Category Archives: Meta-Ethics

Painless Killing for a Utilitarian

The question we are considering is if utilitarianism dubs painless killing to be morally impermissible. The simple answer is that no, there is no clear condemnation of painless killing by utilitarian standards. As we know, utilitarianism focuses on two things: the equal value of everyone’s happiness, and the goal of maximizing happiness and minimizing pain. This means that there are any number of extenuating circumstances that would cause a utilitarian to label painless killing as morally permissible or impermissible; for example, she would say it was wrong if the individual she killed had a family to look out for. On the other hand, she would say it was right if killing the individual would benefit many people, for example, killing a serial murderer. However, in the most stripped down example of an individual with virtually no identity, one with no family or friends, and one who does not intend to perform any particularly heroic or heinous actions in the future, utilitarianism provides no reason that killing this individual is wrong. This system of ethics places no particular value on life, independent of its ties to joy and pain. So once these emotions are removed from consideration, the life is worth little to nothing.

The decision of whether or not this act of killing is impermissible depends on the killer. If the killer would suffer grief, guilt, or any emotional distress after performing this action, then it is, by utilitarian standards, morally impermissible. Killing this individual would benefit no one, and hurt the killer. Of course, this consideration is rather illogical, as no one would go through with it under these circumstances. However, on the other hand, if the killer is pathologically deviant, and derives some joy out of killing, then utilitarianism views it as morally permissible, if not obligatory. So for example, suppose I am some strange, sociopathic individual who finds killing for sport (and no other reason) to be enjoyable. If I am presented with a child, one who is orphaned and alone, with no earthly connections and no significant past, utilitarianism states that it is morally permissible for me to kill this child.

It is clear then that, in this specific circumstance, regarding an individual with no connections and no considerable future, utilitarianism states that painlessly killing an individual is morally permissible.

The Dilemma of Painless Killing

For most people, the act of killing is wrong because it inflicts pain on the animal or person being killed. However, when the idea of the painless killing of an animal or a person is introduced, people are split between the two.

In the last couple of years, there has been a fight against animal cruelty and animal testing. When scientists experiment on animals, people see this as unethical as many complications can occur from the products’ reaction to the animal. The main argument is that animal testing can cause harm to animals. The substances tested on animals can cause symptoms that can result in serious issues and even death. However, in the case of painless deaths, is it morally wrong to kill using this method? Using methods to kill that do not inflict pain on the animal does not inflict any type of pain or discomfort for the animal. The killing of the animal does not harm any one and actually benefits those who need the meat to eat and live.

While others may argue that it takes away from the animal’s opportunity to live, most likely nothing will be taken away from the animal. The daily lives of animals typically consist of just eating and sleeping. This is nothing interesting enough to continue living for. When animals simply eat and sleep all day, everyday, they have nothing to lose. Painless killing removes the pain that could have been administered to the animal in order to kill it, and by using this method, the animal does not suffer and the people who receive the meat benefit. From a utilitarian’s point of view, since people are being benefitted and the animal is not harmed, the killing of the animal using painless methods is morally right. It brings about the greatest amount of good and happiness.

Since the animal is killed using painless measures, it is not morally wrong to kill the animal to use it for good rather than prolonging a life with no other purpose.

Animal Liberation Movement and Animal Rights

Tom Regan’s, The Case for Animal Rights, and Peter Singer’s, The Animal Liberation Movement, both advocate for the rights and equal treatment of animals through various means. Both seek to change the cruel and brutal treatment of animals present in the world today but the method in which they wish to reach this goal differs. Singer derives his argument from a utilitarianism perspective whereas Regan obtains his argument from a more Kantian point of view.

