Universalization as an Ethical Test
Q&A Radio: Sunday, 10 March 2013, Question 1
I answered a question on universalization as an ethical test on Philosophy in Action Radio on 10 March 2013. You can listen to or download the podcast segment below – or check out the whole episode.
Are arguments of the form "what if everyone did that" valid or not? Often, people will claim that some action is wrong on the grounds that not everyone could or should act that way. For example: it’s wrong for a couple not to have children because if no one had children, civilization would collapse. Or: it’s wrong for you not to donate to charity for the poor because if no one donated, lots of innocent people would suffer. Or: it’s wrong for any doctor to limit his practice to concierge service because if every doctor did that, most people would not have access to medical care. What’s right or wrong with this kind of argument?
My Answer, In Brief: While proper ethical principles are universal, universalization is not a valid test of morality. Ethics should be based on the factual requirements of human life and happiness, including the virtues.
- Download: MP3 Segment
- Duration: 16:17
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About Philosophy in Action Radio
I'm Dr. Diana Hsieh. I'm a philosopher specializing the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. I received my Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2009. My dissertation defended moral responsibility and moral judgment against the doubts raised by Thomas Nagel's "problem of moral luck."
My radio show, Philosophy in Action Radio, broadcasts live over the internet on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. On Sunday mornings, I answer four meaty questions applying rational principles to the challenges of real life in a live hour-long show. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers co-hosts the show. On Wednesday evenings, I interview an expert guest about a topic of practical importance.
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