Before Teaching Ethics, Stop Kidding Yourself

Gordon Marino, Tidsskriftet for Universiteternes Efter- og Videreuddannelse, Feb 20, 2004
Commentary by Stephen Downes

The point of this article is to encourage would-be teachers of ethics to be honest about including their own self interest in assessments of what we would do in various circumstances where our test of ethics is tested. It is hard not to read this item as an attempt to elevate self interest as a moral principle, but I don't think this is the author's intent (even if it is an outcome). Recognizing one's self interest is essential, of course, as self sacrifice is not in and of itself a moral virtue. But neither is self interest an over-riding moral virtue, and though in today's age it provides the ultimate justification for most people's actions, there are good reasons why this should not be the case. The author's conclusion, that the moral calculus is more complex than would-be ethics teachers imagine, is, I think, correct, though I think I would have taken a different route to get there.
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