First off, Singer deliberately uses the term “liberation” rather than “rights” because it is the equality of consideration of interests, not equality of rights, that the case for animal equality seeks to establish. His main argument is taken from a utilitarianism perspective in that whatever course of action creates the most happiness for the most amount of people is the best measure of good/ethical behavior. Because animals are capable of suffering, they should be considered in a utilitarian view to create the most happiness and minimize suffering. Singer further argues against speciesism, discrimination based on a certain species, in that all beings capable of suffering should be worthy of equal consideration. Giving a species less consideration would be similar to discrimination based on skin color in that animals should have rights based on their ability to suffer rather than their intelligence. He specifically mentions how there are many mentally challenged humans who show lower intelligence than the average human being and how many intelligent animals have proved to be just as intelligent as human children. Therefore, intelligence should not even be a factor when showing less or more consideration to one species over another.

Regan, on the other hand, takes a Kantian position in that all living beings possess inherent value and should be treated as ends-in-themselves, rather than a means to an end. Animals should not be treated as creatures who simply live to further humans’ happiness but rather creatures who should be able to achieve happiness themselves. These inherent values imply that all individuals should be treated the same, including both animals and humans. Unlike Singer, Regan argues against a utilitarianism perspective when considering animal equality. Utilitarianism has no room for the equal rights of different individuals because it has no room for their equal inherent value. What is most important to a utilitarian is the satisfaction of an individual’s interests, not the individuals themselves. Our feelings of satisfaction have positive value while our feelings of frustration have negative value. Thus, one’s inherent value has no place in this mindset, rendering utilitarianism useless as a way to perceive animal rights.

Both Singer and Regan are strong advocates for animal rights and seek to create positive change for the cruel behavior that many humans display towards animals. However, each author accomplishes their goal of supporting animal rights through a different mindset. Singer focuses more on utilitarianism whereas Regan contradicts utilitarianism and focuses more on Kantian ethics instead. As an advocate for animal rights myself, I commend these authors in writing these thorough arguments to protect animals.

Regan, Tom. The Case for Animal Rights. Berkeley: U of California, 1983. Print.
Singer, Peter. The Animal Liberation Movement: Its Philosophy, Its Achievements, and Its Future. Nottingham, England: Old Hammond, 1986. Print.

God and Morality

As we commence our final week in meta-ethics, we are confronted with a problem that philosophers have struggled with since at least the time of Socrates- the muddled relationship between religion and ethics. Are they inextricable from each other, or can they be two independent concepts? And if ethics is independent of religion, then is our moral code a manmade concept, and as William Lane Craig declared, only “an aid to survival and reproduction,” but otherwise illusory? (Bennett 113) Should we adhere to any moral code if an omnipotent Being does not impose it upon us? These are only a few of the question, which I have pondered while reading Bennett’s What is This Thing Called Ethics, Plato’s Euthyphro, and Rachels’ God and Moral Autonomy.

Plato’s dialog Euthyphro describes an encounter between Socrates, the great Athenian philosopher, and a man named Euthyphro, a self-declared expert on all things religion. During their conversation, Euthyphro attempts to define piety three different times, and each definition proves to be fallacious.

Euthyphro’s three attempts at providing a universal definition of piety fail to please Socrates, after discovering flaws in each of them. Euthyphro’s first definition of piety is as follows: “The piety is doing as I do,” (Plato 1) as in charging his father in manslaughter, which he is about to go to trial for. However, this definition does not suit Socrates, because it is not a definition- it is merely an example of piety. Euthyphro’s second attempt at defining piety is actually a definition, though an erroneous one. Euthyphro defines piety as what is pleasing to the gods. This is not a sound definition, as Socreates points out that the quarrelsome Greek gods would be likely to argue over what each one thought of as piety. And the third definition is that the pious is what all gods love, which Socrates proves to be a cyclical argument.

