Morality as overcoming self interest

Notes for the AQA specification for AS Philosophy unit 1. 

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Morality as overcoming selfinterest
Identify: Morality as a matter of overcoming selfinterest either through reason where moral motivation is our duty (Kant's categorical
imperatives) or through concern for others (Humean sympathy).
Explain: Selfinterest is egotistic and morality encourages altruism therefore the two terms contradict each other. Kant argued that when
deciding what is moral we should discard self interest and become disinterested, acting in accordance with good will/out of a sense of duty.
Hume argued that morality comes from emotions within about our sympathy for others rather than concern for ourselves.
Point Rejoinder Rejoinder
1. Kant: Morality requires that we don't place What makes an action moral? Could Kant supposes we can work out morality
more worth on oneself (self interested) so the universalize any maxim e.g. never step on through reason by discarding any personal
maxims underpinning moral actions must be cracks in the pavement. No distinguishing concern but by using an objective account of
universalized e.g. this is why suicide is between moral and nonmoral maxims. ethics. Would this maxim work if everyone did
immoral. it? E.g. explains why letting natural talents go
to waste is immoral.
2. Kant's approach is too strict and insensitive But the important part of an action is the Morality may come from intention in theory but
by only considering actions as `ends in intention and whether the action was meant in how can we differentiate between actions that
themselves' we don't consider good will or not e.g. manslaughter is punished have good will and those that don't? E.g. the
circumstances. less than murder in the law. shopkeeper who lowers prices to make more
money not out of duty.
3. Humean ethics acknowledges the role of These traits are a subjective reflection of On the whole, we can distinguish between
emotion by claiming that we should be moral Hume's beliefs and nothing more. We may self interest and morality due to natural
because natural sympathy leads to a desire to not always disapprove of immoral people. E.g. sympathy e.g. we don't disapprove if
be moral. We approve of an action/trait if it is Hitler had many followers. someone gets a job that we want (moral
pleasant and useful to others. E.g. universally behavior) even though this goes against self
approve of sobriety, secrecy etc. interest.
4. According to Virtue Theory, in the long run, But unlike Kantian and Humean arguments, Kantian ethics don't fit with our intuitions.
this does not go against selfinterest, as it is this relies on the existence of God so that we Virtue Ethics is more likely. E.g. according to
better for me to display the virtue of being have a designer and a function in life as a Kant, you should not lie about the
happy for someone else because this makes reason to act morally teleological. whereabouts of your best friend, as this is
me a better and thus happier person leading always wrong.
to Eudemonia.

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Conclusion = Discarding self interest in theory seems better but may be too optimistic as it goes against our natural instincts to fulfill self interest
and reach Eudaimonia, and have a purpose in life ­ doesn't matter if God doesn't exist as it still gives meaning to life in a way that Kant and
Hume's theories do not.…read more


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