Re: Ethics

Daniel Fabulich (
Mon, 6 Jul 1998 20:28:56 -0400 (EDT)

On Mon, 6 Jul 1998, Bradley Felton wrote:

> It seems to me that the "rational moral philosophers" have discovered
> something that has been fooling humans for a long time: problem shift.
> When they claim to be able to discern an objective "this is what you ought
> to do" they divert attention from their subjective premises, which are
> assumed a-priori. "You ought to do this" IF you want to achieve the
> subjective goal of the week, be it "happiness", "well-being", "financial
> gain", or what have you.

Well, take egoism for example. It's the easiest to adapt to this model: egoism can be defined like this: "You ought to do whatever is most in your subjective interests." Clearly this circumvents the problem you assert above: I completely agree that a person's goals are entirely subjective, but I can come up with a theory of practical rationality which is compatible with it.

As I noted in earlier posts, however, egoism is wrong, and we'd certainly be better off with utilitarianism. Either way, however, these are theories about how you should go about getting what you want, not about deciding what you want.

> They haven't conquered irrationality, just used a slight-of-hand to focus
> attention of the objective bits....

On the flip side of the same argument, I'd say you're asking the theory to do more than it claims to do. I'm not really sure what you mean by "conquering irrationality," but having a rational theory about how to act given a set of irrational or non-rational preferences is a non-trivial step forward, I'd say.