IN SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING
Conscience, Egoism, Kant
Egoism (Psychological and Ethical)
Immanuel Kant’s Deontological* Ethics
Department of Computer Science and Engineering
* ‘deon’ = duty 2
The Seven Essential Virtues
defining “Moral IQ”
Based on: Lawrence M. Hinman, Ph.D.
Director, The Values Institute
University of San Diego
*Aristotles cardinal virtues
The Origins of Conscience Conscience
The awareness of a moral or ethical aspect to
cum + scire = to know with one's conduct together with the urge to prefer
As science (scire) means knowledge, conscience etymologically means right over wrong.
self-knowledge . . . A source of moral or ethical judgment or
But the English word implies a moral standard of action in the mind as
well as a awareness of our own actions.
Conformity to one's own sense of right conduct.
The part of the superego in psychoanalysis that
judges the ethical nature of one's actions and
Present in most cultures
The Biological Origins of Conscience Function of Conscience
Conscience biological mechanism is Conscience is a mechanism which judges our own actions, as
probably genetically determined, while its being right or wrong, good or bad, and punishes us with its
content is learnt, like language, as part of a condemnation (disapprobation), or rewards us with its approval
culture. For instance, one person may feel a (approbation), according as these are, or are not, conformed to
moral duty to go to war, another feels a the moral standard.
moral duty to avoid war under any
Conscience implies both a knowledge of our duty and an ability to
Studies of brain damage show that damage
to the anterior prefrontal cortex of the brain
results in the reduction or elimination of
inhibitions, with a radical change in behavior
patterns. When the damage occurs to
adults, they may still be able to perform
moral reasoning; but when it occurs to
children, they may never develop that ability.
Characteristics of Conscience Medieval Background
Conscience is the steering-gear and a corrective mechanism that
forces us to act in accordance with our ethical norms
Both negative (remorse, guilt, regret) and positive (good, clear Conscience is the power of reason and
conscience) discernment applied to moral issues
Usually only a guide to one’s own behavior - not oriented toward Develop an informed and sensitive
judging others conscience by living in a Christian
community (defining the norm)
Deadlock in Conscience
The Central Question The case of Huck and Jim
If conscience represents the urge to conform to moral principals, In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,
what happens in case of conflicting principles?
Huck is faced with the dilemma of
How to reconcile turning in his friend Jim, a runaway
– Loyalty to the friend slave.
– Loyalty to society – Huck would despise himself if
in case when there is a conflict between the two? he turned Jim in
– Huck feels he is going
against his conscience by not
turning Jim into the
Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Mark Twain, THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN (born Samuel L Clemens)
11 (Tom Sawyer'sComrade) 12
Unity of Virtues? Unity of Virtues?
Responsibly in a Professional Role Responsibly in a Professional Role
Aristotle defended a strong “unity of virtue" thesis - the unity of the Character is invariably riddled with "moral gaps“. Character traits are
four cardinal virtues (wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice). situation-sensitive, moral virtues are enormously varied (and
sometimes in conflict), and both situations and personalities vary
Today most ethicists would agree in sharply rejecting the unity of enormously.
virtue. (Owen Flanagan in the Varieties of Moral Personality)
Unity of Virtues? Unity of Virtues?
Responsibly in a Professional Role Responsibly in a Professional Role
Clearly a person's character is relevant to their acting responsibly
Moral gaps arise not only from having some virtues (for example in a professional role.
generosity) and lacking others (truthfulness), but in manifesting The most important of these are humaneness, self-control, general
the same virtues in some contexts, roles, or dimensions of roles, responsibility, and honesty (both trustworthiness and truthfulness).
but not others. Professionals generally are placed in positions of trust, serving an
important need of client or society. The specific importance of trust
is broad-based and in varying degrees open-ended.
