SELF-INTEREST

The fourth strand of hostility toward ethics maintains that we do not need ethics to tell us what to do, since self-interest already provides the answer (e.g., “stop shooting ourselves in the foot,” “avoid collective suicide”). Some assume that self-interest is a nonethical value that trumps ethical ones;

others that it is a “pragmatic” feasibility constraint. The Chicago lawyers officially endorse a constraint view:

“Any treaty must satisfy what we shall call the principle of International Paretianism: all states must believe themselves better off by their lights as the result of the climate treaty ... in the state system, treaties are not possible unless they have the consent of all states, and states only enter treaties that serve their interests.”10

In response, I will argue that self-i nterest approaches are often opaque and unstable. They frequently vacillate on core questions, obscure commitments to deeper values, and so threaten a technocratic Trojan Horse. Notably, what begins as a reasonable sounding (though highly indeterminate) “pragmatic” constraint oscillates between strictly excluding ethics, and imposing whatever values the speaker wishes. In a perfect moral storm, this is highly dangerous.

 
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