Socrates offers no explanation of what he himself believes to be the universal definition of piety, and Plato’s dialog ends with Euthyphro leaving in a huff, frustrated by Socrates outwitting him. So what happens next? We as readers are left unfulfilled without a universal definition of piety. So then I wonder: could Euthyphro have reversed his words, and would an altered form of his third definition of piety prove to be suitable for Socrates? Euthyphro attempted to say that piety is what all gods love, which Socrates deemed a futile definition. But could one declare that acts are pious because gods love them? This definition still leaves us with a conundrum- what acts are pious? Perhaps acts are pious because gods love them, and perhaps we cannot venture further than that. Does God not work in mysterious ways? Could a God/Gods not choose to favor certain acts without explaining His/ Their ways? After investigating Bennett, Plato, and Rachels’ arguments, it seems that all of them seem to point to one conclusion: that a God/Gods’ deeds are arbitrary and not based a moral code. If there is a God, or Gods, who has or have created the moral standard which we today adhere to, it seems His/Their moral standards are capricious. This may be a hard morality to view, but is it not plausible?

If there is an all-powerful and all-knowing Being, it seems that the moral code he has given us is erratic. How else could we explain why God says he wants us to love, but disapproves of love between homosexuals? If there is a Creator, then I think it is best to accept his moral code unquestioningly. And if there is not a God, then we should question every moral that we have followed thus far.



Bennett, Christopher. What is This Thing Called Ethics?. London: Routledge, 2010. Print.

“Euthyphro by Plato.” Project Gutenberg. Project Gutenberg, n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2014. <>.

“Plato’s Euthyphro.” PHIL 111: introduction to Philosophy. Southern Illinois University, n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2014. <>.

Rachels, James. God and Moral Autonomy. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1986. Print.

“Socratic Irony.”, n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2014. <>.

“piety.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2014. <>.

Worship and Moral Autonomy

In “God and Moral Autonomy,” James Rachel argues that God cannot exist based on the following argument:

  1. “If any being is God, he must be a fitting object of worship.
  2. No being could possibly be a fitting object of worship, since worship requires the abandonment of one’s role as an autonomous moral agent.
  3. Therefore, there cannot be any being who is God.” (Rachel 119)

Moral autonomy is the ability to choose what is right or wrong by oneself. Rachel claims that since worship requires abandoning autonomous moral agency, God cannot exist. But what if a person willingly wants to worship God and follow His commands? What Rachel failed to realize was that worshipping God is the choice of the autonomous moral agent and can decide to follow morals out of respect for moral duty. They may try to align their morals with the morals of a higher being (God) which there bases on what is right or wrong. They are not abandoning their moral agency; instead, they are basing their moral beliefs on the morals of God, which is a decision that they made for themselves. Rachel assumes that if a person worships God, then he or she is abandoning their freedom to make their own set of morals, but he did not realize that many moral autonomists who worship God as a moral duty chose to follow his commands on their own.

It can be argued that “the more people decide to integrate the duties of God into their moral beliefs, the freer, and more autonomous they become” (“James Rachels Argument From Moral Autonomy”). The duties of God are not meant to oppress or take away a person’s autonomy. A person controls whether or not they want to take part in the religion and if they want to obey the commands. When people follow their integrate the teaching of a religion to their own morals, they will not feel like they are doing wrong and it will not go agains their morals or the moral law of God.

For example, imagine that someone joins the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). They voluntarily align their morals with that of the group. They do not abandon their morals; they voluntarily base their morals more with what the group’s morals are. An autonomous moral agent who chooses to worship does not abandon his or her moral autonomy; instead, he/she freely chooses to adopt the group’s morals and now decide on what is morally right or wrong based on the alignment with their beliefs and the group’s beliefs.

Rachel’s claim that worshipping God requires for a person to abandon their autonomous moral agency is not true, therefore, it cannot be used in the argument to conclude that God is not real. The claim that God does not exist because Worship requires abandoning autonomous moral agency does not hold true, therefore making the conclusion invalid.

Works Cited

“James Rachels Argument From Moral Autonomy.” Philosophy, Theology, History, Science, Big Questions. 22 Nov. 2011. Web. 20 Sept. 2014. <>.