Conscience in Professional Life Conscience in Professional Life
We all agree, for example, that college professors should
Issues about private conscience in professional life are have great freedom to express their views. Academic
notoriously complex. How far should we allow private conscience freedom is central to what college professors are
to guide professional conduct when it departs from the moral supposed to be.
consensus expressed in the relevant code of ethics?
But what about an atheist philosopher who grades down a
student for defending religion in an essay? The professor
is wrong, of course. The question is what should we, his
colleagues, do about it?
Here, I think, a code of ethics is essential in setting and
enforcing standards-even though codes are always vague
Conscience in Professional Life The Freudian Critique of Conscience
Sigmund Freud (1932)
The Anatomy of the Mental Personality
What does it require by way of setting aside personal values in
order to meet professional responsibilities, to avoid greed, sexual – ID (instinctive part, driven by
dominance, paternalism, or conflicts of interest, and otherwise to pleasure and pain, fully
meet minimum standards for practice of the profession? unconscious )
– EGO (mostly conscious, deals
with external reality )
– SUPER-EGO (partly conscious, is
the conscience or the internal
moral judge. )
The Freudian Critique of Conscience
Freud’s saw conscience as the voice of
– Initially, the internalized voice of
– Later, the internalization of
– Almost exclusively negative,
saying “no” to the id.
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)
Analyzing the Psychological Egoist’s
Two Types of Egoism
Two types of egoism:
The psychological egoist claims that
– Psychological egoism people always act selfishly or in their
• Asserts that as a matter of fact we do always act own self-interest.
selfishly - descriptive One of the earlier advocates of this
– Ethical egoism view was Thomas Hobbes, who saw
life as “…nasty, brutish, and short.”
• Maintains that we should always act selfishly
Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)
A Common and Widespread Belief
Folk psychology What exactly does the psychological egoist maintain? Two
– There is a widespread belief that people are just
– #1: We act selfishly, or
out for themselves – #2: We act in our self-interest
Social Darwinism: everyone is just trying to survive.
– Economics: rational agent theory
– Belief that other nations will always act solely in
terms of self-interest
What Does it Mean to be Selfish? What Does it Mean to be Selfish?
If we are selfish, do we only do things that If we are selfish, do we only do things we
are in our genuine self-interest? believe are in our self-interest?
– What about the chain smoker? Is – What about those who believe
this person acting out of genuine that sometimes they act
– In fact, the smoker may be acting – Does anyone truly believe
selfishly (doing what he wants Mother Theresa was completely
without regard to others) but not selfish?
self-interestedly (doing what will Think of the actions of parents. Don’t
ultimately benefit him). parents sometimes act for the sake of their
children, even when it is against their narrow Mother Theresa (1910-1997)
self-interest to do so?
Re-conceptualizing Psychological Re-conceptualizing Psychological
Egoism, 1 Egoism, 2
Instead of seeing this one a single scale, we can see egoism and altruism
The standard view of human motivation embedded in as two independent axes:
discussions of psychological egoism sees egoism and Altruism
Conceptualizing the issue in this
altruism as opposite poles of a single scale: way allows some actions to be
Human Motivation done both for the sake of others
and for one’s own sake, and
avoids falling into a false Low High
Egoism Altruism dichotomy between altruism and Egoism Egoism
The premise is that an increase in egoism automatically However, an additional
distinction remains to be draw.
results in a decrease in altruism, and vice versa.
Egoism, 3 Re-conceptualizing Psychological
In addition to having two independent axes, we must distinguish between Egoism, 4
the intentions of actions and their consequences. Thus we get two graphs:
This double grid suggests that any given action can be ranked according to
Intentions Consequences both:
Strongly intended to help others High beneficial To others
And that, for each of these two issues, each act can be ranked along two
independent axes, concern/consequences for self and
Not Strongly Highly Highly concern/consequences for other.
intended intended harmful beneficial
to benefit to benefit to self to self
Highly harmful to others
Strongly intended to harm others
Be My Valentine?
