Assessing the Empirical Case for Enlightened Self-Interest



In the first three chapters, I have argued that research conducted in a variety of scientific fields provides strong reasons for concluding that moral realism is false, where moral realism is best understood as maintaining the existence of properties that could justify rewarding and punishing human agents on purely retributivist grounds. In light of this, there is reason to believe that normative ethics—with its emphasis on identifying the circumstances under which people perform morally right and wrong actions, and are morally responsible —is doomed to reach a dead end insofar as it seeks to discover properties that do not exist. While some might view this conclusion as lending itself to the broader claim that the study of ethics in general holds no value in terms of its ability to provide guidance for human conduct, I neither share this opinion nor do I believe that achieving success in providing such guidance would require a wholesale revision of the kinds of questions that ethicists have traditionally asked. One lesson that I do believe is proper to draw from the previous three chapters is that in order to increase the relevance of their discipline to people’s lives, ethicists should abandon the traditional emphasis on the more or less purely theoretical questions that characterize normative ethics and focus instead on some of the key practical questions that have captivated ethicists for thousands of years.


Life Satisfaction Antisocial Behavior Prosocial Behavior Unethical Behavior Moral Behavior 
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© Stephen G. Morris 2015

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