By James R. Otteson
A protection of the 'classical liberal' political culture, utilized to contemporary ethical and political concerns.
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Extra resources for Actual Ethics
O. Wilson or to freemarket economists such as Milton Friedman or F. A. Hayek. Perhaps Max Stirner or some neoclassical economists are examples. For these authors’ works, see the bibliography; for a general discussion of the issues involved, see James Rachels’s Elements of Moral Philosophy, chaps. org/wiki/Homo economicus. Leviathan, part I, chap. xii, p. 76. Ibid. ” One can understand why Hobbes would think that mankind’s natural state was so nasty and brutish: he wrote Leviathan, after all, in 1651, just after the English civil war and the execution of its sitting monarch, Charles I, and the deep religious and political divisions among the people of England— not to mention the unhygienic squalor in which most people lived at the time15 —cannot have given a very good impression of mankind’s “natural” state.
The claim is rather that it is extremely unlikely for most people under ordinary circumstances that they could act on the principle that everyone’s interests have exactly as much weight as everyone else’s. And hence it would be imprudent to design political institutions that presuppose anything other than a predominance of self-interest motivating most people most of the time. Just how unlikely would it be that we could change the balance of people’s motivations from self-interest to benevolence, or extend their natural concern to all mankind?
People in such a society would soon be spending more time spying on each other than producing goods, services, or wealth. ” For more recent discussions that defend positions different from mine, see Samuel Fleischacker’s A Third Concept of Liberty and Stephen Holmes and Cass R. Sunstein’s The Cost of Rights. ” 24 Working Out the Position counts as the minimum allowable charity, compassion, or generosity for that of each individual would lead, if our argument so far has been right, to a gradual decline in individuals’ own abilities to judge.