Jan 8, 2019 in Comparative Essays

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Ethical Egoism vs. Utilitarianism Essay Sample

The concept of ethical egoism centers around the notion that each person should act for one’s own sake. The consequences of these actions for other persons involved should not be taken into consideration. Ethical egoism contrasts with utilitarianism; according to it, each person should act so as to produce the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people. Ethical egoism is subjective, while utilitarianism is objective. Those who hold utilitarian views believe that their own subjective needs and desires should not be regarded as a priority to the needs and desires of other people. In addition, they should treat everybody equally or objectively. On the other hand, ethical egoism puts the interests and desires of each person above those of others. Moreover, under utilitarianism, one should consider the long-term benefits produced by a certain action, not just the short-term happiness. Such a concept is similar for ethical egoism as it states that when evaluating a certain action, one should choose to do what is best for oneself in the long term and not what pleases one momentarily.

A simple example of corporate “window-dressing” demonstrates additional similarity between these frameworks. Under the utilitarian framework, it would be wrong for the CEO to increase corporate profits by making false sales entries in order to meet expectations from investors. In the short run, the investors would be happy that the company is meeting target profit figures, and the CEO would get a large bonus. However, the annual audit would likely discover the false entries and start an enquiry. Consequently, this could lead to a media scandal, drastic fall in share prices and charges brought against the CEO. The company could go out of business, thereby making the investors lose profits, employees - lose their jobs and the general public - unhappy and insecure. Therefore, under the utilitarian framework, the false entries should not be made.

Incidentally, the outcome is the same under the ethical egoism framework. Even though the CEO will get a large annual bonus in the short-term, he will go to jail when the auditors finish the enquiry and make the falsification public. It would deprive him of his basic freedoms and assets. Thus, the potential of a bad outcome would certainly outweigh any benefits; therefore, “window-dressing” should not be done.

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