Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 16 (3):529-542 (2013)

Authors
Keith Burgess-Jackson
University of Texas at Arlington
Abstract
Though utilitarianism is far from being universally accepted in the philosophical community, it is taken seriously and treated respectfully. Its critics do not dismiss it out of hand; they do not misrepresent it; they do not belittle or disparage its proponents. They allow the theory to be articulated, developed, and defended from criticism, even if they go on to reject the modified versions. Ethical egoism, a longstanding rival of utilitarianism, is treated very differently. It is said to be “refuted” by arguments of a sort that apply equally well to utilitarianism. It is said to be “unprovable,” when many of the greatest utilitarians themselves, such as Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832), John Stuart Mill (1806–1873), and Henry Sidgwick (1838–1900), admitted that no normative ethical theory, including their own, is provable. Critics of ethical egoism seldom discuss the various theoretical moves that utilitarians are routinely allowed to make, such as (1) fighting the facts, (2) transforming the theory from “act utilitarianism” to “rule utilitarianism,” and (3) biting the bullet. This essay argues that every defensive move made by utilitarians can be made, with equal vigor (if not also plausibility), by ethical egoists. The conclusion is that ethical egoism deserves to be taken more seriously than it is.
Keywords Ethical egoism  Utilitarianism  Normative ethical theory  Moral philosophy  Argumentation  Criticism
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DOI 10.1007/s10677-012-9372-5
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References found in this work BETA

The Methods of Ethics.Henry Sidgwick - 1874 - Thoemmes Press.
Utilitarianism: For and Against.J. J. C. Smart & Bernard Williams - 1973 - Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Utilitarianism.John Stuart Mill - 1863 - Cleveland: Cambridge University Press.
Moral Thinking: Its Levels, Method, and Point.R. M. Hare (ed.) - 1981 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

Egoism.Robert Shaver - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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