2016/0 About Ethics? 31 2016/0 1 (Eccles) 3

2016/0 1 (Eccles)


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2016/0 1 (Eccles)

6.1 So, what is ethics? 29
6.2 Why Do We Need To Worry About Ethics? 31

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How We Tackle This? 31
6.4 What's In and What's Out? 32
6.5 A higher purpose: Virtue ethics 36
6.6 What You Should Know Now? 39
7.1 How the good life was lost – 40
7.2 So What? 43
7.3 Kant do it! 45
7.4 The Paradox of Deontological Constraints 48
7.5 What You Should Know Now 49
7.6 Assignment 02: Whitey Basson's millions 50
8.1 The Great Thirst 50
8.2 So What? 52
8.3 Let's break it down a bit 53
8.4 What You Should Know Now 57
8.5 Assignment 03: "20,000 children die each day" 58
9 "ME, ME, ME" – EGOISM 58
9.1 The Countryman and the Snake 58
9.2 So what? 58

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Movers and Shakers 60
9.4 From Egoism to Greed? 70
9.5 Problems with Egoism 71
9.6 What You Should Know Now 72
9.7 Assignment 04: "ME, ME, ME!" 73
10.1 The Story: Honeyguide's Revenge 73
10.2 So what? 75
10.3 How to share …. common intuition s 76
10.4 How to share …. utilitarianism 79
10.5 How to share …. John Rawls (1921 – 2002) 79
10.6 What You Should Know Now 83
10.7 Assignment 05: 4 b illion living in poverty 84
11.1 What? …. No Story??! 84
11.2 Value – Intrinsic vs Instrumental 86
11.3 So what? 87
11.4 Nature – and our place in it 88
11.5 What You Should Know Now 90
11.6 Assignment 06: "Save the rhino!" 91

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12.1 Introduction 92
12.2 The Human Development Index 93
12.3 The Ecological Footprint 96
12.4 The Quadrants 99
12.5 The Problem 101
12.6 Solution 1 – Reduce per capita f ootprint 104
12.6.1 Technology – Produce efficiently 104
12.6.2 Consume less – WARNING: Dire economic consequences 107
12.7 Solution 2 – Increase the available footprint 109
12.7.1 Find another planet! 109
12.7.2 Reduce Capita WARNING: Genocidal thoughts 109
12.8 Assignment 07: Sustainability? 111
13 "GREED IS GOOD!" 112
13.1 Assignment 08: “Greed is Good” 112
14.1 Aim of the Portfolio 114
14.2 Final portfolio: Back at the crossroads 114

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2016/0 1 (Eccles)
Warning: This is a crazy module!
Our Basic Commitment is this:
If by the end of this module you have not
• wondered whether you are registered for the wrong degree;
• wondered whether your lecturers have lost their marbles;
• wondered whether you have lost your marbles;
• had to go for a walk to clear your mind;
• wondered what the point of all this stuff is; or
• wondered what the point of everything is;
well then you need to check that you have a pulse!
This module is meant to confuse you. It's meant to force you to scratch your head.
It’s meant to force you to question things and to wonder. And it's meant to fo rce you
Intrigued? Well read on……

2016/0 1 (Eccles)
Once again, welcome to Sustainability and Greed (SUS1501). As we have already
said, this is going to be one of the craziest and hopefully one of the most interesting
modules that you will do duri ng your studies. So prepare yourself psychologically
now. This module is meant to confuse you. It's meant to force you to scratch your
head. It’s meant to force you to question things and to wonder.
First and foremost this mod ule is an online module. It was never really designed to
have a paper based study guide like this. And you will not be able to complete this
module without logging into myUnisa. You need to do this to:
• Get your semester calendar;
• Read the discussion forums ;
• Communicate with your Teaching Assistant;
• Read your assignment instructions; and
• Submit your assignments.
The only thing that this study guide provides you with is the basic or static content of
the module. This is so that you can still read this content even if you don’t have
access to a computer.

Ok. That’s the basic warning (or promise depending on how you look at it). But
besides making you think, what is the formal purpose of this module – the purpose
which we put on all our documentation? Well it goes like this:

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The overarching purpose of this signature module is to remind commerce students
of their human- ness, and to present them with a primer to a lifetime of critical
thinking. These objectives will be pursued by: a) introducing students to selected
ethical traditions; and b) providing them with opportunities in the form of case
studies to apply these to the contemporary social themes of sustainability and
greed. ”

Doesn’t sound too whacky really, does it? Don’t be fooled.
We’ve said this is going to force you to scratch your head. What we don’t want is for
you to do this because you are kept guessing as to what is coming next. There are no
secrets here. The module will play out as follows:

Weeks Section
1-3 At a Crossroa d

At a Crossroad – Introduction

Crossroad Assignment

Dean’s Lectures
3 -8
(5 weeks)
Ethics Core
• Do the right thing – Deontology

It’s all about consequences – Consequentialism

ME, ME, ME – Egoism

Fair’s Fair – Distributive justice

Greeni es – Environmental Ethics
8 -11
(3 weeks)
Case Studies
• Sustainable Development

“Greed is good!”
11- 14
(3 weeks)
PHEW! – Final Assignment
As we enter into each one of these, we’ll introduce them in more detail.

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– let the c raziness begin. In a "normal" Unisa module, you will typically do two
assignments and then a written exam. This means that some of you will only really
work for two weeks of an entire semester. You'll do:
• an hour when you get your study pack to find the a ssignment dates
• a day or two before assignment 1,
• a day or two before assignment 2, and
• two or three days before the exam.
The extra days for the exam are because the exam mark usually makes up 80% to 90
% of the total module mark.
Does this sound abo ut right? ….. of course it does – for some of you! Well, this
module works nothing like this! Here you will do a eight assignments and a final
"portfolio assignment"……
Yup – you heard me – eight (8) assignments plus 1! And no exam !!

