Front Page Titles (by Subject) Beyond Kant: Moral Egoism - Literature of Liberty, Autumn 1980, vol. 3, No. 3
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Beyond Kant: Moral Egoism - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Autumn 1980, vol. 3, No. 3 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Beyond Kant: Moral Egoism
“Is Kant the Gray Eminence of Contemporary Ethical Theory?” Ethics 90(January 1980):218–238.
Recent ethical theory is governed by a paradigm, consisting of an ignoble picture of human beings and two basic principles. Human beings are depicted as appetitive animals, in pursuit of their desires. The two principles proclaim that human beings' occupation with what comes naturally or with what is in their interest to do is not an ethical concern; rather—and this is the second principle—ethics enters in when someone's self-seeking behavior interferes in some way with another's activity. Veatch argues that this is a contemporary paradigm by citing Rawls, Hare, Harman, Baier, Nozick, Frakena, and Gewirth.
Kant provides the rationale for this contemporary paradigm, not so much in the sense that he literally articulated these two principles, but because his philosophy has seemed to many to imply these principles. The first principle corresponds to Kant's view that our natural, unchosen inclinations and tendencies have only to do with the causes of, rather than the ethical reasons for, action, and that seeking reasons for acting is irrelevant to ethics. Thus, in this version of Kant, moral action can never be directed to any sort of natural end or goal because such ends and goals would only be causally determined, and thus nonrational and heteronomous (action) determined by some object rather than by the autonomous, choosing will itself. Furthermore, according to Kant all such heteronomous actions are done to promote one's happiness and are thus egoistic. The second principle in the contemporary paradigm corresponds to Kant's view that the criterion of moral and rational behavior is that one acts for reasons which are not simply self-centered but universalizable and hold for rational beings as such.
The problem with the Kantian paradigm is that the first principle eliminating all goal-related action from the moral realm renders the universalizability criterion empty. Why not, then, sanitize the egoistic nonmoral ends or goals so that they will be appropriate for universalizability? But to do this, one needs a theory of the objective good which modern moral theorists reject. Instead they resort to a kind of trick: why not universalize our ordinary desires and ends? For instance, Hare says that once we take our desires and purposes to be right, then we are committed to universalizability and hence ethics enters the picture. For Rawls it is the fact that we would choose to abide by his two principles of justice in the original position and this amounts to a commitment to universalize the primary goods of life. This likewise moves us from nonmorality to morality. But, counters Veatch, the fact that we would say that our desires are right or that we would choose certain principles under certain conditions is merely an interesting fact which cannot move us from the nonmoral to the moral. He suggests the way out of this impasse is via a theory of objective good like that of the Aristotelian/Thomistic tradition. If such a view of the good is correct, then there is no longer any opposition between nonmoral egoistic purposes and moral general principles. For if something is objectively good, it is moral and desirable both for myself as well as for everyone else.