Egoism Vs Altruism
Psychological egoism is another important perspective that is relevant to the study of business ethics. Egoism is an ethical theory that treats self-interest as the foundation of morality. Egoism contends that the is morally right if and only if it best promotes an agents (persons, groups or organizations) long term interest. Egoists make use of their Self-interest as the measuring rod of their actions. Decisions based on egoism mainly are indented to provide positive consequences to a given party’s interest without considering the consequences of other parties. All human beings act solely out of their own self- interest. This is called as psychological egoism. Egoism is often raised as a skeptical challenge to the legitimacy of business ethics. Constraining or preventing selfish behavior of human beings in the name of ethics is a challenging task. Many ethical theories take egoism as a major obstacle to overcome since ethics sometimes requires us to limit our own self-interests. Ethics requires us to act out of a concern for others. This is called altruism. Altruists are primarily concerned with other people. Altruists relinquish their own personal interests for the good of others. The altruist’s moral authority and motivation is to produce the greatest good for the largest number of people. Altruists would not diligently calculate and measure cost and benefits. Altruists are akin to philanthropists.
Moral duty does arise where goods for others, which may or may not overlap goods for the self, are concerned. Moral duty consists of respect for the autonomy of others, which means allowing the free exercise of the innocent, competent will of others in regard to their own interests.
- “Allowing the free exercise” means the use of neither fraud (deception) nor force (coercive threat of violence or actual violence) against the will of other persons in the disposing of their interests.
- “Innocent” means that the other is not actually committing or effecting a wrong, whether or not they intend wrong (although they actually are morally innocent if they do not intent wrong and are not negligent). The intentional or negligent commission of a wrong entails loss of some rights of autonomy and self-interest both in order to prevent the active commission of the wrong and in order to extract retribution (through the loss of goods, proportional to the wrong) as just punishment for wrongs committed.
- “Competent” means mentally able to rationally evaluate and pursue one’s own self-interest. Incompetent persons do not lose rights of self-interest and only lose rights of autonomy in so far as their self-interest can be better evaluated and pursued, in their behalf, by others.
- “Their own interests” are self-defined in the areas or matters where, according to the types of interests considered below, we have rights of possession, use, and exchange.
It has become common to say that people have rights wherever they they have interests, but this principle does not allow for “compensability,” the possibility that the rights can all be exercised at the same time, since many interests overlap and conflict. Such “rights” must necessarily be abridged, a dangerous characteristic, since any rights can then be abridged for any expedient reason. If not all interests are protected by rights, however, then rights can be moral and legal claims that cannot be abridged.
The fallacy of altruism, : or altruistic moralism (or moralistic altruism), is the sense that there is a general duty, or that morality as such requires us always, to act in the interest of others. On the other hand, an “altruistic moral aestheticism” [or, simply, “altruistic aestheticism”) is not a moral fallacy; for this only means that a person may act for the good of others if this seems good, which is unobjectionable as long as the action respects the autonomy of others, i.e. is not against their innocent and competent will. The asymmetry between egoistic and altruistic moral aestheticism, that one is a fallacy and the other isn’t, is due to the circumstance that morality limits the pursuit of self-interest with respect for others. The removal of moral constraint in aestheticism thus would be motivated for the self, which can then gain through wrong, but would not be motivated for others, who were protected from wrongful loss.
Altruistic moralism is often a tempting doctrine because the rule for the specification of non-contractual duties of commission appears to be complex. There will be such a duty on a person only where:
The other is unable to help themselves, the other is in danger of serious and irreversible harm, there is no one else present who has a more defined contractual obligation to help the other (e.g. lifeguard, parent, physician, policeman, etc.) and who is able to do so, and a person is able to act competently to prevent that harm without comparably endangering either themselves personally or the interests of those who are contractually dependent upon the agent for support (e.g. children or other family, etc.).
A person who does more than is required by these conditions, i.e. who acts even at the cost of endangering themselves or damaging their own interests of comparable magnitude to those originally endangered, acts with supererogation, i.e. beyond the requirements of moral duty. Altruistic moralism denies supererogation. Since non-contractual duties of commission involve judgments of incompetence or physical disability, altruistic moralism implies paternalism, i.e. the judgment that the agent knows better the interests of others, and how to pursue them, than they do themselves. Paternalism and altruistic moralism thus will lead to basic violations of moral duty as the actual innocent and competent autonomous will of others may be abridged by force. That is a general problem with any form of altruism, that the self-defining character of what is good is transferred from the other to the altruistic agent, always raising the danger that, another may be judged incompetent simply because, their judgment about what is good for them may differ from the agent’s.