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Are any ethicists totally unconcerned with the other side of the story?

So allow me to write up an example.

David is fat, I mean morbidly obese. And David keeps stealing all Mary's food then laughing at her for going hungry. "You can't even afford more food" says David, again and again, laughing. One day, almost hallucinating from hunger, Mary interjects and says "and you, David, are fat". There is a long silence. Then David stands up, shouts "fat shaming" and demands Mary starve herself to death forthwith.

Notwithstanding the relative harshness of the penalty, which, if any, ethicists would side with David?

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    Do you mean : are there any ethicists who advocate egoism, total self-concern and disregard for the interests of others ?
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Aug 2 '18 at 19:23
  • Are you asking if any such ethicist exists, or whether any school of ethics would support it? Aug 3 '18 at 19:46
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Amoralism

David might be an amoralist : someone who understands moral terms, perhaps even recognizes moral obligations, but fails to be motivated by them and feels no regret, remorse or shame about this lack of motivation. To David, morality is just an irrelevance that never guides or even influences his motivation. This would fit his relationship with Mary. There are ethicists who at least take this view seriously as a rationally coherent option. See Brook J. Sadler, 'The Possibility of Amoralism: A Defence against Internalism', Philosophy, Vol. 78, No. 303 (Jan., 2003), pp. 63-78.

Or David might be an ethical egoist. This is a recognised position with known exponents.

Ethical egoism - the orthodox view

Facione, Scherer, and Attig define ethical egoism as "the view that human conduct should be based exclusively on self-interest." Similar definitions have been given by others: "each and every man ought to look out for himself alone," "everyone ought to concern himself with his own welfare alone," "my sole duty is to promote my own interests exclusively," and "everyone ought exclusively to pursue his own interests." Such conceptions emphasize what is without doubt egoism's primary defining characteristic: concern with one's own interests. How- ever, the added condition that self-interest ought to be one's exclusive or only concern is objectionable according to many critics, for it unduly restricts one's actions to those which are pejoratively "selfish" or narrowly self-centered: An egoist would "suppress wants and interests that were his or her own but that were not self-interested." This is undesirable, it is argued, because one's life would be "more meaningful or fulfilling" were such wants or interests not suppressed. A narrowly self-centered egoist would, for example, be prohibited from experiencing the valuable pleasures of love, friendship, fellow feeling, and community. He "could not understand or have any insight into other human beings, grasp that they are in pain, and so forth, as ordinary persons, not entirely egoistic, can."" Taken to its extremes, the egoist's self-centeredness turns him into a psychopath who is unable to acknowledge the internal states of others. (Edward Regis, Jr, 'What is Ethical Egoism?', Ethics, Vol. 91, No. 1 (Oct., 1980), pp. 50-62 : 51.)

David seems to fit all these descriptions at least insofar as concerns his relations with Mary. Does a more refined view of ethical egoism lift him out of this category ?

Ethical egoism - a finer-grained view

But, although these critics are right to object to such pathological selfishness, it is not clear that the present conception of egoism endorses, or need endorse, selfishness of this nature. For its requirement of "exclusive" pursuit of self-interest is ambiguous. It may mean either (a) that the egoist ought to do those actions of which he is the sole beneficiary (thus he will be justified in taking those actions which will result in a benefit to himself alone), or (b) that he ought to do only those actions for which his motive is promotion of his interest (thus he is justified in doing actions which will benefit himself along with others, but his reason for acting must be to benefit himself). In a the results of his actions are exclusively self-interested; in b the motive of his action is exclusively self-interested. An egoist of type a, for example, will be justified in straightening up his room because he alone will benefit; he would not, however, be justified in straightening up another's room, even if his reason for doing so were to satisfy his own desire for order and neatness, for this would not be to benefit himself exclusively. Here the egoist will be "suppressing wants and interests that are his own but are not self-interested," as is alleged by critics. An egoist of type b, on the other hand, would be justified in straightening up both rooms, as long as his motive for doing so were to satisfy his own desire for neatness. Thus he is justified in promoting the interests of others when it is to his own interest to do so. In both a and b, however, the egoist is correctly described as pursuing his own interests "exclusively," although the object of the exclusion differs in each case. (Edward Regis, Jr, 'What is Ethical Egoism?', Ethics, Vol. 91, No. 1 (Oct., 1980), pp. 50-62 : 52.)

The refinement here is in the distinction :

either (a) ... the egoist ought to do those actions of which he is the sole beneficiary (thus he will be justified in taking those actions which will result in a benefit to himself alone), or (b) ... he ought to do only those actions for which his motive is promotion of his interest (thus he is justified in doing actions which will benefit himself along with others, but his reason for acting must be to benefit himself).