What's more, t he eight assignments (the year mark) count 80% of the total mark.
This means that the final portfolio (which is technically equivalent to the exam)
counts only 20%.
Don't panic!
This doesn't mean you are going to be doing four times the amount of work du ring
the semester. The assignments are really mini -assignments. With the exception of
Assignment 01 which is 16 multiple choice questions, they all involve writing two or
three of paragraphs (about 300 words).
When it comes to our actual marking of your as signments (other than Assignment
01), we use a very simple marking guide. It looks like this:

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Criterion Score
No Assignment 01 submitted
Nothing submitted
Assignment submitted late
Break rules of engagement
Plagiarism (i.e. copying)
An attempt mad e but does not contain all required content, or the
interpretation of the theory is clearly incorrect.
Within the range of what we expect – contains all required content
as listed above and these are not clearly incorrect.
Blows our mind
(Note: this may or may not contain all the required content, but
the presentation is excellent, the arguments are compelling, and
in some way they force the marker to rethink their own
perspective on the questions being asked.)
Of course, we are allowed to use any intermediate grade which we think are
What all of this means is that you really need to keep working at the module
throughout the semester. You can't just cram all the work in two weeks! In fact you
probably need to do a bit of work in every single week of the semester. And we think
is a good thing.
So, we suggest you make yourself a semester plan. To help you with this we have put
a semester plan template into the "Additional Resources". You can download this by
clicking on th e "Additional Resources" link here:

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and downloading the "SEMESTER PLAN.rtf" file. N ote that you'll have to fill in the
actual due dates. To find these you need to look in the ” Calendar ” on your welcome
But how do you get started on this plan? How do you get to the "At a Cros sroads –
Introduction" which is the next section?
Well, it's not really very difficult to do what you need to do in this module. Especially
once you get the hang of it. For the most part it is just a question of pressing the
"Next" button at the top or bottom of a page! See the arrow:

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That is how you get to the "At a Crossroad – Introduction". Other than that, the
"Prev" (previous) or "Table of contents" buttons are also there. Then all you need to
do is read the material which will have specific instructions.
So hit "Next"…………..
So, we have this introductory three weeks which we call “At a Crossroad”. Besides all
this introductory stuff, there are two essential things which will happen in this


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You get to do your first assignment. This is an absolutely critical assignment.
It gives it
s name to this whole introductory section. But more importantly,
this assignment really sets the scene for the craziness of this module.
NB – In fact it is so important that you cannot do any of the other
assignments if you haven't done this one. Well, yo u can do them, but you
won't get any marks! For this reason, this assignment stays open right up
until the deadline for the final assignment at the end of the semester.
THE DEAN'S LECTURE The second thing that will happen in this introductory three weeks is that
you will be treated to a series of lectures by the Executive Dean of the
College of Economic and Management Sciences. Besides welcoming you to
the College, this really puts this module into a bigger perspective.
So let's get cracking ……
To do this assignment you must log on to myUnisa and go to this Self Assessment

2016/0 1 (Eccles)
I would like take this opportunity to personally welcome you to the College of
Economic and Management Sciences (CEMS) at the University of South Africa
(Unisa). This is one of the largest c olleges of Unisa’s seven colleges with somewhere
in the region of 150 000 students enrolled for a range of programmes. Together with
our sister college, the College of Accounting Sciences, we produce about one out of
every four BCom degrees awarded by South African universities. It's obvious that this
college adds a lot of value, especially to the African continent where the graduate
pool is less than quarter full.
The College is currently being restructured, but at present has nine departments in
two schoo ls where you can choose to study. I am sure you have seen them on our
web as you were making your choice, but let me just mention the schools: School of
Economics, and School of Management Sciences. In addition we host the Centre for
Business Management, t he Centre for Decision Sciences, the Centre for Industrial
and Organisational Psychology, the Centre for Public Administration and
Management and the Centre for Transport Economics, Logistics and Tourism. And
finally, we also have our Bureau for Market Res earch and Institute of Corporate
This then is CEMS. And you are now part of this family. So again, welcome to CEMS! I
hope that you will enjoy your journey with us and wish you the best!
Ok, let’s move on now to the second objective of this lecture: why it’s important to
have a signature course in CEMS and why that module is entitled “Sustainability and
Greed”. By now you will hopefully have read the introductory material on the
module. You’ll know that this is an unusual module (a "crazy modul e" perhaps). And
you’ll have hopefully read the purpose statement of the module. In case you haven’t,
it goes as follows:

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The overarching purposes of this signature module will be to remind commerce
students (in other words you) of your humanity, and to pr
esent you with a primer to a
lifetime of critical thinking. These objectives will be pursued by: a) introducing you to
selected moral and political philosophy theories; and b) providing you with
opportunities in the form of case studies to apply these to t he contemporary social
themes of sustainability and greed.
That is an awful lot of words but we can draw out the absolutely key words:
• Your humanity
• Critical thinking
• Moral and political philosophy theory
• Sustainability
• And of course greed.
For this lectur e I want to really zoom in on the last two:
• Sustainability
• And Greed.
So let’s first look at some definitions. Firstly, sustainability. This is all about long term
continuance; it’s about the capacity to endure; it's about our ability to keep going; or
our ability to support life into the distant future.
When we look at these definitions it should be immediately obvious that this is
something we would want. We must want to keep going as a species. Because the
alternative is that we die out – that we go exti nct. Actually, most of us want more
than just to make sure that we don't go extinct. Most of us want our children and
their children to grow up in a world which is at least as good as the world we grew up
in. This is the essence of sustainability.

