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PHL275H1 Lecture Notes - Ethical Egoism, Egotism

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Ethics Lecture
September 21, 2011
Ethical Egoism
Acting egoistically doesn’t mean you stomp on the interests of
others; it means being nice to others because people may be
nice to me if I’m nice to them “what goes around, comes
around”. Being nice is in my self interest so that’s why I do it
Medlin Against Ethical Egoism
Is internally incoherent; doesn’t make sense by its own criteria
Universal egoism: everyone ought to look after their own self-
interests and ignore any interests that come into conflict; yours
over anyone else’s
Individual egoism: one should look after their own self-interest;
everyone else should do whatever they want. It is good for me to
look after my own self interest
oHe notices that ethical egoism cannot be preached; you
can’t convince other people of it. You can’t preach a
universal doctrine. When you preach ethical egoism you
have subordinated your ethical egoism because you
recruited them
oTelling others to be egoists it not moral advice and if you
do it, you’re not a good egoist because it’s probably going
to undermine your own interests
Categorical egoism: this is what you ought to do; if what you
ought to do is look after your own self-interest, then you should
look after your own self-interest
Hypothetical egoism: if you want such a result, look after your
own interests
Summary of Medlin’s Argument
Ethical theory thinks that everyone should follow it and tries to
convince people of it
Ethical egoism cannot convince anyone else of its universalism
It can at most convince someone of its hypothetical version
which is just utilitarianism or another categorical theory
Content of ethical egoism makes this so; not necessarily true of
other moral doctrines
But probably true of strict altruism, for the same reason
Ethical theories need to appeal to objective ‘ultimate principles’
[what is right regardless of whose interests it furthers]
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