“Love, we are repeatedly taught, consists of self-sacrifice. Love based
on self-interest, we are admonished, is cheap and sordid. True love, we
are told, is altruistic. But is it?
“Genuine love is the exact opposite. It is the most selfish experience
possible, in the true sense of the term: it benefits your life in a way that
involves no sacrifice of others to yourself nor of yourself to others.”
Valentine’s Day, 1998
Ayn Rand Institute
Ethical Egoism Versions of Ethical Egoism
Selfishness is praised as a virtue Personal Ethical Egoism
– Ayn Rand, The Virtue of – “I am going to act only in my own interest, and
Selfishness everyone else can do whatever they want.”
May appeal to psychological egoism as a Individual Ethical Egoism
– “Everyone should act in my own interest.”
Often very compelling for high school
students Universal Ethical Egoism
– “Each individual should act in his or her own self
Ayn Rand (1905-1982).
(born Alice Rosenbaum)
Altruism Arguments for Ethical Egoism
Unselfish concern for the welfare of others; selflessness, charity,
generosity. Altruism is demeaning.
Zoology. Instinctive cooperative behavior that is detrimental (harmful) to Acting selfishly creates a better world.
the individual but contributes to the survival of the species.
It doesn’t result in such a different world after all.
demean = degrade oneself
Argument for Ethical Egoism:
What is great in man is that he is a bridge
Altruism is Demeaning
Friedrich Nietzsche argued that altruism was
demeaning because it meant that an "Man is a rope stretched between the animal and the Superman -- a
individual was saying that some other person
was more important than that individual. rope over an abyss...What is great in man is that he is a bridge and
not a goal: what is lovable in man is that he is a transition..."
Nietzsche saw this as denigrating oneself, Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra
putting oneself down by valuing oneself less
than the other.
Comment. Concern for the welfare of others
does not mean no concern for ones own self!
Argument for Ethical Egoism: Acting Selfishly Argument for Ethical Egoism: Ethical egoism
Creates a Better World doesn’t result in a different world.
Ethical egoists sometimes maintain that if each person took care of This argument presupposes the people in fact
himself/herself, the overall effect would be to make the world a already act selfishly (i.e, psychological egoism) and
better place for everyone. are just pretending to be altruistic.
– Epistemological: Each person is best suited to
know his or her own best interests.
If psychological egoism is true, then we should admit
– Moral: Helping others makes them dependent, its truth and get rid of our hypocrisy.
which ultimately harms them.
Comment. It is rational for people to solve together their
common problems. Building e.g. state institutions, that exist Comment. It may not make a big difference in a
everywhere in the world means putting energy in a common world of independent, strong and healthy adults, but
societal project that is not in the first place meant to satisfy my in a world with children and people at risk or in need,
own personal needs. they would be put in further jeopardy.
Universalizing Ethical Egoism
Criticism of Ethical Egoism
Can the ethical egoist consistently will that everyone else
follow the tenets of ethical egoism?
Cannot be consistently universalized.
– It seems to be in one’s self-interest to be selfish
(But can work in sports!).
oneself and yet get everyone else to act
Presupposes a world of indifferent strangers. altruistically (especially if they act for your benefit).
Difficult to imagine love or even friendship between ethical egoists. This leads to individual ethical egoism.
Seems to be morally insensitive. Some philosophers such as Jesse Kalin have argued that in
sports we consistently universalize ethical egoism: we intend
to win, but we want our opponents to try as hard as they
Ethical Egoism: Egoism, Altruism, and
A philosophy for a world of strangers the Ideal World
Kant “Self-interest rightly understood”
Some philosophers have argued that ethical egoism Ideally, we seek a society in High
is, at best, appropriate to living in a world of strangers which self-interest and regard for Altruism
others converge—the green
that you do not care about. zone. Self-interest
Self-sacrificing and regard
Egoism at the expense of others altruism for others
and altruism at the expense of converge
self-interest both create worlds in Low High
which goodness and self-regard Egoism Egoism
are mutually exclusive—the Not beneficial Self-interest
yellow zone. either to self at the expense
or others of others
No one want the red zone, which
is against both self-interest and Low
regard for others. Drug addiction Altruism
Alcoholism, etc. State of Nature,
Sinking Titanic: Egoism vs. Altruism
(Even Risks in Technical Systems) Immanuel Kant
The Ethics of Duty
47 * ‘deon’ = duty
Living by Rules Categorical Imperatives
Always act in such a way that the maxim of your
action can be willed as a universal law of humanity.
