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Hill & Don V Jill: A philosophical profile

 

Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump should be classified as ethical egoists, philosophically. Ethical egoism is a version of consequentialism, which claims that only the consequences of actions (or policies) are morally significant (i.e. the intention which underlies a voluntary action is morally irrelevant). Consequentialism's more familiar son is utilitarianism. Whereas both ethical egoism and utilitarianism are kinds of consequentialism, and agree that an action/policy is morally required if it produces the best consequences out of all available alternatives, they differ in their explanation of the concept of "best consequence". 

 

On the utilitarian view, an action (or policy) produces the best consequence out of all available alternatives if it produces the greatest amount of pleasure/happiness for *all* affected by the outcome of the action/policy (on the utilitarian view, since non-human animals can experience pleasure/happiness, they too ought to be considered in policy decisions).

Alternatively, on the ethical egoism account, an action (or policy) produces the best consequence out of all available alternatives if it produces the greatest amount of pleasure/happiness for yours truly, i.e. I/ME/MINE. On this view, although it is *possible* for human beings to be altruistic and help others simply because they need help, one ought never to be altruistic. One only ever ought morally to do anything for anyone else out of self-interest. If one's own interest is not furthered, one ought not help (in fact doing so would be morally wrong on this account of morality).

 

On any account of consequentialism, whether utilitarian (of which there are several possibilities) or ethical egoism (again, more than one kind is possible), a common complaint is that no action or policy is ever morally wrong in itself. There is no such thing as an act or policy that is intrinsically morally wrong - something that in virtue of its nature should not be done (e.g. rape, or if policy, enacted as law, e.g. slavery, a regime-change war against another country, supporting a military coup against a democratically elected leader in another country (Honduras, under Hillary) or more recently the Dakota Access Pipeline, the TPP - trans pacific partnership etc.).

 

Interestingly, a corollary of ethical egoism is that since nothing is prohibited morally if it furthers one's own interests, it follows that one is not only permitted but one is morally obliged to lie whenever this is convenient in that regard. 

 

Against these broadly consequentialist ways of thinking, one tradition championed by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, referred to as deontology, stresses the importance of doing one's duty for its own sake regardless of consequence. On this view of ethics, it's just wrong to take indigenous people's land from them, then charge them of trespassing on that land, and to threaten to ruin their water and disregard their culture and beliefs for the sake of corporate profit as Obama and Hillary are currently doing (as of October 2016). A tenet of the deontological view is that lying is just wrong, regardless of consequence.

 

Equally, from a deontologist point of view, it is just morally wrong to take money from donors (as a political candidate) with the intention of furthering the donors' agenda regardless of the damage that may do to the environment and / or society / the world in general.

 

Hopefully one can begin to see which of these three categories the candidates Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Jill Stein fall into. Hillary and Donald, despite their superficial differences are both ethical egoists. Hillary is more subtle in her lies than Donald, but they both are inveterate liars. From their moral point of view (and despite their pantomime espousals of religious affiliations) lying is morally permissible - for anything at all is morally permissible if it furthers your own interests. Deleting e-mails, breaking the law and lying about it, lying about sexual predation etc., all falls into the same category of ethical egoism.

 

A poignant difference between Clinton and Trump on the one hand, and Jill Stein on the other, is that unlike Hill and Don, Jill Stein is not an ethical egoist. In my view, she believes that some things are just morally right / wrong in virtue of their nature and not because of consequences. Although global peace, no TPP, no DAPL, universal health care for all, free public college tuition, an end to student debt in the circumstances in the USA in 2016, urgent action on climate change etc. will (as a by-product) have good consequences for people and planet, that is not their moral rationale. The rationale is just that these things are morally right.

 

Someone was knocking on the door, not just Hill and Don, but Jill Stein too!

 

Phil and Don (The Everly Brothers) say: Despite all the media cheating - Let it be Jill!