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The theory of rational self-interest describes human conduct, including a person’s values, desires, goals and his/her achievements in real life. It focuses on an individual’s needs, desires, and interests. In daily life, people achieve their personal goals and targets due to inner motivation and self-interest. A businessman who demonstrates rational self-interest will prioritize personal needs above everybody else’s. Altruism explains individual concern for the welfare of others. In other words, altruist performs actions that have no personal benefits, but are advantageous to the society, like volunteering to help those in need. It denies the value of an individual, and thus is destructive to the individualistic component of the society.
Proponents of altruism challenge those of rational self-interest by valuing interests of other people over their personal ones, while self-interest promotes that gaining satisfaction derives from maximizing one’s chances to survive. Proponents of rational self-interest argue that not all actions motivated by self-interest are selfish. They also reject the altruistic description of genuinely selfless accomplishment. One can notice that proponents of rational self-interest empathize on an important distinction between enlightened and unenlightened self-interest, while altruists deny any personal reward, both extrinsic and intrinsic.
The thesis of rational self-interest, which states that everybody according to their assessment of what is in their best interest, seems to be the closest to the natural order of things. Altruists try to hold on to the idea that we have no right to exist for our personal sake, but for the sake of others’ wealth only. However, personal interests are more effective in motivating a person to pursue the desired life goals. Individuals should mind general interests of other people while satisfying their personal desires. The crucial point is not to focus solely on self-interest, but coordinate it with global goals.
The theory of “alienation” does not offer an adequate ontological account of our rational self-interest, because the former is basically an expression of our inherent self-dissatisfaction. Alienation theory holds that humans overcome the barriers by achieving success, and consequently becoming happier. Ontological theory refers to exploration of the very nature of things. It investigates such phenomena as being, existence, becoming, and reality (Hahn, 2010).
The older we get the more openness we experience. Each activity that causes happiness also reduces alienation and maximizes self-interest. The thesis invites us to see that all our actions are motivated by our own assessment of self-interest, which is the ultimate reason why we become alienated.
Harm to self, to others and impersonal harm violate the harm principle. Any form of harm whether intentional or not has an impact on an individual or those close to him/her. The harm principle refers to a harmful wrongdoing and states that individual action should be limited only to avoid harming oneself, others or causing impersonal harm. Impermissible conduct is a form of harm which deals a setback to others’ interests. In everyday life, people tend to harm others under the pretense of protecting personal interests. Everyone has the right to their self-awareness and body and nobody else should impair one’s mind or health, e.g. physically abuse another person. Considering harm to self, everyone should be protected from it. For example, suicide prevention, as it is a civic duty to protect other people’s bodies. Impersonal harm covers situations when no one gets harmed directly. Neither the actors nor the subjects of the actions get abused. This kind of harm is different as its evaluation does not have sufficient legislative basis, and mostly referrers to moral ideals, like in the case of pornography. Even if it is filmed in one’s home, and may not be against the law, it is often judged as morally and ethically wrong.
“Volenti Maxim” is a saying that states that where there is consent, there is no wrongdoing. In our lives, anything we do consciously is a choice, not a wrongdoing. Any form of harm is dangerous regardless of whether it is done consciously or not and violates the harm principle. People’s actions should be restrained to avoid impairing others.
In this scenario, I would take my chances and walk away. Killing one of them would hurt my conscience, and I would carry that guilt through my life. Deontological theory explains that the rightness of an action is measured by its adherence to local culture. Consequently, a deontologist would do what is moral in his view. He or she would follow an established rule regardless of its moral accuracy. The utilitarian strategy insists on the ultimate criteria of right and wrong that are defined by their consequences. A utilitarian would evaluate the situation form the viewpoint of wellbeing of the majority, which would be killing one person to save the others.
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Command theory insists that only God, the supreme power and the creator of the Universe, determines mortality in Scriptures or by divine revelation. Therefore, “whatever God commands” is right for a true believer in the Holy Ghost (Hahn, 2010). Personally, I would recommend following the utilitarian strategy, which proclaims acting in the best interest of the majority. Such decision can save extra lives instead of following the rules that are not applicable to any situation.
All three approaches to making a rational decision seem to be appealing. Still, the utilitarian strategy is the most useful one as it considers the rights of a bigger group. Command theory needs a staunch believer, while deontology is the weakest and least applicable in many situations as it will just go for the right thing to do regardless of the cost.