Department of Philosophy
Department seminar

Ivar Labukt: Evolutionary debunking arguments: a threat to egoism or impartialism?

The first department seminar spring term 2015 is held by Associate Professor Ivar Russøy Labukt (UiT/UiB).

Main content


What do you have most reason to do when your interests conflict with those of others? Should you be give absolute priority to yourself? Should you only give some priority to yourself? Or should you be completely impartial, allowing yourself to count for one and no more than one? These are obviously fundamental normative questions. They are also very difficult to answer. Henry Sidgwick found them so intractable that he gave up his quest for a single fundamental theory in ethics. He apparently concluded that egoism and impartialism both constitute rational perspectives on action, and that there is no telling what you should do when they conflict. In their recent book The Point of View of the Universe - Sidgwick and Contemporary Ethics, Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek and Peter Singer attempt to do what Sidgwick thought impossible. By examining the psychological and evolutionary causal history of the relevant ethical intuitions, they aim to resolve the dualism of practical reason in favour of impartialism. I will argue that they do not succeed. In fact, considerations of the kind they offer only serve to strengthen the case for egoism.