Re: Ethics

Daniel Fabulich (
Fri, 10 Jul 1998 20:30:20 -0400 (EDT)

On Fri, 10 Jul 1998, Joe Jenkins wrote:

> I'm new to this subject, but I've learned some from this thread. I
> think you said something like- egoism is wrong because assuming it has
> universal acceptance in the population is worse off than a universal
> acceptance of utilitarianism. But wouldn't a universal acceptance of
> utilitarianism in a population of inter-actors be an evolutionarily
> unstable system? That would assume no defectors and leave us highly
> vulnerable to potential defectors.

Evolutionary stability only applies to *iterated* games. Notably, Tit for Tat is a *very* well proven strategy for the Prisoner's Dilemma; it's also in keeping with egoism AND utilitarianism, to that extent. So in any situation in which the game is iterated, I'd bet on Tit for Tat.

However, there are situations in which the game is not iterated; these are generally situations in which the players are unknown to each other. In these situations, there can be only two strategies: defect or keep silent. Egoism would demand that we defect whenever the game is not iterated, and that leaves us all worse off. "Defect" is not a rational solution to the Prisoner's Dilemma, by the generalization principle. "Keep silent" is.

> This is the same problem as the
> recent poster that thought we could eventually rid the world of evil.
> Yes, egoism is not perfect in that it depends on pockets of
> utilitarianism. But, what I think I've just said is that
> utilitarianism is not perfect in that it depends on pockets of egoism.

Utilitarianism does not depend on egoism. When we play Tit for Tat, egoism and utilitarianism agree.

We must never presume that we have eliminated evil; we will always have to take measures to protect ourselves against crime and coercion, because there is no utopia...