War of All Against All

September 5th, 2010 by Kara in Dictionary, Moral Terms

Thomas Hobbes perceived the state of nature to be a state of utter chaos. Hobbes argued that there could be no morality in the state of nature because everyone would be fighting for individual survival. To Hobbes, moral notions had no place in the state of nature because everyone has an equal claim to everything. Without a government, no laws exist to regulate behavior. Since no one has the power to regulate human behavior (on a large scale) alone, any notions of justice or morality must arise from a social ...

State of Nature

September 5th, 2010 by Kara in Dictionary, Moral Terms

The state of nature refers to how human beings behave in the absence of a civil society. In other words, the state of nature describes how people interacted prior to the establishment of any government or other social institutions. Claims about the state of nature and the quality of life experienced by humans who live in the state of nature vary considerably. Thomas Hobbes, for example, thought that people living in the state of nature were engulfed in a constant war of all against all and that life was brief and ...

Egalitarianism

September 5th, 2010 by Kara in Dictionary, Moral Terms

Egalitarianism is the moral and political doctrine that people ought to be treated as equals in some respect. Egalitarianism can have many forms and address many issues. A gender egalitarian, for example, believes that men and women deserve to be treated equally; their biological and social differences are insignificant with regard to the rights and opportunities they deserve. On the other hand, a racial egalitarian believes that all people deserve the same rights and opportunities regardless of race. An egalitarian (in the broad sense) would probably support both of these ...

Psychological Egoism

September 5th, 2010 by Kara in Dictionary, Moral Terms

Psychological egoism is the claim that all individuals act to promote their own interests, and that this aim is the ultimate goal of all individual behavior. This claim does not suggest that individuals always succeed in this endeavor; it only claims that individuals always intend to promote their self-interests. One notable (and sometimes misunderstood) aspect of psychological egoism is that it does not entail that individuals do not perform other-regarding actions or suggest that they always avoid personal sacrifices. In many cases, it can be to one’s self-interest to make a ...

Predominant Egoism

September 5th, 2010 by Kara in Dictionary, Moral Terms

In “The Reconciliation Project,” Gregory Kavka coined the term “predominant egoism” as a more plausible alternative to psychological egoism. Whereas psychological egoism states that human beings always act to promote their self-interest, predominant egoism claims that they predominantly (but not always) act to promote their self-interests. Predominant egoism contains two crucial principles. First, until people have attained a desirable level of security and individual welfare, their “self-interested concerns tend to override their other-regarding, idealistic, and altruistic motives in determining their actions.”1 Second, the extent to which individuals perform actions and behaviors ...

Evolutionary Ethics

September 5th, 2010 by Kara in Dictionary, Moral Terms

The discipline of evolutionary ethics has developed in response to the growth of scientific inquiry and the overlap between evolutionary theory and moral philosophy. The primary goal of evolutionary ethics is to arrive at conclusions by applying principles of evolutionary theory to clarify perplexing issues in moral philosophy or elaborate on previously debated issues with new insight. Evolutionary ethics can be divided into three distinct branches: Descriptive Evolutionary Ethics explores how certain moral capacities arose in human being by examining scientific claims. For example, how did human beings develop an understanding ...

Ethical Egoism

September 5th, 2010 by Kara in Dictionary, Moral Terms

Ethical egoism is the moral doctrine that everyone ought to act to promote his or her own interests exclusively. In contrast to psychological egoism, ethical egoism makes a claim about how people should behave rather than how they actually behave. Perhaps the most notable advocates of ethical egoism were Ayn Rand and Max Stirner, each of whom argued (although in slightly different ways) that pursuit of one’s self-interest should always be a person’s primary goal. Ethical egoism is often equated with selfishness, the disregard of others’ interests in favor of one’s ...

Immoralist

September 5th, 2010 by Kara in Dictionary, Moral Terms

An immoralist is a skeptical individual who believes it is preferable to act immorally when morality does not serve his or her self-interest. Thrasymachus of Plato’s Republic is one clear example of an immoralist. In “The Reconciliation Project,” Gregory Kavka attempts to reconcile morality and self-interest. However, before beginning this task, Kavka identifies a group of individuals which he believes he cannot satisfy. Some have supposed that a successful reconciliation would be able to persuade an immoralist to behave morally. Kavka, however, claims that this task cannot be accomplished. Kavka characterizes immoralists ...

Altruism

September 5th, 2010 by Kara in Dictionary, Moral Terms

An action is considered altruistic if it benefits others while harming oneself. Altruistic acts are considered acts of self-sacrifice, and therefore, they are generally regarded as the opposite of self-interested acts. The doctrine of altruism (sometimes called The Principle of Beneficence) states that people have a moral duty to aid others, even at the sacrifice of individual self-interests. Generally, this doctrine is considered morally unacceptable because it mandates actions which are supererogatory (i.e., morally praiseworthy but not morally required). However, milder forms of altruism are often employed as components of ...