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But is i
t really your problem to worry about this? Is it your concern?
Well, let me tell you what I believe the answer to these questions is using a little
Once upon a time, there was a family that kept a cow, a dog, a chicken, and a cat. A
rat was seen in the house and the owner of the house set a trap to kill it. The rat then
called a meeting with the other animals in the house and asked for their help in
removing the trap. All the other animals, especially the chicken and the cow, told the
rat off, saying that the trap did not concern them since it could not trap them. The
trap eventually caught a poisonous snake, but not before the snake fatally bit the
owner of the house while he was trying to stop a fight between the cat and the dog.
The cat and the dog, each blaming the other for the owner’s demise, fought one
another to the death. For the owner’s funeral the cow was slaughtered and, for the
last funeral rites, so was the chicken. (Ngambi, 2011, RARE Total Leadership: Leading
with the Head, Heart and Ha nd, pg 1)
In the long run, whose concern is the trap? Everyone’s! Just like sustainability. It is all
of our business to be concerned about this.
Now it should be immediately clear that worrying about sustainability means being
concerned about others. It m eans being concerned about more than our own
immediate desires. And this means being very weary of greed. So let’s then think
about greed for a minute. It’s a very relevant topic at the moment, particularly in our
field isn’t it? Just think about the econo mic meltdown which we have been
experiencing for the past couple of years. How many times have you heard that this
is a result of greed?
T he present rot started with supposedly highly respected financial institutions
making very high risk loans. They then took these high risk loans and, through some
fancy financial footwork, dressed them up to look like low risk investments which
they sold on. Why did they go to all this trouble? Well it was very profitable to do so.
It meant huge bonuses and lavish lifesty les, fancy cars and expensive French
champagne. Greed? I will leave you to make up your own mind!

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It was of course inevitable that this would unravel at some point. It just wasn’t
sustainable! Unfortunately when it did unravel, it wasn’t just the greedy wh
suffered. It was also millions of ordinary people who lost their jobs, their life’s
savings, and their pensions. In fact it is probably safe to say that it became almost
everyone’s problem – just as the trap in the story I related was everyone's problem.
Sustainability then is what we must want to achieve. Greed represents a distinct
threat to achieving this. Worrying about this – about avoiding greed and promoting
sustainability – is everyone’s business. This is why we have a module called
Sustainability and Greed.
This then brings me to my third objective in this short lecture. To introduce you to
the RARE framework for living and leading. It’s a framework which was described in a
book written by the previous Dean of CEMS, Professor Helicy Ngambi entitle d “RARE
Total Leadership: Leading with the Head, Heart and Hand”. RARE is an acronym:
• R for Responsible;
• A for Accountable;
• R for Relevant; and
• E for Ethical.
I have already spoken about the economic meltdown and it must be immediately
obvious that when di shing out blame for this, economic and management sciences
graduates must surely accept a big portion. After all it was to a large extent highly
trained economic and management science graduates who developed the fancy
financial tricks used to dress up hig h risk loans to look like low risk investments. My
college does not want to produce this type of graduate.
Let me repeat this: My College does not want to produce this type of graduate.

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We want to produce leaders and managers of tomorrow who are aware of
sustainability and greed issues. And the RARE framework is one concrete way in
which we might pursue this goal.

In the four mini lectures which follow this one, I’m going to deal with each of the
pillars of the RARE framework – responsibility, accountabilit y, relevance and ethics –
But before I move to these I would just like to reflect on how crucial it is that we do
produce the right kind of leaders and managers. Most of you come from Africa and
so most of you will fully appreciate the incredib le wealth that this continent is
blessed with.
To name but a few of our riches: we have the bulk of the world’s diamonds; we have
50% of the world’s gold and 40% of its platinum. Everyone knows that energy is
crucial and in this regard we have 7.5% of the world’s coal reserves; 8 % of its known
petroleum reserves; 12% of its natural gas. But that is all dirty energy. We’re even
more blessed in potential clean energy. We have 40% of the world’s hydro -electric
power generation potential and of course we have two huge sunny deserts ideal for
generating solar power. And last but not least, we have millions hectares of potential
Basically we’re rich! And yet we are poor? “Eish!” As we would express our surprise
in South Africa – Rich and yet we are poo r! It is my view that without leaders and
managers who exhibit RARE character, we will remain poor despite our wealth.

Okay. Let’s now unpack RARE: Responsible, Accountable, Relevant and Ethical
personal leadership. The RARE principle -based value system advocated in CEMS
fosters: –

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Responsible behaviour of leaders, employees and citizens towards one other
and all stakeholders, not at the expense of others but in mind of the future
state of the institution, nation and the conti nent at large;
• Accountability to each other and the other stakeholders, taking ownership
of decisions and avoiding the blame game and scape -goating and making
excuses for toxic behaviour instead of owning up to the consequences of
choices and decisions;
• Relevant engagement in a value -adding way towards one another and all
stakeholders, and being of service to the community;
• Ethical behaviour that advocates honesty, integrity, openness and trust.
This is a personal leadership approach that is all encompassin g. It allows individuals
to be total leaders. This approach comprises five broad dimensions, namely: vision,
change, connectivity, engagement, and integrity. These dimensions interact to
construct the fibre of a RARE person and leadership that is appropriate in leading
into the future and leveraging African principles.
In this first mini lecture on RARE the focus is on Responsible leadership which is
visionary and a catalyst for change.
Let me quote an African proverb which says: ‘An elephant never gets tir ed of carrying
its tusks.’
Responsibility can be defined in many ways. According to
www.businessdictionary.com it can be defined as:
” a duty or obligation to satisfactorily perform or complete a task (assigned by
someone, or created by one's own promise or circumstances) that one must fulfil, and
which has a consequent penalty for failure “.

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People have a responsibility to moderate their actions, to be reliable or trustworthy;
to be placed in control and having to be answerable for actions; being the source and
cause for an action.