Rachels, James. “God and Moral Autonomy.” Can Ethics Provide Answers? (1997): 109-123. Blackboard. Web. 20 Sept. 2014.


Rachels God and Moral Autonomy

Rachels’ God and Moral Autonomy makes several arguments about how God cannot exist by connecting it to one’s moral autonomy. He mentions the impossibility of God’s existence because God, by definition, must be an appropriate being of worship. However, he further explains how no being can be suited for worship since worship would require one to abandon their autonomous moral agent. Because the relationship between a worshipper and an object of worship is infinitely asymmetrical, the believer must seek God’s will and adapt his behavior to that will, which contradicts autonomous decision-making (Tremblay).

Rachels also analyzes the nature of worship by comparing it to the ritual of crowning a prince. The kneeling of the prince symbolizes his subordinate status to the queen. However, only someone who is educated in the meaning of this ritual will understand this act of kneeling as a way of submitting. Similarly, only one who is familiar with the act of worship will recognize the rituals as ways to praise God rather than simple mundane procedures. For example, in many churches, eating bread and drinking grape juice or wine symbolizes the acceptance of Jesus’ body and blood. However, someone from the outside would not recognize this ritual and perhaps interpret it as satisfying one’s hunger and thirst.

There are also many objections to Rachels’ arguments, including the fact that “our responsibility as moral agents is to do right, and God’s commands are right” (Rachels). An autonomous moral agent, by definition, is the ability to independently make decisions, so if one believes that God is worth worshipping, then he/she has activated his/her moral autonomy. Gerald Dworkin supports this objection as well by questioning the definition of autonomy. Suppose a person, acting completely independently, chooses to follow what his parents tell him to do. He is indeed autonomous. But didn’t he just give up his autonomy when he decided to follow someone else’s orders? On one hand, this person is not deciding for himself because in order to predict his actions, we have to look at what his parents tell him to do. In this point of view, he is not autonomous. On the other hand, he has freely and independently decided that listening to his mother’s wishes is the kind of life he wants to lead. In this perspective, he is completely autonomous. Dworkin further mentions that the concept of autonomy that insists upon substantive independence is inconsistent with other important values such as loyalty, objectivity, commitment, benevolence, and love, thereby implying that to have such a strict definition for autonomy would contradict other moral principles.

Moreover, in order to have the title of “God,” a being must have certain qualifications: “he must be all-powerful and perfectly good in addition to being perfectly wise” (Rachels). Choosing to believe in this omnipotent being would be exercising one’s moral autonomy. Therefore, it would make sense for people to place their faith into this seemingly perfect being and consequently, deciding to activate their autonomous moral agent. Rachels also argues that “in worshiping God, one is acknowledging and accepting this role, and that is the point of the ritual of worship.” This further implies that those who decide to worship God know what they are doing, so they use their moral autonomy to follow God’s commands. Although this may seem contradictory to an autonomous moral agent, they still initially decided to freely worship God.

Rachels’ God and Moral Autonomy argues that there is a contradiction between worshipping God and exercising moral autonomy. However, to have such a rigid view on the definition of autonomy brings up other complications and conflicts with other important moral values as well.

Works Cited

Dworkin, Gerald. Cambridge Studies in Philosphy. N.p.: Cambridge University Press, 1988. Print.

Rachels, James. “God and Moral Autonomy.” Can Ethics Provide Answers? And Other Essays In Moral Philosophy. N.p.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1996. N. pag. Print.

Tremblay, Francois. “Argument From Moral Autonomy.” Strong Atheism. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Sept. 2014. <>.

Evolution and God Can Coexist

In Christopher Bennett’s What is this thing called ethics?,  Bennett discusses the positions of theists, atheists, and humanists. The concept of God and morality coinciding is a difficult process to grasp because there is no tangible proof of the existence of God. Although there are aspects of each position that I agree with, I support the theist position in regards to evolution and how the world came to be. Christopher Bennett, when speaking on behalf of the theists, made the claim that “we need to explain the very existence of the universe through there being a perfectly free and powerful being” (Bennett 116).

Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution explains how organisms evolved from natural selection and the survival of the fittest. Darwin never mentioned God in his theory nor did he explain why the process of evolution originally occurred. To understand the world in which we live in, we need to “point to a Being powerful enough to start the process of the universe’s development off” (Bennett 116). Science dates back to the big bang, but what happened before it? Bennett implies that there must be a figure behind the world’s creation.

Darwin’s theory is scientifically proven as true. Just because his theory is true, does not mean the existence of God is false. Author Stefan Lovgren argues that evolution and religion can coexist. He argues that evolution could be God’s tool in the creation of humans. Lovgren states, “it would be perfectly logical to think that a divine being used evolution as a method to create the world” (Lovgren). In other words, it makes sense that God would use evolution as a method because the ones that are most adapted to the environment survive.  Evolution could be used to explain present life, but God could be the ultimate creator who used evolution as a tool (Snellenberger). If we are all God’s children, wouldn’t God want us all to be well adapted so we can survive and prosper?

Bennett also discusses the fact that God is the Designer. He states, “where there is a design, there must be a designer” (Bennett 115). To support this claim, he compares a watch and a chameleon. If a person were to find a watch on a deserted island, that individual would know that someone else created the intricate clockwork and the design of the watch. A chameleon, on the other hand, does not have a known designer. Conscious design was put behind the chameleon’s ability to change color to fit its surroundings. But who gave the chameleon this ability? (Bennett 115). Science cannot answer this question; religion can. God, Almighty, could be the mastermind behind this design.

The belief in God has no genuine proof like science has, which is why many people find it hard to accept that there is a god. The existence of God is not proved by facts, but rather by beliefs and faith. Through the theist’s argument, it is clear that one can support scientific theories while also having faith in god.


Works Cited

Bennett, Christopher. “Ethics and Religion.” What is this thing called ethics?. London: Routledge, 2010. 111-125. Print.

Lovgren, Stefan. “Evolution and Religion Can Coexist, Scientists Say.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 18 Oct. 2004. Web. 21 Sept. 2014. <>

Snellenberger, Earl . “Creationism Evolving.” PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 21 Sept. 2014. <>

Psychological Egoism-Rachels

Rachels’ “Egoism and Moral Skepticism” provides us with strong arguments in favor of psychological and ethical egoism, which he effectively refutes by highlighting their weaknesses. Before reading, I was naïve and therefore indifferent to these concepts of egoism; however, I now agree that psychological egoism is an invalid thesis.

Rachels defines psychological egoism as “the view that all men are selfish in everything that they do, that is, that the only motive from which anyone ever acts is self-interest” (Rachels). Contrary to ethical egoism, psychological egoism describes how we act but does not tell us how we ought to act. (Garrett)

He presents several arguments throughout the work in order to show why this idea is unjust. I believe his strongest claim is that  “Since so-called unselfish actions always produce a sense of self-satisfaction in the agent, and since that sense of satisfaction is a pleasant state of consciousness, it follows that the point of the action is really to achieve a pleasant state of consciousness, rather than to bring about any good for others” (Rachels). For instance, I, like many others, often behave unselfishly for mere self-satisfaction and the avoidance of guilt. When I pass a homeless person on the streets, I give some loose change and then feel good about myself instead of feeling guilty for ignoring the beggar and continuing to walk.

