Jan 16, 2020 in Sociology

Ethical Egoism

The basic idea of ethical egoism is that all human actions have selfish motives, and there is no logical reason for being altruistic. Ethical egoism is different from rational egoism, which requires higher logical targets for human actions. It appears that ethical egoism might conflict with the basic ideas of law, because the main goal of law is to ignore selfish motives doing justice. But in fact, it is a philosophical doctrine relating to the law, including criminal justice as well. The current essay analyzes the nature of ethical egoism in the context of criminal, proposing ethical situations of right and bad moral actions in the criminal sphere. Moreover, the purpose of this essay is also to show that ethical egoism can exist as an integral part of the criminal justice system, and how it could help in resolving ethical dilemmas.

Ethical egoism assumes that people behave in their purposes and intentions, so it conflicts with utilitarian goals. Utilitarianism promotes the idea of a higher level of responsibility for others, while happiness is the main ethical principle that determines human life. For this theory, a common utility is a complex of individual suggestions, and the outcome justifies the means. Still, for many ethical theorists “the happiness of others cannot be the determining ground of the will because it would then be based on our desire for pleasure and would thus be a principle of self-love”. It also conflicts with other philosophical systems, and there are at least three reasons why philosophers reject egoism. The first is that ethical egoism does not assist in resolving conflicts of interest but rather worsens them. The second is that it is logically inconsistent, and the third is that ethical egoism is excessively dividing into groups where the interests of one community are considered to count more than interests of others. Banks compares it with racism, because both “dividing people into groups where the interests of one group are considered to count more than the interests of others”. In this case the criminal justice is impossible, because the division of people into groups is unfair in advance, so the final decision will depend on the privilege of one group over another.

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The egoistic ethical system reflects good results as those that coming from the pleasure principle. Selfishness principle declares that one’s intention to help others is also future expectation of help from others. Moreover, for it is important that “what is good for his survival and happiness is the moral. In the criminal justice system, there are some police who have some vanity and unethical means. Police never are able to work on the assumption that they can do whatever they benefit themselves. Some possible ethical issues in the police may include the use of excessive force, corruption, oppression, uncivilized behavior, discrimination, and violation of rights of privacy, negligence, breach of policy or law enforcement procedures, and therefore abuse of professional code of ethics. These ethical problems only a bad perspective of criminal justice and its ethical egoism is often present when certain conditions become unfair in police practices.

Ethical egoism produces many situations to what is good and what is bad. Some ethical dilemmas can arise when police and administrators are hesitant to do the right thing, because they contradict issue benefits. For them, it is easier to make rational actions, than correct actions, because of safety, career, and other ‘rational’ reasons. However, there is a great difference between ‘right’ and ‘reasonable’ actions, and between rational and egoistic ethics as well. Almond  stated that “if ‘right’ or ‘morally acceptable then we would know we were in the area of ethics. ‘Reasonable’ does not reveal itself in this way”. Hence, they behave in unethical way, promoting their personal interests. Nevertheless, there are some efforts in order to control the behavior of police officers and leaders through the code of ethics and conduct. Police may still retain broad powers in deciding when performing police work. In general, the ability to exercise prudence comes with responsibility, and police should be responsible for their actions.

However, corrupt police agents and officers make the criminal justice system look bad, and many of their actions are still represent the theory of egoism. The past actions can reveal the structure of unethical activities, and they can also use their egoistic motives for ‘justice’. Moreover, selfishness ethical theory in the criminal justice system can also come from some self-interest police. The most popular unethical codex is the secret police code of silence for loyalty to corrupt officers, so it represents the corrupted hierarchy in the whole egoistic system. One example of where law enforcement officers sleep on duty, even in those cases where they are expected to be vigilant and alert. Miller argued that “one can also imagine an alternative to Morality as Compromise in which someone treats altruistic reasons, as compared to reasons of self-interest, as some of us treat gourmet reasons as compared to moral reasons”. Thus, a choice to support or not the corruption is a question of moral reason for policeman. 

Ethical egoism can also take place in the criminal justice system because of the personal intention of the policeman who can develop a pleasure from being considered a social hero. There are enough cases where police decisions were motivated only by personal gain, which is best defined as self-centeredness or selfishness. For example, the police are trying to rid the society of criminals, and so can use any means to do this. Some heavy weapons or entirely prohibited species are also often used for these goals. In everyday life, another type of selfish behavior is used, including personal humiliation of people on racial, gender and cultural grounds. Accordingly, selfish deeds are hidden under the label of social hero. This unethical behavior and criminal behavior of police officers have a negative impact on the public image of the police. There are different approaches in assessing the consequences of choices and actions in order to make conclusive moral right decisions for the police.

Most of selfish people are not interested in the problems of others, because they pursue only their own reasons, so they have no sympathy for the problems. Accordingly, such ethical intention is very similar to the criminal justice process, because it cannot permit to accept the problems of both victim and defendant as persona ones. Moreover, the criminal system is often a place where people are satisfied their selfish and arrogant interests (corrupt judges, dishonest police). However, a hinder sympathy can intervene the objective assessment of the criminal situation and the proper implementation of law as well. However, it is important to distinguish the difference between psychological and ethical egoism. As Banks noted, psychological egoism “suggests that all humans are motivated and act according to egoist concerns and denies all altruistic explanations of behavior, instead contending that apparently unselfish acts are always carried out for egoistical reasons”. As for the second one, it mostly titles that “morality and reason are served only by promoting one’s own greatest good and self-interest and that we ought to behave in a way that is the best for others”. Therefore, in order to make the most right decision in the criminal process a person promotes his or her own “greatest good”, moving in this case to the most impossible realization of justice. 

Therefore, ethical egoism position believes that people must act on their own interests. In other words, people should always do what is best for them, regardless of how it will affect to other people. Following the ideas of ethical egoism, police often abuse their responsibilities, exploiting the idea of homeland defense. In addition, there is a great danger of corruption, as ethical egoism involves the division of people into groups according to their own interests. On the other hand, it allows making ethical judgments more objectively, because it does not allow accepting other problems as personal ones. Accordingly, ethical egoism has both positive and negative effects on justice, and it depends from the individual moral codex and social law as well.

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