Utilitarianism, Ethical Egoism, And Moral Relativism

1409 words - 6 pages

Utilitarianism, Ethical Egoism, and Moral Relativism
Tom Gardner

Ethics is a branch of philosophy that attempts to answer the questions; what’s right? What’s wrong? And why? Moral relativism is an ethics position that essentially states that people have disagreeing moral beliefs and therefore you must but tolerant of other's morals. This position leads to the problematic realization that if this is the case there can be no objective moral truths nor can there be any universal principles. Act utilitarianism and ethical egoism are two different ethics theories that attempt to respond to this challenge of moral relativism in different ways.
Ethical egoism attempts to respond to the ...view middle of the document...

Three good arguments for the justification of ethical egoism are the human nature, self-knowledge, and intrusion arguments. The human nature argument is just psychological egoism. It argues that humans naturally operate by means of self-interest so why fight it. Ethical egoism will serve as a more intelligent way to support the natural order of things. The self-knowledge argument states that because we have a better knowledge of ourselves then that of others, we are better qualified in doing good actions for ourselves rather than for others. An example of this argument is the fact that a person has better odds of buying a good gift for themselves compared to buying a good gift for another. The intrusion argument simply argues that you have no right to bud into other people’s business and whether you think it is good or not you are simply over stepping your bounds.
The ethics theory utilitarianism, like egoism, is also a form of consequentialism. Yet it attempts to answer the challenge of moral relativism, through consequentialism, in a very different way. Utilitarianism looks at the amount of pleasure present and pain absent in a consequence, also known as its utility. The fundamental rule of utilitarianism is the, “Greatest Happiness Principle.” This principle states that actions are right in proportion to which they create the greatest happiness for most people. So adverse to ethical egoism, this theory gives more merit to the collected effect of action on all (others & the do-err) compared to just the effect on the do-err.
When a utilitarian is deciding on whether an action is good they are calculating the utility (pleasure present & pain absent) of the action, for all, and comparing it to the utility of other possible actions that could be taken at that time. The utility of an action is calculated by examining a number of aspects related to the pleasure involved and it is measured in hedons, a unit of pleasure. These aspects of calculation are the pleasures intensity, duration, closeness to action, purity, certainty, extent of affected people, and multitude of kinds of pleasure produced.
Utilitarianism is justified on a number of beliefs/arguments, the first being that all people only desire happiness, which is just another word for pleasure. In this belief the desire for things like money, virtue, and friends are actual just a means to an end, which is happiness. Utilitarianism is also based on the argument that the feelings of pain and pleasure are in facts natures guide to what ought to be. Finally, utilitarianism is based on the belief that by keeping the happiness of the community in mind you are in fact acting in the best interest of your own happiness. In this belief the community is seen as a fictional body that is made up of the sum of individual interests within that body. The best way to increase the body’s happiness is to increase the majority of individual happiness’s and transversely the happier the body gets the...

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