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Fun with ethics - Input Junkie
August 27th, 2012
11:30 am


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Fun with ethics

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Date:August 27th, 2012 04:37 pm (UTC)
I would need to see a systematic argument for those three being the only approaches to ethics that are possible, and also for their being mutually exclusive. Utilitarianism strikes me as basically a variant on deontology, when you come right down to it. Consider the following cases:

Kant: The right thing to do is what conforms to the moral law, uninfluenced by your personal inclinations or interests.
Comte: The right thing to do is what serves the good of others, uninfluenced by your personal inclinations or interests.
Bentham: The right thing to do is what serves the good of everyone, giving equal weight to your own good and to the good of every single other sentient being in the universe.

Really, the difference between Comte's advocacy of total self-sacrifice (this is the man who criticized Jesus's moral teachings because "love thy neighbor as thyself" assumed that it was morally acceptable to love yourself) and Bentham's advocacy of equal concern for every human being is negligible; the probability that your own personal preferences will tip the scale in deciding what serves humanity is indistinguishable from zero. (That's leaving Bentham's advocacy of equal weight for animals aside; it would just make the conclusion stronger.) And Comte's advocacy of serving the good of others is just giving concrete content to Kant's "what conforms to the moral law," and indeed concrete content not very different from the specific principles that Kant took as instantiating his concept of the moral law.

And that makes me think that there is at least one specific additional path, which is hedonism, or "do what gives you pleasure."
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Date:August 27th, 2012 06:22 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the suggestions for additional systems of ethics. However, no one in this discussion said that the first three covered all possibilities.

Exurbe was describing the state of thought about ethics that Machiavelli was dealing with. I merely said "fun with ethics", though arguably it's possible to have more fun (point for hedonism) if you have a more complete list.
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