Moral Doctrines and Moral Theories: Test 2
A key benefit to the discussion of morality is egoism. Egoism, long assumed to be the "arch adversary" of morality is none the less what motivates practically all human beings to committing their various deeds. This discussion that I present will include my interpretation of Psychological Egoism and Ross Shafer-Landau's explanations in pages 86-89 of his book Fundamental's of Ethics; Ethical Egoism, and it's discrepancies to Psychological Egoism, as well as Shafer-Landau's support from pages 100-109; The Divine and Social Contract theories with Shafer-Landau's support from chapters 5 and 13, as well as philosophical support from Totten's From Experience to Meaning.
Psychological Egoism </u>
In my mind Psychological Egoism is a relatively general theory. It is the theory that all man-kind act for the single motive of self interest or self love. Psychological Egoism holds clear that all beings in nature ultimately strive to committing their actions for their own personal gain, and being this true, all human beings' actions are for their own self benefit. If this is true, then all actions intended to help other human beings are only done for the helper's benefit in some way. "Altruism" as Shafer-Landau explains, "The direct desire to benefit others for their own sake, without any ulterior motive does not exist." (Shafer-Landau 87) However the proper definition of morality requires us humans to take seriously the interests, feelings and Welfare of others, and if psychological egoism holds true, morality would be impossible. It would, for example, be difficult to explain that Mother Teresa's actions were for her own personal gain. It would also be difficult to explain a simple action such as holding the door open for someone, especially if it's for the interest of preventing them from getting hurt. In such cases we can concur that there is a even a slight existence of morality among human nature today. And since this holds true, the logical and possible mathematical conclusion would hold psychological egoism as false since the view completely negates that of morality; it is a "divide by zero error".
Psychological egoism is a psychological view, rather than an ethical theory. It aims to describe the facts and limitations of human motivation, rather than prescribe the standards that we ought to live up to. If it its true, every single action- mine and yours and everyone else's- is done from the hope of personal gain. (Shafer-Landau 87)
To my conclusion, psychological egoism is but an observation of another person, without the essential and virtually crucial view of their "inner conscience". And since history has shown that there is the slight hint of morality in human nature, psychological egoism cannot hold true.
Ethical Egoism </u>
Ethical Egoism in contrast to psychological egoism is the view that it is morally correct to act selfishly and egoistic. "Unlike the psychological version, ethical egoism is really a moral theory. It tells us about what we are morally required and forbidden to do." (Shafer-Landau 100) In this case, it's not a view that human nature is naturally egoistic and self-centered (like psychological egoism), but rather it is right to be egoistic and self-centered. In my personal view, I find this to be merely a theory to be tested, yet, widely used, especially by people being prosecuted. I however see in one of the arguments according to Shafer-Landau, the argument "egoism permits us to escape some very important moral duties" (Shafer-Landau 104); in many civil individuals, more commonly and somewhat stereotypically in large cities. An example would be someone crying for help in the middle of a crowd, and every citizen just passes by for the sake of "not wanting any trouble". Countering this however, would be the recently gruesome incident of a gang rape of a 16 year-old in California where the surrounding crowd not only failed to renderer aid, but took the scene as an opportunity for personal entertainment, and photography for personal (rather monstrous) entertainment. This being said "Ethical egoism does not run strongly counter to common sense, since it imposes a moral duty to kill, rape, torture or humiliate whenever doing so best serves self-interest" (Shafer-Landau 109). Ethical egoism cannot be allocated to everyone. If it were otherwise, it would be a dog eat dog world.
The basic level of trust required for collaboration on social projects would be non-existent, because people who wanted to survive would have to avoid other people. This would result in individuals trying to become as self-sufficient as possible. Society on any large scale would be impossible to maintain. (Totten)
The Contract Theories </u>
Overall, in a concrete definition, both views of egoism hold false to any means of true morality. To approach this rather, "obstacle" of morality would be of two obvious ways: either we accept the dog-eat-dog world as a means to live a chaotic life, or we follow a set of standards through contract. If we want to follow a set of rules of morality, we may be able to do it through two Contract Theories: Social and/or Divine.
