Egoism: I plan to offer two possible prompts for this topic. The first is very much like the last on


I plan to offer two possible prompts for this topic.  The first is very much like the last one on relativism–it is rather straightforward and deliberately argumentative. In the simplest sense what you need to do is “pick a side” on this topic (for or against or anything in-between) and then defend it. The prompt:

Do you accept ethical egoism [either Rand's version or Hobbes' version] as an adequate explanation of the essential nature of human morality? Why or why not?

The second option is a bit different (though not wholly so).  You will nee to:

Evaluate argumentatively the viability of ethical egoism as a moral system or as a foundation on which to ground your moral decisions and based on your own experience.

In order to write on this prompt you will need to first pick either the egoism of Hobbes or of Rand to write about. In part, at least, the grade will be based on a clear explanation of the moral position/arguments given by that thinker. But second, and to help you evaluate the position you are looking at, you will also be required to spend a day “immersed” in a sort of thought experiment:

After you have decided which of the two you are going to write about, you need to pick one full day sometime this week (ideally one where you are not at home alone all day) and try to commit yourself wholesale to the egoist position. Spend the day as an egoist; ask yourself (to steal an idea from a bumper sticker) “What would Thomas Hobbes do?” or “What would Ayn Rand do?” and then try to do it. You might consider keeping a sort of “journal” of your experiences, cataloging your thoughts on how it shapes your moral decision making process. You do not need to include anything distinctively personal (I would in fact prefer you do not), but there should be at least a few instances where you discuss how adopting this perspective shaped your decisions and attitudes towards others and the world and whether or not it is something you are morally comfortable with.  You will not have to turn a journal in with your essay. Please note–that neither position should get you in trouble with the law (so if you get arrested do not blame me!)–and if you find yourself in a position where you need to wade into a pond to save the life of a drowning child (or anything like it)–please do.  

If this does not make sense or you do not get what I am looking for ASK! Bring it up in class or in private as soon as possible! I expect that you take this seriously, put some serious effort into it and you really and seriously think about it!

This, like most we will discuss, is not a small topic and you will need to set limits to what you plan to address–but the goal should be very clear. This will be due on Monday, 2/15 (even though we do not have class that day). The sort of qualities I will be looking for when grading include (1) clarity of writing, (2) accuracy of your statements and thoroughness of the explanations (that is that it is clear you understand what is at issue here) and (3) the reasonableness of your arguments.

    • Posted: 4 years ago
    • Due: 13/02/2016
    • Budget: $3
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