Ethical egoism is a moral theory. It tells us about what we are morally required and forbidden to do. It simply states that there is one ultimate goal for all of us, and that is to improve our own well-being even at the cost of other’s well beings. It claims that actions are morally right just because they best promote one’s self-interest. This means that if there are multiple options concerning something that would best benefit you, the one that serves you best is the one that morality requires. It can be understood that there are a few ways in which Ethical Egoism can cause clashes deep within our personal moral standards. It is clear that egoism prohibits us from doing some things that seem morally good. Ex: Diving on a bomb to save the rest of your troop. According to Egoism it is morally wrong to go out of your way to be altruistic. It also may require some actions of us that seem highly immoral. This means that even in the event we have to betray a friend or lie about a situation in furtherance of our own wellbeing, Egoism permits that we do these things. In fact, it insists that we do these things to promote our own self-interest. The latter would mean putting ourselves above everyone else in order to get ahead. The text book makes an argument out of this and rightfully so. There is an example where I hurt my leg and must drive to the hospital. When I arrive there is another man who has the exact same injury. The text goes on to explain that he is just as good of a citizen as I am. He is kind, smart, community-minded, just as I am. We now ask, “Who gets priority?” According to Egoism, I must morally put myself ahead of this other ailing man, who is just as emotionally similar to me as I am to him. The interests of this man, in regards to myself, count for nothing. The argument here is that how can I justifiably discount the basic needs of others, in furtherance of my own self-interest? This is an unreasonable act of will. Is it necessary for our own wellbeing for us to be so selfish in our needs?
Personally I think the Egoist would give us an answer that we would all expect him to give albeit somewhat indirect. It can be best summarized by two claims voiced in the text book. If an action makes you better off, then there is good reason for you to do it. (Let me add once more, at the cost of other’s wellbeing’s.) If there is good reason for you to do an action, then doing it must make you better off. If this is the case, then what reason would one have allowing someone to receive medical attention before themselves? I can’t really provide an answer for that question. An Egoist would say that self-interest is always a good reason for doing something even at the cost of someone else.
I would tend to agree with the first part of the Egoist’s statement. Self-interest is always a good reason for doing something. But is it really necessary that we keep those around us lower than ourselves in regards to what we hold to be most important? I don’t particularly think so, nor do I think Ethical Egoism provides a grounded reason for why we should be so unwilling to share some even ground with people we aren’t necessarily emotionally attached to. You must be able to balance your personal needs with everyone else’s. Even then you can provide yourself with your own necessary interests and not at the cost of other’s.
Moral progress is quite different depending upon what culture you’re observing. Desegregating schools and employers becoming more tolerant of blacks in the work place would be considered a relatively recent moral progression in the United States. This may help provide us with a definition of moral progress. It simply means that when our actions become morally better than they were, we are morally progressing. As I was reading chapter 19 I noted how that if ethical relativism was true, how are we even where we are today? Ethical relativism forces us to conform to society's norms-or else we contradict ourselves. The supplemental reading described Ethical Relativism in a rather astounding, but simple argument. Such and such is socially approved. Therefore such and such is good. This means that social approval is the ultimate measure of morality. If Ethical Relativism is true, then it’s impossible for us to consistently disagree with the values of our society. This, in turn, means we couldn’t gain any moral headway. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is perfect example of why Ethical Relativism can’t be valid. What did King do? He went against what American culture considered morally acceptable. Treating blacks as second grade citizens is socially acceptable within American culture. What is socially acceptable is considered morally just. Therefore treating blacks as second grade citizens is morally just. King fought this and look where we are today. Questioning what is socially acceptable historically has provided us with the healthiest changes seen within American culture since the dawn of it, in my opinion. This one argument destroys the fabric that Ethical Relativism is composed of. Ethical Relativism allows the basic views of individuals or societies to determine the ultimate moral standards. Looking back at racism it’s clear how such basic views can be the product of ignorance, bias, and terrible reasoning yet they still existed and would still exist had a small group of people not questioned what society considered acceptable. Ethical Relativism doesn’t allow for fundamental moral progress and, in many cases, create great contradictions; therefore their arguments have no ground.