The problem with this situation, Rachels points out, is that it sounds as if I am described as an unselfish person since I find pleasure from helping others. The selfish person would not have been concerned for the homeless person in the first place. “Why should we think that merely because someone derives satisfaction from helping others this makes him selfish? Isn’t the unselfish man precisely the one who does derive satisfaction from helping others, while the selfish man does not?” (Rachels). Bishop Joseph Butler answered this question in his Sermon XI:

That all particular appetites and passions are towards external things themselves, distinct from the pleasure arising from them, is manifested from hence; that there could not be this pleasure, were it not for that prior suitableness between the object and the passion: there could be no enjoyment or delight from one thing more than another, from eating food more than from swallowing a stone, if there were not an affection or appetite to one thing more than another (Bishop).

In simpler terms, people do not decide they need to feel good and therefore find a way to help others in order to achieve that feeling of self-satisfaction. On the contrary, people help others for the sake of helping others and find the sense of satisfaction after the fact, according to Butler. Wanting to help others is unselfish, and therefore, the psychological egoist argument has a mistaken view of selfishness.

In closing, I stand by Rachels’ opposition to psychological egoism as it is entirely unjust. The theory contains numerous flaws and confounding statements including the failure to distinguish between self-interest and selfishness, as well as between self-interest and pleasure.

Works Cited

Bishop, Lloyd. In defense of altruism: inadequacies of Ayn Rand’s ethics and psychological egoism. New Orleans, LA: University Press of the South, 2000. Print.

Garrett, Aaron. “Joseph Butler’s Moral Philosophy.” Stanford University. Stanford University, 17 Oct. 2012. Web. 14 Sept. 2014. <>.

Rachels, James. “Egoism and Moral Skepticism.” The University of Morality (1971): 233-239. Blackboard. Web. 14 Sept. 2014.

Rand, Ayn. “A Defense of Ethical Egoism.” 79-85. Blackboard. Web. 14 Sept. 2014.

Why Care About Other People?

James Rachels’ essay outlines possible points of arguments for and against the concept of ethical egoism– the theory that humans ought to behave in their own self-interest, and that they have no moral obligation to act otherwise (in a ‘selfless’ manner).

Although ethical egoism supposedly promotes the individuality of each human regarding his or her own goals as described in Rand’s argument, the apparent logical inconsistency makes this theory implausible in the universal realm. For example, if Julie is an ethical egoist, she would want to act in a manner that would best benefit her. However, simultaneously she has to persuade others to act unselfishly in order for her interests to be met. This sort of behavior is not appropriate for society as a whole to advance if the individual is constantly looking out for his or her own welfare first, in a way that would be detrimental to the welfare of others. Ethical egoists are therefore people who do not “care at all about anyone other than themselves” (Rachels 239).

Regarding the morality of ethical egoism, there can be no differentiation between right and wrong of an individual’s actions. Kurt Baier provides a reductio ad absurdum argument that regards the initial premise of egoism being true as false because of a conflict in the interests of two opposing parties (Kalin). What is right for one individual may be considered wrong for the other person. For example, if Connor’s duty is to steal an apple from Eric, but Eric’s duty is to not have his apple stolen from Connor, there lies a conflict of self-interest. Just as ethical relativists believe the concepts of just and unjust vary from individual to individual, so exists a dichotomy between individuals’ self-interest.

One thing that was interesting in the reading was the emphasis on ought in the definition of ethical egoism. What one ought to do could be regarded as the morally right thing to do (Prichard). In Rachel’s essay, he gives an example of Abraham Lincoln’s argument for ethical egoism where supposedly kind acts are ultimately for the benefit of the one who performs the act. If Bill were to help Kelly look for her lost dog, an ethical egoist would argue that perhaps Bill helped Kelly so that he could feel some sort of satisfaction in doing a good deed, not because of an inherent want to assist her. However, Rachels argues that people generally “derive satisfaction” after doing a good deed (235). The skeptical nature of questioning any act as being selfish ironically undermines the value of the human capacity to sympathize (Rachels 239).

