences an act
Jeremy Bentham (1748-1842 CE)
An act that increases happiness or
pleasure (or minimizes unhappiness
and suffering) is right and good; act
that decreases happiness or causes
suffering is wrong and bad.
Theory based on act, rather than act
based on theory.
John Stuart Mill (1806-1873 CE)
Bentham’s “Calculus of Felicity”
• Intensity (How intense is the
• Duration (How long does the
pleasure last?)
• Certainty (How sure is the
• Proximity (How soon will the
pleasure be experienced?)
• Fecundity (How many more
pleasures will follow?)
• Purity (How free from pain is the
• Extent (How many people will
experience pleasure? [social not
personal hedonism])
Life for Headaches
Stop and Think page 484.
Some Pleasures More Valuable Than Others?
Abortion and the Utilitarian Approach