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Cover of the first edition
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
How to Make Good Decisions and Be Right All the Time is a 2008 book by Iain King. It sets out a history of moral philosophy and presents new ideas in ethics, which have been described as quasi utilitarianism.
How to Make Good Decisions and Be Right All the Time has forty chapters, which are grouped into six parts.
For ethical advice to be credible, the book says it cannot be perceived as arbitrary. The book cites The Dice Man – a man who makes choices based on dice rolls – as an example of advice-following which is arbitrary and so cannot be regarded as ethical.
Chapter three argues intuitions about what we should do can be more useful, but are undermined because our multiple intuitions often lead to contradictory advice (eg ‘help a stranger’ or ‘put family first’?). Philosophers have sought to eliminate these contradictions by locating right and wrong in a single part of the decision-making process: for example, in the actions we take (eg Kant), in our character (eg Aristotle, virtue ethics) or in the consequences of our actions (eg Utilitarianism).
Chapter four explains how ‘do whatever is best’ (utilitarianism) still dominates modern philosophical and economic thinking.
Chapter five cites seven faults with utilitarianism. These are that it can be self-defeating; that it considers only future events and ignores the past; that it places decision-making authority in questionable hands; that it doesn’t discriminate fairly between people; that it sacrifices individual concerns to the group interest; that it down-grades promises, fairness and truth-telling; and that it doesn’t offer any clear rules. The chapter also argues that the main argument for utilitarianism is invalid, and ‘empty’.
Part II starts with a secular revision of Pascal’s Wager, arguing “What does it hurt to pursue value and virtue? If there is value, then we have everything to gain, but if there is none, then we haven’t lost anything.” Thus, it rationally makes sense for us to pursue something of value.
It says that “people ultimately derive their choices from what they want to do and what other people want to do”
It then presents four different arguments for deriving a basic principle from which right and wrong can be developed. These are an adaptation of utilitarianism; an adaptation of John Rawls' theory; an argument from evolutionary theory; and a 'Sherlock Holmes' approach.
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