Re: Ethics, Egoism, and Rationality

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Sat, 27 Jun 1998 15:45:57 -0700

> [DanF]
> Not necessarily, and it's because of the generalization principle.
> If it is rational for me to be an egoist, then it is also rational
> for you to be an egoist. However, if we were both egoists, we would
> both be worse off; this is bad, according to egoism and a
> consequentialist value system. So what we find is that egoism fails
> to meet the requirements of generalization according to egoism's own
> value system; for this reason, egoism is fundamentally irrational.

> It's like the Prisoner's Dilemma: egoism demands that we both
> incriminate each other; utilitarianism demands that we both keep
> silent. Utilitarianism provides better results, so it is rational,
> according to consequentialism.

The prisoner's dilemma only applies to short-term interactions,
not repeated ones. This is the mistake many non-egoists make with
their naive refutations of egoism: what they reject is not egoism
per se, but _short term_ egoism. Most "selfish" acts that seem
evil do so not because they are selfish, but because they are not
selfish _in the long run_. Criminal behavior, for example, may
lead to short-term gains, but in a world where most values are
achieved by interacting with others multiple times, crimials do
far more poorly than rational long-term egoists, who understand
that cooperative behavior is, in the long run, more profitable.

For extropians, for whom even mortality is a problem to be solved,
should be that much more inclined to think long term, and therefore
value behavior that benefits us throughout our immortal existence
and not just take a buck when we can. Under these conditions,
egoism is superior to utilitarianism in every respect.

Lee Daniel Crocker <>
"All inventions or works of authorship original to me, herein and past,
are placed irrevocably in the public domain, and may be used or modified
for any purpose, without permission, attribution, or notification."--LDC