As an individual you must accept and understand your own vulnerability and the
effect of your behaviour on those around you. You have to take responsibility for the
outcome or consequences of your actions and emotions and manage th ese
effectively and in a principled manner to contribute to sustainable success at all
Responsible leadership anticipates and is passionate about the future. A responsible
leader cultivates the envisaged future in the hearts and minds of followers but, most
importantly, recognises when there is a need for change in order to realise this
envisaged future. Responsible leadership entails being legitimate, acting with
integrity, being a role model, and ensuring that as a leader one develops successors.
Studies also show that leaders are great catalysts for change and are able to
recognise the need for change; challenge the status quo and advocate change; and
champion the new order.
It is also worth mentioning that, although leaders like all humans acknow ledge
barriers and fear change, they find practical ways to promote the need for change
and overcome such barriers. Responsible leadership achieves this by being adaptive
in order to thrive in tomorrow’s world and embraces disequilibrium so as to get
things done; by being visionary in embracing creativity and innovation; and by
invigorating and inspiring. They believe in lifelong learning and investing in
developing future leadership.
That’s what you need to be Responsible.

Okay let’s talk about the “A” in the RARE. That is, Accountable leadership and
connectivity. Molière says, " It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for
which we are accountable ".

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Wikipedia defines accountability as follows:

” In ethics and go vernance, accountability is answerability, blameworthiness, liability,
and the expectation of account -giving.1 As an aspect of governance, it has been
central to discussions related to problems in the public sector, nonprofit and private
(corporate) worl ds. In leadership roles,2 accountability is the acknowledgment and
assumption of responsibility for actions, products, decisions, and policies including
the administration, governance, and implementation within the scope of the role or
employment positio n and encompassing the obligation to report, explain and be
answerable for resulting consequences. ” (Wikipedia,
According to www.businessdictionary.com it can be defined as: “The obligation of an
individual or o rganization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them,
and to disclose the results in a transparent manner. It also includes the responsibility
for money or other entrusted property.”
Accountability requires that you connect with the pe ople that you interact with. It is
also driven by the urge for transparency (Waistell, 2008). Connecting is the ability to
identify with and relate to people in a way that enhances the ability to influence
them positively (Maxwell, 2010). Accountable people; inspire trust and commitment
by ensuring that their words and actions are integrated — people do not care or want
to commit to the vision until they know that you care for them; are answerable for
all the resources they are entrusted with; do not play the blame game or use
manipulative impression management tactics to cover up their incompetence but,
instead, own up to it and use mistakes as learning moments for future improvement
and give credit where it is due. They display attitude that is caring, hu mble, and does
not operate in isolation but is relevant and engages all the stakeholders. The shift in
values from self to others demonstrates empathy and elicits commitment and trust
in relationships.
To ensure that one is responsible and accountable, one must begin by looking first at
oneself and only then expect responsibility and accountability from others. People

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often revert to blaming others when something goes wrong —
they blame the
environment, circumstances, and everyone but themselves which is a victim
mentality. If this destructive behaviour is to be stopped, it is imperative to develop a
culture of responsibility and accountability.
Here are some guidelines:
• Clarify values and establish achievable goals and outcomes. Without clarity in
values and set goals and outcomes, employees and managers, citizens and
leaders end up being frustrated and sometimes destructive. When people
demand rights without understanding the responsibility and accountability
that go with such rights they indulge in behavi ours such as burning schools
and libraries, the source of a sustainable future, when on strike. It is critical
at this stage to clearly define and demonstrate the principles, values,
exceptional performance and behaviour that are expected, as this shows th e
intended direction of any institution, organisation or country.
• Reinforce commitment to avoid compliance, which does not foster
productive behaviour.
• Provide feedback and clarify consequences in every relationship. Feedback
lets people know whether they are still on the expected and agreed path or
not, and makes early intervention possible when needed. Feedback allows
for the celebration of small successes, which is a form of encouragement for
sustained high performance. Similarly, if performance is consistently below
the desired and agreed level, people need to know that there will be
consequences and exactly what these will be. If there is no responsible
leadership and consistent under -performance has no consequences, there
will be no accountability. The RARE approach aims to create a culture of
accountability, responsibility and a ‘no blame games or excuses’ mentality
across the continent, the country and within organisations and institutions,
starting at family level in the home. This links to the impor tance of relevant

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In this mini lecture we discuss the second “R” in the RARE which refers to relevant
leadership as engaging.

"I saw my mission as one of preaching reconciliation, of binding the wounds of the
coun try, of engendering trust and confidence." Nelson Mandela.
Some synonyms to relevant: pertinent, germane, material, apposite, apropos. These
adjectives describe what relates to and has a direct bearing on the matter at hand.
Something relevant is connected with a subject or issue. From Wikipedia:
concept of relevance is studied in many different fields, including cognitive sciences,
logic, and library and information science. Most fundamentally, however, it is studied
in epistemology (the theory of kno wledge). Different theories of knowledge have
different implications for what is considered relevant and these fundamental views
have implications for all other fields as well. Something (A) is relevant to a task (T) if it
increases the likelihood of accom plishing the goal (G), which is implied by T. ”

A thing might be relevant, a document or a piece of information may be relevant.
The basic understanding of relevance does not depend on whether we speak of
"things" or "information" or person. A relevant person and leader is in touch with the
surrounding environment, both internal and external. Such people acknowledge that
they work in a diverse environment with others who have different and sometimes
even conflicting needs and expectations that have to be ad dressed in a responsible
and balanced way. Such relevant leadership and people:
• drive organisational and national performance by analysing future trends;

pays attention to solutions that impact positively on challenges facing

continuously develops best practice in pursuit of excellence;

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• embraces and leverages the benefits of diversity;

commits to the execution of strategy without excuses, and is decisive and

Is transparent, and motivates and inspires everyone to high performance

This is leadership that seeks to add sustainable value that is applicable, pertinent,
significant, appealing and winning. It acknowledges that what is relevant in one
environment may not be so in another, and therefore is flexible, innovative and
adaptable. And then there is the ethical part of RARE.
The last letter in RARE, “E”, referring to Ethical leadership and integrity is the focus of
this last mini lecture.
William Shakespeare says; “It’s not enough to speak, b ut to speak true.”
From Wikipedia, ” Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy
that involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and
wrong behaviour. ” You will hear much more about ethics in general in the ne xt
sections of this module. But let me give you my perspective particularly my
perspective on ethical leadership. Because this is what we want you to aspire to.

