Re: Ethics, Egoism, and Rationality

Daniel Fabulich (
Sun, 28 Jun 1998 01:52:41 -0400 (EDT)

On Sat, 27 Jun 1998, Lee Daniel Crocker wrote:

> 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.

Only in some cases. I'd even say in MOST cases. Indeed, as I pointed out
earlier, egoism and utilitarianism agree at least 80% of the time.
However, I still assert that even if egoists would only hurt people for
profit if/when they could get away with it, (ie when there would be no
long term negative consequences, or when the resulting improvement in long
term well-being would outweigh the long term negative consequences,) we'd
still be worse off if everybody was egoistic.

> 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.

While I agree with your point re: thinking about the long term, your
argument falls apart unless you are asserting that there are never
situations in which it is profitable (in the long term) to hurt others;
situations in which you could steal and not get caught, defraud people and
not feel the consequences, etc. In every situation in which we could hurt
people for long-term profit, egoism demands that each player
"incriminate;" since egoism would demand sub-optimal consequences, egoism
demands that we reject egoism under these circumstances.