It doesn't appear that in his relations with Mary this refinement springs him from the category of ethical egoism : nothing David does benefits himself along with Mary, since he never benefits Mary even in order to benefit himself.

Ethical egoism - exponents

Expect variety as usual in philosophy but J.A. Brunton, 'Egoism and Morality', The Philosophical Quarterly, 6, 1956, 289-303 is a candidate. As is Jesse Kalin, 'In Defense of Egoism' (in D. Gauthier, ed., Morality and Rational Self-interest (Englewood Cliffs, 1970; Kalin, 'On Ethical Egoism', American Philosophical Quarterly Monograph No. 1 (1969), pp. 26-41; and Kalin 'Two Kinds of Moral Reasoning', Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 5 (1975), pp. 323- 356; and (more recently) Keith Burgess-Jackson, 'Taking Egoism Seriously', Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, Vol. 16, No. 3 (June 2013), pp. 529-542.

David : amoralist or ethical egoist

He could be either on the data given.


References

Brook J. Sadler, 'The Possibility of Amoralism: A Defence against Internalism', Philosophy, Vol. 78, No. 303 (Jan., 2003), pp. 63-78.

Edward Regis, Jr, 'What is Ethical Egoism?', Ethics, Vol. 91, No. 1 (Oct., 1980), pp. 50-62.

Peter A. Facione, Donald Scherer, and Thomas Attig, Values and Society (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1978), p. 45.

J.A. Brunton, 'Egoism and Morality', The Philosophical Quarterly, 6, 1956, 289-303 .

Jesse Kalin, 'In Defense of Egoism' (in D. Gauthier, ed., Morality and Rational Self-interest (Englewood Cliffs, 1970.

Jesse Kalin, 'On Ethical Egoism', American Philosophical Quarterly Monograph No. 1 (1969), pp. 26-41.

Jesse Kalin 'Two Kinds of Moral Reasoning', Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 5 (1975), pp. 323- 356.

Keith Burgess-Jackson, 'Taking Egoism Seriously', Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, Vol. 16, No. 3 (June 2013), pp. 529-542.

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Nietzsche, at least in his clearer moments, echoing Diogenes (the Dog) of Sinope.

Diogenes considers the primary motivation of a thinking person is to 'deface currency'. Whenever something is seen as more valuable because of its form rather than its substance it should be reduced to simple substance by direct force. His followers, the Cynics, thought humans naturally build up institutions based on falsehood and nonsense, so they believed that as many of us as possible would need to do this as a full-time job just to keep the world from continually getting worse.

Nietzsche is more expansive. He argues that all this niceness ("herd behavior") is really either hypocritical scheming to achieve dominance (of which he approves, but with reservations, because it really is just bullying based on outnumbering people) or it is completely immoral, in that it is robbing the world of what makes you a person and reduces you to being a "herd animal" which is a waste of resources.

He ends up with the notion that ethics is itself immoral in that it always pretends to be something completely different from what it is, and limits real power in the process. So we must move beyond morality if we want honesty and fairness of any sort to be part of our thinking. Anything else is unfair to the powerful. (And given his notion of 'Perspectivism', that is all of us, to one degree or another. Just seeking power itself is powerful, the interactions that result are what shapes our entire world. So to the degree you are pursuing power, you are being powerful, even if you lose. And to the degree you aren't you are betraying your purpose in life.)

Since most ethical systems favor honesty and fairness, none of them ultimately make sense. Since most ethical systems also expect things to make sense at some level, this is an unsolvable problem for them. We either need to derive a morality that solves this contradiction, or we need to replace ethics with something very different.

Moralities from before ethics as a philosophical process, then, that disown the obligation to make sense, are in some sense better, since thinking people then politically manipulate them, and that affords them power to change the world an express or refine the shared sentiments of their tribes. He calls such people 'Creators' and he affords them the highest human value. He stops short of suggesting religion is therefore just superior to ethics, but he does not offer a third usable alternative. As a result, many of his closest followers are religionists. He influences movements toward 'creation spirituality' within Catholicism and is the basis of some forms of modern Witchcraft, Thelema and Ceremonial Magic.

Since David is so easy to call out as a monster, his overreaction is not in his own best interest. Stupidity is neither moral nor immoral. But his approach, capitalizing on Mary's incapacity or unwillingness to stop him, is ultimately for the best. If she has not yet even tried calling him names, she is shutting down her authentic self, and contributing nothing new to the world. He eventually made her participate in reality by using her judgement and expressing what she feels. If she persisted, she was already dead, in a certain sense, and her ultimate starvation was simply redundant. (At the same time, David will eventually not be able to move well enough to steal her food. So he is threatening his own power, which goes beyond stupidity to being a genuinely bad idea.)

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