Ethics and Morality

1- Responsibility is proportional to power.

2- An action is good, if it is good for the weakest.

3- An act is good, If I like to do it for myself and to others, and I like others to do it for themselves and to me.

4- An action is rational, if it’s good payoff is expected to be the optimum

Expected Good Payoff=P(G)*G.

The action remains rational even if, when all the facts are known, it turns out the outcome not to have been the optimum good.

5- We have empirical evidence that rule of majority is “better” than rule of minority.


On the first draft of moral mind of humans:


1. feeling about Harm and Care

2. Fairness and reciprocity (golden rule)


3. In group Loyalty (golden rule)

4. Authority / Respect

5. Purity / sanctity

6. Altruistic punishment

Unlike other creatures, people frequently cooperate with genetically unrelated strangers, often in large groups, with people they will never meet again, and when reputation gains are small or absent. These patterns of cooperation cannot be explained by the nepotistic motives associated with the evolutionary theory of kin selection and the selfish motives associated with signalling theory or the theory of reciprocal altruism. Here we show experimentally that the altruistic punishment of defectors is a key motive for the explanation of cooperation. Altruistic punishment means that individuals punish, although the punishment is costly for them and yields no material gain. We show that cooperation flourishes if altruistic punishment is possible, and breaks down if it is ruled out. The evidence indicates that negative emotions towards defectors are the proximate mechanism behind altruistic punishment. These results suggest that future study of the evolution of human cooperation should include a strong focus on explaining altruistic punishment

Fehr, E., & Gächter, S. (2002). Altruistic punishment in humans. Nature, 415(6868), 137–140. doi:10.1038/415137a



Golden Rule

Kantian Morality


In my opinion (Amir)

A simple form of morality is to say:

An act is moral (good), If I like to do it for myself and to others, and I like others to do it for themselves and to me.

The central point of Harsanyi’s morality is equality of opportunity and selfish expected utility maximization. However, even such selfish utility function would result in a better world but his condition of Equiprobability is hard to achieve and is similar to Rawls’s veil of ignorance.

While Rawlsian fairness’s central point is utility maximization for the weak.

Only for the situation of Rawlsian morality we can use something like Borda voting system which asks for the weight of each rank in a preference list. with non-fair (self interested ) voter we need a method other than Borda that is resistive to dumping.



Amir H. Ghaseminejad 3 Jan 213


Harsanyi’s morality


Rule utilitarianism  is  the  view  that  the  utilitarian  criterion  must  be applied, in  the  first  instance, not  to  individual  acts  but  rather to  the  basic general rules governing these  acts.  Thus  a
morally right act  is  one  that  conforms  to  the  correct  moral  rule applicable  to  this  sort  of  situation, whereas  a correct  moral  rule  is that particular behavioral  rule  that  would  maximize  social  utility if  it  were  followed by  everybody in  all  social  situations  of this particular  type.


Act  utilitarianism

Act-utilitarianim is the view that the rightness or wrongness of an action is to be judged by the consequences, good or bad, of the action itself. (J. J. Smart (p.9)

is  the  view  that  each  individual act  must  be judged  directly in  terms  of  the  utilitarian  criterion.
Thus  a morally  right  act  is  one  that, in  the  situation  the  actor is actually  in, will  maximize  social
Thus  one part of  this general  theory will be:
(1)The theory of  individual  rational  behavior,  which  itself comprises the  theories  of  rational  behavior
(1A)Under  certainty,  (utility Maximization)

(1B)Under  risk (where all probabilities are  known objective probabilities), expected utility maximization  with  objective  probability weights)

(1C)Under  uncertainty  (where some  or  all probabilities are unknown,  and may  be  even  undefined  as objective  probabilities). (expected utility maximization  with  subjective  probability weights)

(1A),  (IB),and(1C)  together are  often  called utility  theory

(IB) and (1C)  together are  called  decision theory.

The two  other  branches  of  the general  theory of  rational behavior  both  deal  with  rational  behavior  in  a social setting. They are:
(2)Game  theory, which  is  a theory of  rational  interaction between  two  or  more  individuals, each of them rationally pursuing his  own objectives  against the  other individual(s) who rationally  pursue(s)
his (or  their) own objectives.  Any individual’s objectives  may  be  selfish  or  unselfish,  as  determined by his  own utility function.(A nontrivial game situation  can arise just as easily  among altruists  as  it  can among  egoists – as long as  these  altruists  are pursuing  partly or wholly  divergent altruistic goals.)

(3)  Ethics,  which  is a theory of  rational  behavior  in the service  of  the  common  interests  of society as  a whole.

In  the game-theoretical case (2), the secondary definition  is provided  by various game-theoretical solution concepts.

Finally, in  the  case  of  ethics (case  (3)), as we  will  see, the secondary definition  of rationality  (or of morality)  is  in  terms of maximizing  the average  utility level  of  all  individuals  in  the society.

The axioms  used by decision theory,  game  theory, and ethics  are mathematically  very  closely related.  In  all three disciplines  they are  based  on  such  mathematical  properties as efficiency,  symmetry, avoidance  of  dominated strategies, continuity,  utility  maximization,  invariance  with  respect to  order- preserving linear utility  transformations, etc.


Suppose the  soci- ety we  are considering consists  of  n  individuals, numbered  as individual 1, 2,  .  .  . ,  n, according to whether they would occupy the  1st (highest), 2nd (second  highest), .  .  . , nth (lowest) social position under  a given social system. Let Ulf  U2, .  .  . ,  Un,  denote  the utility levels  that  individuals 1,  2,  .  . . , n would enjoy under this system. The  individual  who  wants  to make a  moral value judgment about  the relative  merits  of capitalism and of  socialism  will  be called individual  i. By the equiprobability  postulate, individual  i  will  act  in  such  a way as if  he assigned the  same probability 1/n  to his occupying  any particular social position  and,  therefore, to  his utility  reaching any one  of  the utility levels U1  U2,  .  .  . ,  Un. Now,  under  the  assumed  conditions,  according to Bayesian decision theory, a  rational  individual  will  always choose  that particular social system that  would  maximize  his expected util- ity, that is, the quantity


(1) Wi= 1/n sum(Ui)  for i=1 to n
representing the  arithmetic  mean  of  all  individual utility levels in society. We  can express this  conclusion  also by  saying that  a rational  individual  will  always use  this  mean  utility as  his  social welfare  function;  or  that  he  will  be  a utilitarian,  who  defines social utility as  the  mean  of  individual  utilities (rather than  as their sum, as many  utilitarians  have  done)


Morality and the Theory of Rational Behavior
Source: Social Research, Vol. 44, No. 4, Rationality, Choice, and Morality (WINTER 1977), pp.
Published by: The New School
Stable URL:
Accessed: 03/01/2014 11:42


R M Hare morality


Two-level utilitarianism

Level-1 thinking principles are for use in practical moral thinking, especially under conditions of stress and are impartable by education.

Level-2 principles are what would be arrived at by leisured moral thought in completely adequate knowledge of the fact.

An action is rational if it is the action most likely to be right.

even if when all the facts are known it turns out not to have been right.


Universal prescriptivism and Preference utilitarianism

U=sum(U1 from 1’s point of view who is prudent considering 1’s condition+U2 from 2’s point of view who is prudent considering 2’s condition+….)

A moral decision will maximize U in which one’s utility is just one argument.

(general rule utilitarianism suitable for level 1)

(specific rule utilitarianism= universalistic act utilitarianism is suitable for level 2)


R. M. Hare. Ethical theory and utilitarianism. In Amartya Sen and Bernard Williams, editors,
Utilitarianism and Beyond, pages 23{38. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1982.