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Discussion 5 on Reflections on Ethics 1
On a response to Reflection 1

by Tom Roberts

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"Which of the three was indeed good?"

Kevin Hatton responded: "They all were."

To my mind we don't have enough information to make this assertion with any certainty and my inclination is to entirely disagree with Mr. Hatton.

Whilst it is made clear in the article that the first two are acting according to articles of faith, it is rather less clear that they disassociate themselves from the reasons why their faith requires such behaviour from them. If it were the case that the reasons each acted in the manner they did only in order to ensure certain positive outcomes for themselves, then it might be possible to categorise them selfish in motive and therefore not good at all. (If I swerve to avoid a dog crossing the road in order to avoid cleaning the blood off my bumper, do I deserve credit for saving the dog's life? I might claim it but do I deserve it?).

Equally the reasoning of the third as to why good works were 'right' might predicate a similar opinion of him/her. Suppose for example that the reasoning went along the lines of "do unto others as you would have others do unto you" then clearly self-interest is at work; does this a good man make? Alternatively good works involve improving the lot of others which in turn will make the world a more pleasant place for all (fewer beggars cluttering up the streets if I lend support to homeless shelters for example) our "good" man would prefer to live in this more pleasant world therefore he performs good works. Therefore self-interest, not goodwill to all men, motivates him. Better still, "I feel good when I help others". What clearer example of a selfish motivation for an ostensibly good act do we need?

Who among us is truly good? Altruism - bunkum.

Yours cynically,

Tom