The Centre for Ethical Leadership describes ” ethical leadership as knowing your core
values and having the courage to uphold them in all facets of your life in the service
of the common good; therefore, ethical leaders need to demonstrate integrity by
being authentic”
rc ise.pdf). Cashman suggests that being authentic is a process that requires a one to
know her/himself by practising what she/he looks for in others; listen with a giving

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attitude that seeks a contribution from others; express her/himself in a manner that
eates value; appreciate self- expression that creates value; and serve because
leaders are not judged by how well they lead but by how well they serve.
Leading with integrity requires leaders to be transparent and honest, trustworthy
and humble; it is an im portant cornerstone of RARE leadership. In the financial crisis
that led to the economic meltdown there was evidence of many unethical mistakes.
It was said in many cases that the cause of the crisis was greed. Integrity is not and
should not be a slogan; it is not about what a one says but whether his/her words
and deeds are synchronised. Most relationships at personal and business level are
destroyed because of a lack of integrity. Building effective families, organisations and
nations needs a leadership that is ethical and trustworthy, irrespective of whether it
is being watched.
We need to overcome the destructive and unethical actions of some of our leaders in
ourselves, including kleptocracy (which is basically “rule by thieves”) and
tenderpreneurship (we all know what that is). Civil society needs to be responsible
and stop electing leaders to office on the basis of emotions associated with liberation
politics and misplaced loyalty. Toxic leaders are supported because of past favours or
connections eve n when it can be seen that their actions will destroy the future of
people, institutions and countries. The impetus behind electoral decisions should be
the vision for the country and the capabilities of leaders to achieve that vision.
Similarly, there mus t be more shareholder activism to fight corruption in the private
sector, which in many cases colludes with the state to rob the nation.
Being a RARE leader or person is a precedent to practising total leadership. RARE
principle -based values equip leaders with a core value system that guides their
leadership actions and activities. Being a total leader, one needs to lead with the
head (intellectual capability), through the heart (managing others and being aware of
their feelings) and through the hands (the ability to get things done with the
available talent).

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I can assure you that as your new family, what we expect of you in terms of being
RARE we also expect of all our staff. This is something that is embedded in our
service charter. We are committed to addressing economic and management
sciences (EMS) challenges and we trust you will become party to addressing these
challenges too.
We strive to be innovative, constantly seeking better ways of pursuing being a truly
African University in the service of humanity; We are all engaged in learning, and
finding joy in its constant pursuit; We are diverse, bound by strong values and ethos,
in many ways more accurately described as a family; We are committed to your
success as a learner; We care deeply about excellence and relevance in their many
forms. Our vision as an African community is centred on people, knowledge, the
future, and education. As CEMS, in pursuit of excellence with integrity we aim at
being RARE and to produce stud ents that are RARE. We acknowledge that, ‘It takes
vision, commitment, culture -building leadership, trust, empowerment,
communication, connectivity and critical thinking to build a successful, focused
college’ and a student that is RARE. We will continue t o build a successful college
that remains relevant and makes meaningful contribution to you, our student, the
university, country, continent and global village.
Let me conclude my lecture with another story from Professor Helicy Ngambi’s book
which has ins pired so much of what has been written here:
” Once upon a time there was a king who had an only child, a very beautiful daughter.
Many men had wanted to ask for her hand in marriage from the king. The king gave a
decree that anyone who successfully touches the tail of any of the three animals
would marry the princess and inherit the kingdom. One of the most persistent
admirers decided to take the challenge.

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The first animal to approach him was a Rhino, which looked very fierce –
so he
decided not to touch its tail. He thought to himself, “surely, I’ve two more
opportunities.” The second was an Elephant and it did not look too friendly either, so
he said, “well, I still have one opportunity.” Then came a Donkey, which looked kind
of friendly and calm, and he said to himself, “now this is my chance!” He was very
happy and pleased with his seemingly correct decision to have waited. When he went
to touch the donkey’s tail, he found out that it had none! ” (Ngambi, 2011, RARE Total
Leadership: Leading with the Hea d, Heart and Hand, pg 85)
The lesson from this story is that you should never allow fear, procrastination,
stereotypes or anything else to stop you from taking advantage of the opportunities
that will enable you to achieve your goals or realise your dreams and become the
winner you were born to be. Fear and procrastination stole from the suitor in the
story the opportunity to marry the beautiful princess and become the future king.
After all, fear stands for ” False evidence appearing real”. Don’t allow it to block your
success by hindering you from seizing the moment in becoming RARE and becoming
a winner! Remember quitters never win, and winners never quit!
Have fun in a RARE way as you experience this innovative module with our lecturers!

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Right. You’ve drawn a line in the sand on a bunch of thorny issues in your crossroads
assignment; you’ve seen what your fellow students think about these issues; and
you’ve heard from the Dean of the College. So now it’s time to really get stuck into
this thing properly. It’s time to tackle the core theory!

And as I mentioned in the overall course introduction, the theory which forms the
foundation or core for this course is the branch of philosophy called ethics. At this
point I can just hear you all saying: “ARRRGGHHH! Philosophy? Ethics? Aren’t I doing
an economic and management sciences qualification?”

So, what is ethics? And why do you need to worry about it? And how is this going to
be taught? Well read on…..
6.1 So, what is e thics?
Let’s start out by trying to pull together a definition of ethics. My guess is that you
have some sort of an idea what ethics is already? If I asked you “what is ethics?” you
would probably say: “It’s got something to do with knowing right from wron g.” Or
you might say: “It’s about values”. Some of you might immediately think about
religion. Some of you might think about this with examples: “Nelson Mandela is an
ethical person, Pol Pot was not.”

