Assignment: Subjectivism, and Ethical Egoism
In this section, you will see the foundations of Subjectivism and of Ethical Egoism. Some Ethicists consider them to be the same thing. Others recognize differences between the two. You decide for yourself.
In one sense, you may consider Subjectivism to be the individual version of Cultural Relativism. Subjectivism holds that: (1) no human person’s moral system is better than any other human person’s moral values; (2) each human person is free to choose the moral values and ethics, in which she/he believes; (3) no individual, human being, acting in a personal capacity, may impose his/her moral value systems on another human being. These are the similarities Subjectivism has with Cultural Relativism.
Here are a few dissimilarities. First, a human person, being free to choose her/his moral views, the culture in which that person lives may not impose its morals upon her/him. Second, only the most basic laws may apply to that person. In effect, the majorities in a culture may not impose their moral views on unwilling member of that culture.
On to Egoism, Ethical or Otherwise. The basic version of Egoism holds that a person may pursue whatever is in his/her own best interests and that it is up to that person to determine what those interests are. If an action advances the person’s interest, then the action is moral. The person may take others’ interests or needs into account, but the person does not have to do so. As you can see, this is a Consequentialist approach.
In response to criticisms that Egoism was nothing more than “jungle ethics,” or “anything-goes,” many ethicists, espousing Egoism, refined their approaches. They argued that Ethical Egoism did recognize certain restraints in the choices a person could make. John Stuart Mill’s position in On Liberty typifies this approach: a person may do whatever advances his/her interests, so long as that action does not interfere with any others’ pursuit of their interests. Please note that Utilitarianism is a form of Ethical Egoism, as we shall see in Week 4.
During this week’s Discussion you will visit these and related issues and questions. Assignment: Subjectivism, and Ethical Egoism