Since ethical egoism is essentially an ethical theory, it should be maintained that the egoists are attempting to understand what constitutes what is morally right and wrong.  Ethical relativists believe that an action is right or wrong based on the cultural context of the individual, while ethical egoists conclude that the actions done in an individual’s best interest are what define its morality. Ethical egoists are too naïve in believing that what is best for the individual will maybe coincide with what is best for society. They do not evaluate the fact that their actions will ultimately influence others around them, and consequently that the behavior of others will impact their own pursuit of happiness in a never-ending cycle of interconnectedness.



Kalin, Jesse. “Baier’s Refutation of Ethical Egoism.” Philosophical Studies: An International Journal for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition. Vol. 22, No. 5/6 (Oct. – Dec., 1971) , pp. 74-78. Springer. <>

Prichard, H. A., 2002, Moral Writings, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rachels, James. “Egoism and Moral Skepticism.” The University of Morality (1971): 233-239. Blackboard. Web. 13 Sept. 2014.

Ayn Rand

It is obvious from reading her writing why Ayn Rand is considered one of the most controversial writers of modern times. Her “A Defense of Ethical Egoism”, a passage from Atlas Shrugged, deals with the idea of rational morality in relation to the validity of altruistic motives and actions in upholding rational morality of individual man: or the “choice…to be moral or to live” (Rand 84), or ethical egoism. Her views are extremist, for she argues either for or against a concept. Rand simply states all of her arguments and from the idea that “man is a being of volitional consciousness” (Rand 79), extends her argument of man needing to create and exist in compliance with his own moral code for his self-satisfaction and no others’. In short, a man has “no obligation to do anything except what is in their own interests” (Rachels 234).

One of the many eye catching and mind boggling arguments in “A Defense of Ethical Egoism”, Rand declares that one way for men to effectively preserve their “self” (Rand 80) is through achieving a “successful state of life” through happiness. Happiness, according to Rand, can be summed up as “exist[ing] for his own sake” (Rand 81), and she questions the immorality of enjoyment of happiness. In none of her arguments of happiness is the subjectivity of happiness and its dependence on individual person’s definition of happiness questioned. If Rand’s argument was flawless, then presuming that a spouse is disabled, and presuming that it is physically and mentally draining for a spouse to take care of another entirely, the non-injured spouse should leave their injured counterpart uncared for and start anew elsewhere because taking care of the disabled spouse would stand in the way of self-preservation and one’s individual happiness. Louis Harris & Associates, a National Organization on Disability, found that only 13% of the spouses faced with the difficulty of caregiving to a permanently disabled spouse file for divorce (Kilborn). In simple terms, the spouse would not leave his or her counterpart because he or she may experience guilt, which in turn would affect her general happiness, and he or she may also continue the relationship out of love. Also, recent studies performed at the University of Michigan suggest that “providing care to others can…provide benefits in terms of health and longevity for the caregiver” (Nauert). Although the study did not directly identify the causes of the increased health benefits of caregiving, the lead author of the study report, Brown, believes that “strong evolutionary forces favor altruistic motivation when individuals are interdependent” (Nauert). As such, not only does this altruistic, non-rational self-interest act of giving care to a disabled person have a positive effect on someone’s happiness, but essentially is beneficial for self-preservation as Rand described it: “means of existence” (Rand 84).

Ethical egoism is an intriguing concept, for it questions the foundations of morality and its current existing state in men. The philosophy attempts to uncover the success of men, and the processes required in order to achieve happiness. However, the views presented by Ayn Rand in “A Defense of Ethical Egoism” is quite radical and an unsatisfactory explanation for the realities of the behaviors of men.


Kilborn, Peter T. “Disabled Spouses Are Increasingly Forced to Go It Alone.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 30 May 1999. Web. 15 Sept. 2014.

Nauert, Rick. “» Helping Disabled Spouse May Extend Your Life – Psych Central News.” University of Michigan, 26 Nov. 2008. Web. 14 Sept. 2014.

Rachels, James. “Egoism and Moral Skepticism.” The University of Morality(1971): 233-239.Web. 14 Sept. 2014.

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