Divine Contract Theory
The Divine Contract Theory states that the primary source of moral obligation is from a divine being. This divine being must have two traits: Will, and must be a moral lawgiver. Obviously, the way us humans receive such a will is through some sort of a revelation in which we as man must be able to carry for practically eternity if we are to follow such a contract theory. As humans we have done this through profits who theoretically receive the divine word, in this case God's, and are tasked to give it among all others. In theology, this has proven to be successful among a profit's analysis of the present time and preaches an upcoming event in the future, related to historical events based on the present, to the people signaling if there should be a change in divine law. In the most basic sense, The Divine Command Theory simulation, God enforces his laws with Reward and Punishment. Any act that confirms to the will of God is morally right, and any act that violates God's will and law is morally wrong. "An act is morally required just because it is commanded by God and immoral just because God forbids it." (Shafer-Landau 61)
Social Contract Theory
This "bindingness" to this theory, however, still has an egocentric effect to it. For a human being can follow their Divine Command solely to seek the Divine Reward. Such acts can cause confusion in their own faith, as well as conflicts with other people in which their belief system would be "our form of belief is morally right, and all others are morally wrong." And like both egoistic views, any form of egoism negates the definition of morality.
A different approach to the egocentric way would be the Social Contract Theory. The Social Contract Theory in my mind is the most stable, successful yet imperfect form of human social order. It is a set of rules that the people set as moral that they would agree upon. Seeing this as more acceptable than the concrete Divine Contract Theory, is that there are several famous "contracterians" who find this to be true. John Rawls in particular, sets a strategy known as the "Original Position" which is where we remove ourselves mentally from the social and political worlds into an imaginary circumstance in which people place themselves in what Rawls calls a "Veil of Ignorance". "Rawls has us envisioned contractors behind a veil of ignorance, an imaginary device that eliminates all knowledge of your distinctive traits." (Shafer-Landau 184) Such a peoples would be only be rational, free, equal self-interested with their own survival and own happiness; yet must lack, biasness, favoritism, prejudice, and selfishness. The greatest example I can relate this to would be the Constitutional Convention of 1787. This historical assembly in my mind was greatly related to Rawls strategy to the Social Contract Theory where the whole objective was to set up a form of government in which all would agree upon if society were to run smoothly. The reason I pin the Social Contract Theory as "imperfect" is the fact that it is ruled by the people, thus not each and every person would ever agree to each and every rule proposed. Nevertheless, it all follows Rawls Principals to contractarianism: the equality principle in which everybody has the right to the same basic freedom compatible with the equal freedom for all (The US Bill of Rights); and the Difference principle where all social economic inequalities must be to everyone's advantage and attached to positions open to all (Capitalistic Society).
I wouldn't rule out the Social Contract Theory as an alternative to the Divine Contract Theory, but more of a complement to the Divine Contract Theory. For it is widely accepted that a divine being is the basis for morality, however, it should not be as concrete as the Divine Contract Theory specifies. If there were to be contractarianism to set up moral standards, it should be based upon a divine law, at the same time, common sense in which many can openly agree upon, such as "do not commit murder" rather than "do not commit adultery". Again, the best example of a successful transcendence from both Divine Contract Theory and Social Contract Theory, would be today's US Constitution which was constructed from the base of a Christian principal, yet, structured so that the people can decide their own lives and their own future. In my own theory and my personal conclusion: both theories are capable of standing alone, but to avoid the obstacle of an egocentric ideal, they are better off working together.
Shafer-Landau, Russ. The Fundamentals of Ethics. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.
Totten, James B. Sauer and John. From Experience to Meaning. San Antoino, TX: The department of philosophy, 2001.