If you are interested in who Pol Pot was, you can check him out on Wikipedia I guess.
I could just as easily have used Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin. But they were not as

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One thing that most of you will agree with is that et
hics is related to morality. In fact
more often than not, in everyday use, the words "ethics" and "morality" are used to
mean the same thing. She’s an ethical person. She’s a moral person. Same thing. That
was the ethical thing to do. That was the moral th ing to do. Same thing. And the
opposite applies too: She’s an unethical person. She’s an immoral person. Again, the
same thing.

Both really relate to what is considered good or right, and what is considered bad or
wrong. Behaving in a way that is ethical or moral implies acting in a way that is good
or right. Acting in a way that is unethical or immoral implies doing a bad, wrong or
evil thing.

There is however a technical distinction. In moral philosophy (and theology) morality
refers to moral behaviour, and ethics is understood as the study or critical reflection
on what people regard as moral behaviour. The value of this distinction is that ethical
reflection on what is seen as moral behaviour can be evaluated and changed. For
example, many people once thought slavery was morally acceptable, today, after
much ethical reflection, debate, activism and changes in the law, most would agree it
is not.

All this said, the most important thing is that if you answered the question “What is
ethics?” by saying “It ‘s about figuring out what it right and what is wrong”, you were
basically on the right track. If you want to make it personal, ethics is about answering
the question: “What sort of person ought I to be and what ought I to do?”

poetic, and besides, if you don’t know who Pol Pot was, you will then learn
something else.

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6.2 Why Do We Need To Worry Abou t Ethics?
And now for the million dollar question….. Why is it that we have decided to make
ethics the theoretical core for a module entitled “Sustainability and Greed” which is
being run in a College of Economic and Management Sciences?

Well there are thr ee reasons in no particular order:
Firstly, our aim in this module is to reconnect economic and management
sciences students with their human -ness. And being able to think about what
it is that we ought to do, is in our view a cornerstone of our human -ness . It is
one of the crucial things which differentiate people from other animals. Who
of course, do not really think about what they ought to do.

Secondly, we really believe that an understanding of ethical traditions
provides a very good way to think abou t the title themes of sustainability
and greed. Surely we ought to do sustainability as a species. The ultimate
alternative is extinction right? And by far the most common (although not
universal) gut reaction to our module title is that greed is just plain wrong.

Lastly, besides everything else we are trying to do in this module, we are
really trying to encourage critical thinking in general. And as a branch of
philosophy (a discipline which is all about critically and systematically
tackling problems), e thics is one way to do this. I guess we could have chosen
some other branch of philosophy – logic or epistemology perhaps? – but
ethics kills many birds with one stone.

So there you have it. That is why we teach an ethics core.
6.3 How We Tackle This?
The next obvious question is how we tackle this? How is it that we go about teaching
ethics in this core? This is important because philosophy can be a pretty intimidating
subject in general, and the branch of ethics is no exception. If you don’t believe me
why don’t you try and read Kant’s ” Critique of Practical Reason” which you can

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download this for free from http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/5683
. Kant’s book
starts with the following sentence:

” The theoretical use of reason was concerned with objects of the cognitive faculty
only, and a critical examination of it with reference to this use applied properly only
to the pure faculty of cognition; because this raised the suspicion, which was
afterwa rds confirmed, that it might easily pass beyond its limits, and be lost among
unattainable objects, or even contradictory notions. ”

ARRGGGHHH! I have a headache already.
So, to get around this little difficulty, we use a teaching trick which has probably
been around since people first started to think about what they ought to do to: the
folk story.
Yup you heard us: the folk story!!
Haven’t you heard folk stories that end with the line: “And the moral of the story
is…”? In fact, more often than not folk stories convey an ethical message. And they
do it really simply, without complex concepts and language like “pure faculty of
cognition”, “unattainable objects, or even contradictory notions”!

So for most of the ethical traditions which we have chosen to present, we start out
with a story. We then use this to illustrate as simply as possible what “the moral of
the story” is.
6.4 What's In and What's Out?
From the last section, you should already know that there are some ethical traditions
that are in – some trad itions crack the nod! Which of course means that some do not.
Actually, lots of ethical traditions are left out. Too many to mention in fact. There are
however three themes which don’t have their own sections but which do need to be
mentioned even if it’s very briefly. These are: a) value systems, b) relativism, and c)
business ethics.

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Value Systems

Briefly, what is a value system
? Well Wikipedia defines it as follows:
” A value system is a set of consistent ethic values (more specifically the personal and
cultural values) and measures used for the purpose of ethical or ideological integrity.
A well defined value system is a moral code .”
( Note : You should always be careful about what you read in Wikipedia – sometimes it
is a load of rubbish. In fact, the sa me can be said for anything you read, hence the
importance of learning to think critically.)
You’ll find examples of value systems in most cultural settings. For example in many
parts of Africa, value systems which appear to be variants of the idea of Ubu ntu are
widespread. Religions all contain value systems. And then there are other value
systems that draw on both religious and secular (non -religiou s) ideas, such as
feminist value systems, human rights systems, socialist value systems and so on. In
other words, value systems are complex, as they come from different sources and
change over time. We draw on them often without being aware that we are doing
so, because we are influenced by our families, communities, education and the
Value systems tou ch not only the way we think, but what we feel and how we act.
Often they reflect our deepest convictions about who we are and what life is about.
Value systems also give rise to conflicts: conflicts about economic systems, or
between religions, or between cultures and political allegiances. Values are not
neutral, they can be very divisive. But they can also unite groups.

So how does this help to explain relativism? Well, most traditional ethics work is
about trying to figure out what is good an d what is bad – period. But there is a school
of thought which says that there can be no such thing as good and bad in general.

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They argue that it all depends on where you stand and which systems and cultures
are valued. This is relativism.

