2

EGOISM

The previous chapter ended with the question: What is the best sort of life to aim for? There is a familiar, almost commonplace answer to this question ­- to be rich and famous. This is a conception of the best life to have that is echoed in, and reinforced by media coverage of the life of the stars. It is also the idea that induces very large numbers of people to spend money on national lottery tickets when there is only a tiny chance of winning. Yet, as an answer to the philosopher's question, the idea that the best life is a rich and famous one does not take us very far, not so much because it is an unworthy ambition (though it may be) but because it is logically incomplete, and necessarily so.


INSTRUMENTAL AND INTRINSIC VALUE

Consider first the aspiration to be rich. If being rich means having a lot of money to spend, the belief that it is good to be rich in an important sense turns out to be vacuous. This is because, strange though it may sound, money in itself has no value whatever. If it were not exchangeable for other, quite different things ­- food, clothing, entertainment, i.e. goods and services that are independently valuable ­- we might as well throw it away. This point is not always easy to appreciate. So accustomed are we to thinking of the notes and coins in our pockets and purses as valuable, that the essentially valueless character of money itself can elude us. Yet, we only have to remind ourselves how worthless the currency of one country is in another country where it cannot be spent on the things that we want.

-17-

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Eight Theories of Ethics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface viii
  • A Note on Further Reading x
  • 1 - Ethics, Truth and Reason 1
  • 2 - Egoism 17
  • 3 - Hedonism 39
  • 4 - Naturalism and Virtue Theory 53
  • 5 - Existentialism 71
  • 6 - Kantianism 98
  • 7 - Utilitarianism 128
  • 8 - Contractualism 162
  • 9 - Ethics, Religion and the Meaning of Life 176
  • Bibliography 207
  • Index 211
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