Format: Print Length
Format: PDF / Kindle / ePub
Size: 13.55 MB
Downloadable formats: PDF
Two problems with the argument: The argument confuses wanting with willing.� What we end up doing is what we will to do, but is not necessarily what we want to do.� The argument leading to premise 3 slides from a truth to a falsehood.� It�s true that your decision to go to work reflects your judgment that getting paid is more important than relaxing.� But this is not equivalent to saying that you desire to get paid more than you desire to relax.� Maybe you decided that getting paid is more important simply because you have a moral duty to support your family.� In general, we sometimes do things even though it is not what we most want to do.� We sometimes act out of a sense of duty, or because our action is a means to something that we do want down the road.� An example of the latter:� the hiker pinned under a rock did not want to cut his arm off with a dull knife; in fact, he wanted very much not to do that.� But he did it anyway �he willed himself to do it�because it was necessary for something he did want � survival. ����������������� The second problem is even more straightforward � whether an action is praiseworthy depends not so much on whether it is something you want to do but on what it is you want to do.� If Fred saves the child because he wants to save a life and he desires to do the right thing, then the fact that he is doing what he most wants to do does not make him selfish or unpraiseworthy.� As Rachels puts it, (in reference to Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish businessman who risked his life saving thousands of Jews from the Nazis), �If he wanted to help other people, even at great risk to himself, that is precisely what makes him unselfish.� What else could unselfishness be, if not wanting to help others, even at some cost to oneself?� ����������������� Of course, it is logically possible for a person to help others just to feel good about himself.� If this really is the sole motive for the action, then the action has a selfish motive.� Arguably, though, this is the exception and not the rule.� Typically, when people feel good about helping others, it is at least partly because they care about those they are helping.� Whether this is true is a psychological question and can be tested empirically.� We can do a little thought experiment to imagine how such a test would go.� Suppose that Fred saves the child from the fire, but the next year (well after all of the adulation has died down) the child is killed in a car accident.� If Fred saved the child just to feel good about himself and not out of concern for the child, then there is no reason to think that Fred would feel badly about the tragic accident (after all, he got to have his good feelings, so what does he care?).� Likewise, we can ask how Fred would feel if someone else saved the child instead.� If his motives are entirely selfish, then we would expect him to be ambivalent about the outcome, or perhaps even have negative feelings towards the rescuer (since the rescuer denied him an opportunity to feel good about himself).� Even without carrying out experiments, we are quite confident that most people would not react in the way that the selfish theory predicts. ����������������� The idea that people always act only to promote their own interests has some initial plausibility, for two reasons.� One, there is so much selfish behavior in the world that it is easy to lose sight of the unselfish behavior.� (In this connection, there are individuals for whom the claim seems to be true, or at least approximately true).� Two, just about everything we do, including what we do for others, is motivated at least partially by self-interest.� But for Psychological Egoism to be true, it would have to be the case that all of our actions are motivated entirely by self-interest.
Continue reading Choosing to Die: Elective Death and Multiculturalism