3

The Generalization Principle

The key to ethical reasoning is one central insight: To act ethically is to act rationally. However, by rationality I don’t necessarily mean rational self-interest, even though we often think this way. We tend to identify rational action with enlightened self-interest, an identification that is almost axiomatic in much of economics. Still, ethical thinkers have for centuries conceived of rational action in a broader sense, and I am going to follow their lead. I am going to show how an ethical action is an action that has a coherent rationale. In particular, I will identify three characteristics that the action must have to be rational, and, therefore, ethical: It must be generalizable; it must be consistent with ...

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