Cooperating with cooperators

Erkenntnis 38 (1):23 - 55 (1993)
Jan Österberg (Self and Others, 1988) argues that the most defensible form of egoism should not only tell each of us what to do but also tell us what we ought to do. He also claims that collective norms should take precedence over individual ones. An individual ought to do one's part in an action pattern that is prescribed for the group - provided that other members of the group do their part. question This paper questions Österberg's claim that Collective Egoism, unlike other forms of egoism, avoids violations of the principles which he takes to be analytical adequacy criteria for ethical theories: the principles of "deontic consequence" and "joint satisfiability". Furthermore, it questions his argument that Collective Egoism yields the "right" prescriptions in its main test-case: Prisoners' Dilemma. The improved version of Collective Egoism is able to deal with the two-person Prisoners' Dilemma, but it still misbehaves when we move to the many-persons cases. A certain type of "free rider"-problems proves to be especially troublesome.
Keywords ethical egoism  prisoner's dilemma  deontic logic  conditional cooperation  Österberg, Jan  collective egoism
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