A relativist w ould recognize that what is good for a communist might not be good for
a feminist; that what is good for a Christian might not be good for a Hindu; or that
what is good for a South African might not be good for an American. In short, good
and bad according to relativists can only be considered relative to underlying value
systems. Wars are fought over differences in these things. That’s how different they
can be.
Now there are pros and cons to relativism. On the up side, relativism could lead to
tolerance. The acceptance that there might be different views on some things might
allow people who have different views to live together respectfully. For example
understanding that Jewish people generally don’t eat pork, and that Hindu people
often don’t eat meat, could help a great deal in making for a friendly dinner party
between neighbours who happen to be Jewish and Hindu respectively.
On the down side however, relativism can be a bit of an ethical cop out. For example,
in some cultural settings slavery might b e ok. Can we really accept this? In other
contexts ritual killing might be called for by the gods. Should we accept this? In some
contexts, female genital mutilation is accepted. Is this ok? These are tricky questions.

Well actually not really. But then I’m not a relativist. ( Note: whenever an opinion is
expressed like this – "I'm not ….." the "I" is the overall course author, Neil Eccles and
not your teaching assistant.)
Business Ethics

The last of the three left -out -themes that we felt needed a mentio n is business
ethics . The reason for mentioning it is that many people would expect to see it in an
ethics course being given to economic and management sciences students. In fact,
many people would wonder why we didn’t just deliver a module in business et hics
and leave out all of the more theoretical stuff which follows.

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Well, the reason for this really is the same as the reasons for doing an ethics core
module altogether. We want to connect commerce students to their human
ity; we
want to help commerce st udents to understand the moral and indeed political
dimensions of sustainability and greed; and most importantly, we want to encourage
critical thinking. And we just felt that business ethics, especially a superficial
understanding of it, was too narrow an approach to achieve these goals.
Why do we say this? Well, business ethics really focuses on the question of “what
ought a business to do?” And in a nutshell there are two (or perhaps its three)
answers which have emerged:

1. Businesses ought to look after S HAREHOLDER interests. For more
information on this try and look up a dude by the name of Milton Friedman
and in particular, have a look at his famous 1970 New York Times Magazine
article entitled " The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Pr ofits"
(Available at:
www.colorado.edu/studentgroups/libertarians/issues/friedman -soc -resp –
2. Business ought to consider the interests of a broader group than just
shareholders: they ought to consider STAKEHOLDER interests. The person
who is u sually recognized as introducing the stakeholder theory is R. Edward
Freeman. If you Google him, you will find lots of stuff including some
YouTube videos where he explains his own thinking.
3. I said there were “two or maybe three” interpretations of what a business
ought to do. Well, it’s “two maybe three” because stakeholder theory can be
split into two sub -theories. The first is really not a lot different to the
shareholder theory. It holds that businesses ought to consider stakeholder
interests in so far as considering these might be in the interests of
shareholders. For example, a company should consider employee interests,
but only because this is in the interests of shareholders. The other sub –
theory is that businesses ought to consider the interests of broader

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stakeholders because it is just the right thing to do in terms of society as a

Anyway, the point is, that understanding what a business ought to do, is hardly going
to encourage you to think about the much more personal question of “what ou
ght I
to do”. And so we want to go a bit deeper than some approaches to business ethics.
6.5 A higher purpose: Virtue ethics
In this module we are going to examine several ethical theories which, as we have
said are hopefully going to challenge you to think de eply about what is right and
what is wrong. But, before we get there, it’s important to recognise that there is
perhaps a bigger purpose to all of this.

Ultimately as you go through all of this thinking about what might be right and what
might be wrong we want you to have the question in the back of your mind:

What about me? What about my character?
In other words, in your quiet spaces, and away from all of the stuff which you are
going to write in the discussion forums we want you to be asking yourselves some
difficult questions. For instance, am I basically a selfish person, or do I often put the
interests of others first? Even more important, how does studying this module
impact on my life? Will my behaviour change as a result?

As soon as we start doing this we are entering into the realm of virtue ethics.
We live in a complicated and ever -changing world. People from many cultures jostle
each other. Traditional ways of life are mixed up with contemporary challenges. Not
everything in traditional life was good. Nor is everything that is modern bad.

Nonetheless, we often hear today that we seem to have lost our ‘moral brakes’.
Perhaps we have also lost our moral compass – or satnav! Many are asking: ‘What is
right and wro ng’ and ‘how should we live’? Within the family and our mixed society,

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many voices shout out different answers to our questions and choices need to be
made about the path we want to follow. The choices we make are influenced by our
families, cultures, our education and how all of these interact with our characters.

But what is all this talk about character?
The word character refers to what we are, morally
speaking. Are we fair, kind,
generous or are we unfair, uncaring and mean? Do we think only of how we can ‘get
ahead’ in material terms? Or do we see ourselves as part of a community to whom
we are accountable? Do we care for anyone other than ourselves? And if we do not,
what sort of society will we create if we have neither ‘moral brakes’ nor a ‘moral
co mpass’?

Examples of moral virtues include things like being honest, treating others fairly,
being a caring person, doing your work diligently, not blaming others for your own
errors, owning up to having made a mistake, being generou s, respecting the rights of
others, etc.

The key difference between a value and a virtue is that a virtue is something that you
have made your own. A virtue is a way that you act or live that is good, and not
simply an idea or theory of ethics.

Virtuous behaviour is the opposite of vicious, unacceptable and damaging behaviour.
And we have all experienced this haven’t we? Being treated with contempt, being
lied to, and being manipulated. Malicious behaviour like this hurts people, damages
relationships and results in a lack of trust and co -operation. It also reveals the
importance of virtue ethics.

So virtue ethics regards certain behaviour as vicious, unacceptable and damaging and
requires that we avoid this type of behaviour. But it also seeks to inspire good
behaviour, behaviour that will result in you becoming a better person, colleague and
example to others.

