Ethics, Egoism & Rationality
Sat, 27 Jun 1998 12:46:28 EDT

Do you disagree with the axiom that if an
> ethical theory is true then it is right for
> everyone? It seems self-evident to me.
It is simple: if an ethical theory is right,
> then it is right for everyone. Egoism is not
> right for everyone by its own standards;
> therefore, when we presume egoism is right, we
> must conclude that it is wrong.

I think we're going in circles here. For an ethical theory to be true it
has to compared either to the "ends" or a "universal truth" - -

In order for there to be a universal right or wrong, we'd have to ask if
ethics can be derived from the laws of "nature" (18th Century Philosophy) or
"god". Then we could become natural talmudisists and begin implying things.

On the other hand, if our ethical system is relative to our percpetion of the
ends, then all ethical systems would be relative. Obviously the ethical
system of an egoist vs. altruist would be quite different. The next question
would be, which "value system" is ethical. Now we're getting into
existentialism... As for "rationality", I think there are three forms of it
- -

One - - rationality as implied by an ethical system (This presumes that
what is right is rational and what is wrong is irrational.)
Two - - rationality as defined by the means vs. ends (This presumes that
what works and leads to the "sum" is rational.)
Three - - axiomatic rationality as defined by a system of universal truths
(This presumes that the "answer" has already been given, and human logic has
to conform to it, or be lead astray.)

So in conclusion - - you have to qualify the term ethics or rationality by
stating what's the goal of your system of ethics or rationality. The other
person may then respond by asking why. If he does, that means there's an
assumption that your system is part of a larger system (be it ethical, the
laws of science, the universe, human nature, etc. etc.) and then you have to
decide whether you wish to accept this presumption, and if so, justify your
own system relative to that.

In conclusion, I really don't like the world ethics, because it is a loaded
word with little meaning. I prefer to qualify it with "ethical continuity" -
- thieves and liars too have there own system of ethics.. hence implying, if
they abide by it, they are "ethical".

- - Ed