Egoism and Altruism, Changing Jobs, Boycotts, and More
Q&A Radio: 8 February 2015
I answered questions on choosing between egoism and altruism, changing jobs quickly, the morality of boycotts, and more on 8 February 2015. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers was my co-host. Listen to or download this episode of Philosophy in Action Radio below.
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Segments: 8 February 2015
Question: Are egoism and altruism mutually exclusive? Most people have a common-sense view of ethics. They think that a person should spend lots of time pursuing his own goals and happiness. They also think that a person should sometimes set aside such pursuits to help others. Basically, on this view, a person can be an egoist and an altruist, and that he should be a little of both. Yet I've heard that egoism and altruism are two wholly incompatible moral theories too. So what's right or wrong about the common-sense view?
Answer, In Brief: The "common sense" view that people should take a moderate path in life of some egoism and some altruism is wrong: that indicates a failure to understand the fundamental question involved. However, it's not an unreasonable approach, given people's misunderstandings about the nature of egoism and altruism.
Question: Is it immoral or unwise to accept a better job soon after starting a different one? I am ready to change jobs. I could probably move to another role within my company pretty quickly and easily and continue to move my career forward, but I could make more money and get better experience outside of my company. Outside job hunts can be lengthy and full of disappointments and all the while I would have to work at a job that is, frankly, killing my soul. I think it's pretty clear that – if I accept a new job in my company and immediately turn around and give notice to go somewhere else – I run a high risk of burning bridges with key contacts at my current company. But would it be unethical in some way to do that? When you accept a job are you making a tacit promise to work there for some period of time? If so, what's the minimum amount of time?
Answer, In Brief: When you take a job, you should not do so under false pretenses, including any pretense that you'll stay for longer than you actually plan to do. That way, you're providing genuine value in exchange for your salary, and you won't burning bridges.
Question: It is moral to advocate for the boycott of a business? Over the holidays, my brother and I discussed cases in which businesses are compelled by government to provide services against their will. For example, the Colorado courts demanded that a bakery make cakes for gay couples or face fines. We agreed that the business should be left free to operate as they see fit, absent violating anyone's actual rights, and reap the rewards or penalties from their choice. Where we diverged was on the moral status of the business owner and whether the bakery deserved to be boycotted. In my view, the decision of the owner of the Colorado bakery was immoral: they were being irrational, discriminating by non-essentials. My brother disagreed. Moreover, my brother opposed any advocacy of a boycott, seeing this as a call for force to be applied against the owner. This would be wrong, in his view, but he would be fine with suggesting that people patronize a different store. Ultimately, I found that I could not adequately explain why I think people might actively and openly oppose wrong acts by businesses, even if those acts don't violate rights. So what justifies such boycotts, if anything?
Answer, In Brief: So long as conducted peacefully and honestly, boycotts do not violate rights. When used properly – in service of worthy causes and by worthy means – they can be powerful and important methods of cultural change.
Rapid Fire Questions (1:07:48)
- Someone feels an acute pang of explosive, potentially self destructive anger. He has the urge to break his TV or curse out his boss. How can he alleviate or ride out this emotional emergency?
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About Philosophy in Action
I'm Dr. Diana Brickell (formerly Diana Hsieh). I'm a philosopher, and I've long specialized in the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. I completed my Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2009. I retired from work as a public intellectual in 2015.
From September 2009 to September 2015, I produced a radio show and podcast, Philosophy in Action Radio. In the primary show, my co-host Greg Perkins and I answered questions applying rational principles to the challenges of real life. We broadcast live over the internet on Sunday mornings.
My first book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame, can be purchased in paperback and Kindle. The book defends the justice of moral praise and blame of persons using an Aristotelian theory of moral responsibility, thereby refuting Thomas Nagel's "problem of moral luck." My second book (and online course), Explore Atlas Shrugged, is a fantastic resource for anyone wishing to study Ayn Rand's epic novel in depth.
I can be reached via e-mail to [email protected].