Author Archives: Joseph Shapiro

Fundamental flaws in two systems

In Tom Regan’s The Case For Animal Rights, the focus is on illustrating the fundamental wrong in the “system that allows us to view animals as our resources, here for us-to be eaten, or surgically manipulated, or exploited for sport or money.” The pain, suffering, and deprivation comprise what’s wrong and they often magnify it,  but, they are not “the fundamental wrong” (179).

 This idea is very similar to the system of collegiate athletics. The athletes’ services are exploited for the entertainment and money that they provide for their university. At the universities with top Division I programs who have major TV contracts, there is enormous pressure on the athletes to win because there is a lot of money riding on it, none of which they will benefit from. The system is fundamentally flawed at many levels. Schools have gone to great lengths to hide the deeply rooted corruption and maintain their reputation and help their sports teams to continue to win. For example, academic advisors at UNC Chapel Hill helped dozens of athletes who were struggling in the classroom to maintain eligibility by working with professors to create phony classes for them to enroll in. Athletics took priority over academics, which entails that they are athletes first and students second. If this is the case, then they should receive some of the financial that they produced.

College athletes have nearly as much of  financially impactful as their counterparts in professional sports, but they happen to go to school on their free time. While the NCAA whose revenue in 2013 was $912.8 million (NCAA) continues to freely exploit the athletes for the revenue they produce, any financial gains made by the students athletes or they families are subject to the extremely strict and disciplinary rules and regulations of the NCAA. None of the immense revenue that the student athletes generate goes students’ bank accounts. Schools often argue that they are justified in not sharing some of that revenue with the students because the school is already compensating them by paying for their academics, room and board, meals, and travel. The fundamental issue is not how much student-athletes are worth or how much they should be compensated. Rather, the system of collegiate sports is a flawed and complicated one which allowably exploits the athletes.

Student-athletes are not regarded in the same manner as non-athlete students who pay full tuition or as professional athletes who are compensated for their job. Just as Regan believes that animals rights are not achievable simply by giving farm animals more space to move around, the problems of the collegiate athletic system cannot be solved simply by paying the athletes a few extra bucks. The problem with this system is not just that it is financially corrupt. The deeper issue lies not in the fact that the athletes don’t profit off the revenue that they themselves create, but in the belief that they shouldn’t. To quote John Locke, why shouldn’t the athletes have a right to the fruits of their labor?

Works Cited

Regan, T. (1986). A case for animal rights. In M.W. Fox & L.D. Mickley (Eds.), Advances in animal welfare science 1986/87 (pp. 179-189). Washington, DC: The Humane Society of the United States. 

Revenue.” NCAA Public Home Page. Copyright 2014 NCAA,, 2014. Web. 16 Nov. 2014.

Joseph Shapiro-Rand

The meaning, purpose and value of one’s life seem to be arbitrary and relative labels. In class we discussed the relativism of morality based on varying principles that are accepted in different societies. We have seen how one’s actions are judged based on whether or not they fit those principles. But the purpose of life and the fundamental principles of morality are still uncertain even within one’s own culture. According to Ayn Rand, if the purpose of life is existence, then individuals should base their actions on preserving and maximizing the full potential of one’s life (81).  Rand argues that the high praise that has been given to altruism is wrong and that it forces individuals to put others before themselves, ultimately harming their own well-being.  Rand devalues altruism as the sole standard of assessing one’s morality. Altruism, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is the “feelings and behavior that show a desire to help other people and a lack of selfishness” (Merriam Webster).

Robert Kurzban, an Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania concurs in concurrence with Rand, expresses one reason why altruism should not be equated to morality.  Kurzban argues that  “donating $1 million to terrorists would seem to be ‘moral’ if one uses this definition” of acting in ways that benefit others (Kurzban). Although an extreme example, Kurzban’s point is that we should not base morality solely on seemingly selfless behavior and charitable donations. Ultimately, the point is that morality is not universally defined and therefore, it we should not use one factor to define it.  Rand is right in rejecting altruistic morality as the absolute definition of morality, but she is wrong in her total denial of its importance.

Rand writes that a doctrine which “gives you, as an ideal, the role of a sacrificial animal seeking slaughter on the altars of others, is giving you death as a standard” (81).Rand’s belief that if altruism is used as the sole standard of morality, then individuals are forced forfeit all sense of self-interest and are driving themselves to an early grave. Does Rand truly believe that charitable donations, volunteer work or simple favors for friends are detrimental to our own well-being or our longevity? Although self-sacrifice may push individuals away from purely selfish motives, it doesn’t mean that people forfeit fully compromise their happiness to the point of suffering. Rand uses extreme cases of self-sacrifice to illustrate her point, but she fails to recognize that individuals often make sacrifices only up to a certain point. For example, when non-profit organizations such as schools, religious congregations or charities seek the support of individuals, people do not usually give more money or time then they can afford. Rand says that man “exists for his own sake, and the achievement of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose” (81).

Rand’s argument that we are torturing ourselves if we are held to a standard that demands self-sacrifice, also fails to see that the foundations of society cannot function without it. For example, it is a necessary component of the workplace from sports teams to Fortune 500 companies  For some, helping to improve the lives of others brings them enough satisfaction to make them feel happy themselves.  If we do only what we deem best for our sole benefit, then we may find it difficult to prosper. Conversely, if we never attend to our own wants and needs, we may be jeopardizing our health, our relationships and our lives. Moreover, sometimes helping others to achieve certain goals is actually is beneficial to us as well. If Rand fails to recognize the importance of self-sacrifice then she fails to see how self-interest and self-sacrifice go hand in hand in establishing happiness.

Works Cited

“Altruism.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 14 Sept. 2014.

Kurzban, Robert. “Defining Morality and Altruism | Evolutionary Psychology Blog.” Defining Morality and Altruism. Ian Pitchford and Robert M. Young;, 20 Oct. 2010. Web. 14 Sept. 2014.

Rand, Ayn. “A Defense of Ethical Egoism.” Atlas Shrugged (1959): 79-85. Blackboard. Web. 14 Sept. 2014.