Most of us live by rules much --Immanuel Kant
of the time.
Some of these are what Kant
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)
The Ethics of Respect (1) The Ethics of Respect (2)
One of Kant’s most lasting contributions to Respect has become a fundamental moral concept in
moral philosophy was his emphasis on the contemporary West
notion of respect (Achtung). – There are rituals of respect in almost all cultures.
Two central questions:
– What is respect?
– Who or what is the proper object of respect?
Kant on Respect Kant on Respecting Persons
“Act in such a way that you always treat Kant brought the notion of respect (Achtung) to
humanity, whether in your own person or in the center of moral philosophy for the first time.
the person of any other, never simply as a To respect people is to treat them as ends in
means, but always at the same time as an themselves. He sees people as autonomous,
end.” i.e., as giving the moral law to themselves.
The opposite of respecting people is treating
them as mere means to an end.
Using People as Mere Means Treating People as Ends in Themselves
What are the characteristics of treating people
The Tuskegee Syphilis as ends in themselves?
Experiments Not denying them relevant information
– More than four hundred African
American men infected with Allowing them freedom of choice
syphilis went untreated for four
decades in a project the
government called the Tuskegee
Study of Untreated Syphilis in the
– Continued until 1972
Additional Cases What Is the Proper Object of Respect?
Firing Long-Time Employees For Kant, the proper object of respect is the will. Hence,
respecting a person involves issues related to the will--
Medical Experimentation on Prisoners knowledge and freedom.
Medical Donations by Prisoners Other possible objects of respect:
Medical Consent Forms – Feelings and emotions
– The dead
– The natural world
Is lack of proper self-respect a moral failing?
Aristotle and Self-Love
– What is the difference between self-respect and self-
The Deferential* Wife love? Clearly, there is at least a difference in the
– See article by Tom Hill, “Servility and Self-Respect” affective element.
*Deferential = Respectful, considerate
Self-respect, Self-regard, Self-love The Kantian Heritage
What Kant Helped Us to See Clearly
Self-respect: Due respect for oneself, one's
character, and one's conduct. The Admirable Side of Acting from Duty
– The person of duty remains committed, not matter
Synonyms or near-synonyms of self-esteem include: how difficult things become.
– self-love (which can express overtones of self-promotion) The Evenhandedness of Morality
– self-worth – Kantian morality does not play favorites.
– self-regard Respecting Other People
– self-esteem – The notion of treating people as ends in
– self-confidence (a sometimes disparaging term which can themselves is central to much of modern ethics.
(more than self-esteem) suggest excessive self-regard
The Kantian Heritage The Kantian Heritage
Critique of Kant´s Deontology Critique of Kant´s Deontology
The Place of Consequences in the Moral Life
The Neglect of Moral Integration – In order to protect the moral life from the changing of moral
– The person of duty can have deep and conflicting luck, Kant held a very strong position that refused to attach
inclinations and this does not decrease moral worth— moral blame to individuals who were acting with good will,
indeed, it seems to increase it in Kant’s eyes. even though some indirect bad consequences could be
The Role of Emotions foreseen.
– For Kant, the emotions are always suspect because they are
The Kantian Heritage
Overall, after two hundred years, Kant remains an absolutely
central figure in contemporary moral philosophy, one from
whom we can learn much even when we disagree with