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Friday, May 15, 2015

Why Be Good? Well, Why Not?

By Jay L. Garfield
Big Ideas at Slate.com

Here is an excerpt:

The central problem of ethics is to provide reasons to override rational self-interest—acting for the sake of others, perhaps, or for the sake of duty, or in accordance with divine commandment, or for the sake of some other transcendent value. Sometimes the argument for doing so involves showing that it is really in our own self-interest to do so (everlasting life in heaven, for instance). Sometimes it involves arguing that there are more important things than our own rational interest (duty, for instance). In any case, the burden of proof is taken to rest squarely on the moralist to convince the immoralist to do what is, at least at first glance, irrational.

But why take acting in one’s own narrow self-interest to be rational in the first place? It is not self-evident that it is. And why take our own interests to be either independent of those of others or in competition with them? That is not self-evident, either. If we can offer a more compelling account of rational choice than that offered by the economists and decision theorists, we might find that care for others is the default rational basis for action, not a value in competition with it.

The entire article is here.