ImmoralistSeptember 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 as individuals who “are not likely to understand or appreciate the benefits of living morally” and who will rarely “listen to, or be swayed by, abstract rational arguments.”1 Without understanding the benefits of living morally, immoralists cannot be encompassed within Kavka’s attempt to reconcile morality and self-interest, but Kavka does not think this notion defeats his efforts. According to Kavka, an immoralist’s boast that that it does not benefit him to act morally is “like the pathetic boast of a deaf person that he saves money because it does not pay him to buy opera records.”2 In other words, immoralists miss out on the satisfactions of moral behavior, but they are not in a position to recognize or properly appreciate the loss of these satisfactions.
- Gregory Kavka, “The Reconciliation Project,” in Ethical Theory: Classical and Contemporary Readings, 5th ed., ed. Louis P. Pojman (Belmont: Wadsworth, 2006), 101.
- Ibid., 107.