1.1 Egoism: Take the long view

Graphics Format23-Jan-2008

To obtain a doctorate I must sacrifice some of my short term desires in the interest of my overall goal. I must, for example, sacrifice a few hours perusing my friends' Facebooks in order to learn my profession's rules about authorship.

Why should I make such sacrifices? Society grants professionals and researchers considerable freedom. If I can obtain my degree without learning all the rules--or if I can get the experimental results I expect by dropping one outlying data point--why shouldn't I? What motivation do I have to act ethically, that is, to perform the right action for the right reason?

Here is a disturbingly difficult philosophical question, the "Who cares?" question. Why should I be moral at all? While the question is familiar, its answer is not. In many ways, "Why should I care about right and wrong?" is the most basic question of the examined life.

Perhaps the most compelling answer emerges from thinking about one's desires. Egoism, a popular and powerful ethical theory, takes this approach, focusing attention initially on what I want to explain why I should care.

Author: Gary Comstock
Maintained By: Gary Comstock
Last Updated: 2007-08-22