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PHIL 110B (4)

Morality and Advantage - David Gauthier.docx

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University of Waterloo
Patricia Marino

 Baier says that being moral is following rules designed to overrule self-interest whenever it is in the interest of everyone alike that everyone should set aside his interest  Baier argues that morality is designed to overrule prudence when it is to everyone’s advantage that it do so (morality contributes to advantage in a way that prudence does not)  Thesis: “Morality is a system of principles such that it is advantageous for everyone if everyone accepts and acts on it, yet acting on the system of principles requires that some persons perform disadvantageous acts.”  Disadvantageous acts – refers to acts which would be less advantageous to the performer than some other act open to him in the same context o Ex. prisoner dilemma: not confessing for the possibility to be jailed for 1 year, rather than confessing and being set free (since if the other person does it, it’s 4 years in jail) o Ex. everyone should always tell the truth; each person gains from those occasions on which others tell the truth, even though it is disadvantageous to them to do so  Each person must gain more from the disadvantageous acts performed by others than he loses from the disadvantageous acts performed by himself o Ex. the disadvantages which a person has in telling the truth (when he doesn’t expect any short or long term benefits from telling the truth) are outweighed by those advantages that he receives when others tell him the truth (also not expecting benefits)  The thesis requires that disadvantages one incurs in telling the truth (in these cases) are less than the advantages one receives in being told the truth by others in parallel cases Ex. A and B are 2 nations with opposed interests who are in an arms race and both have the latest in weaponry. They recognize that the outbreak of full-scale war between them would be mutually disastrous. This leads A and B to agree that each would be better off if they were mutually disarming instead of mutually arming; this would preserve the balance of power while reducing the risk of war.  Immediate interest: A might decide to violate the pact o A would consider the act to have disadvantageous consequences; A only expects to benefit if B also acts to disarm; so in terms of immediate interest, A may violate pact  Prudent: violate the pact o A and B would adhere to their disarmament pact whenever violation would be detectable by the other, and violate the pact whenever violation would not be detectable by the other; in other words, they’d adhere openly and violate secretly  This example follows the thesis: o Accepting the pact and acting on it is more advantageous than no pact at all o Since each (A and B) must disarm even when disarming is undetectable by the other, it requires each to perform disadvantageous acts (acts that oppose those of prudenc
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