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Virtues are derived from moral norms and values. So, if you really accept the norm
‘do not steal’, you will practice th
e virtue of honesty. If you really believe that ‘power
must not be abused’ you will practice the virtue of fairness. If ‘respect’ is one of your
values, you will not abuse or exploit other people or animals. NOTE: the key word
here is “practice”!

Norms and values are usually derived from one or more of the following sources :

religious faith,

moral philosophy,

cultural teaching or

world view (framework of thinking).
We learn them from our families, schools, faith communities, and friends. The
importance of norms and values is that, when practiced, they usually protect
individuals and society from selfishness and exploitation.

As we said earlier, it is easier to think critically about ethics than it is to live a mor al
life. For instance, how would you answer the following question: ‘why be moral’?
Now the rubber is really hitting the road! One can discuss values till the cows come
home, but nothing will change unless our attitudes and behaviour changes.

Which of cou rse prompts the question: “Have I got the will?” In other words, am I
prepared to change what needs to be changed to make this a better world? Isn’t this
what ethics is all about – not just thinking critically – but being prepared to live

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is why we speak about this as being crunch time. Ethicists use the term ‘volition’.
This term means having the wish, making the choice or decision to act morally. The
saying, ‘Talk is cheap; actions speak louder than words’, expresses this.

As you go through each of the next sections, you are going to do an assignment. In
each of these we will ask you what you think about some issue and you will write this
in a public discussion forum where everyone will be able to read it. Most of you will
write something which reflects your personal values.

But here’s what we want you to ask yourselves:

Do I really practice these values?

Can I really claim that these are my virtues?

Is what I am saying really what I do?
Only you can answer t hese questions!
6.6 What You Should Know Now?
• By now you should have an idea of what ethics is (and how ethics relates to

You should understand the three reasons why we are bothering to try and
teach you ethics

You should have a bit of an idea of what: a) value systems, b) relativism and
c) business ethics are all about.

You should also understand virtue ethics and how this sets up a higher
purpose for this module.

And you should know that you are really looking forward to story time!!

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7 Do the ri ght thing – DEONTOLOGY
7.1 How the good life was lost –
There was a time, long long ago, when all of the animals lived freely together.
Mother Earth provided them with all that they needed: air to breathe, water for
drinking and for washing, and fertile soil f or growing crops.

She also provided them with seasons. She gave them spring with mild temperatures
and lots of rain – a perfect time for planting their crops. She gave them summer, with
warm, long days and storms of rain, perfect for their crops to grow t o their fullest,
richest potential. She gave them autumns with their cool dry days which were ideal
for harvesting of the crops. And perhaps most importantly, she gave them winters
when there was no work to be done in the fields because it was just too col d for the
animals to go out, let alone for any crops to grow. During these bitterly cold winters,
the animals would divide their time between thinking, talking and resting.

Besides planning for the next spring, mostly the animals thought about life. And s o
one winter, it came to be that the animals decided to tackle the question of why life
was so good to them? All of them had their theories. Elephant argued that if it were
not for Porcupine, they would be unable to plant their seeds because, as everyone
k nows, porcupine is the best digger of holes. If they were unable to plant their seeds
argued Elephant, then there would be no crops and life would not be so good.
Therefore according to Elephant, Porcupine had to be a key part, if not the key part,
of any explanation as to why life was so good.

Lion had another view. She countered that while Porcupine was undoubtedly the best
digger of holes and might indeed be a part of the reason for life being good, when he
(Porcupine) got to rocky ground, it was Buffal o with his great strength who was able
to drag the rocks out of the way. Surely then Buffalo must be a key part, if not the key
part of any explanation of why life was so good?

Porcupine’s theory was different again. According to him, anyone could dig hole s
really. Perhaps not quite as well as he could, but respectable holes nonetheless. And

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most animals could move rocks, particularly if they worked together. But not
everyone could bring water from the stream to the fields to keep the crops growing
during t
hose times when the summer storms failed to come. Only Elephant could do
this. Elephant was thus surely a key part of the explanation for why life was so good
to the animals?

Buffalo held an altogether different view. He argued that while all of these
cont ributions of the other animals were indeed a part of the reason for the good life,
it was surely Lion, who commanded the respect of every other animal that was the
key. After all Buffalo reasoned, was it not Lion who was able to get all of the other
animal s out into the fields working from sunrise to sunset during the growing
seasons? And without this, there would surely be no crops.

While these animals were advancing their ideas, Snake was silent. But as the
presentations of all the other animals came to an end, many an eye turned to her. It
was well known that amongst the animals snake was the wisest, and that in many a
previous debate, it had been she who had put forward the most convincing theory.

And so, after allowing a brief silence laden with expectation to descend on the
gathering, Snake began her own presentation:

“Brothers and sisters, I have heard all that you have said here on this cold evening.
My view is surely very different to the views which have been presented here tonight.
And yet it is not. It is different in that I cannot find it in me to attribute the goodness
of our life together to any one of us. The real reason for the goodness of our life,
comes from the contributions of all of us taken together. From the thoughtfulness of
Elephant , and of course from her watering skills which she gives freely. From the
thoughtfulness of Lion, and of course from her motivating ability which she gives
freely. From the thoughtfulness of Porcupine, and of course his ability to dig holes
which he gives freely to all. And from the thoughtfulness of buffalo, and of course his
ability to move large rocks out of the way which he gives freely. Each of us is

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“But it is not just that we each have a valuable contribution to make that is the basis
our good life. Probably more important than this is the respect with which we hold
each other for the contributions which we each bring. It is our respect for each other
which keeps us together, and it is working together that is the root of our good life .”

Snake’s theory was thought provoking indeed. So thought provoking in fact that no –
one noticed that Baboon was nowhere to be seen. In fact while all the other animals
were thinking about Snake’s idea, Baboon was considering an altogether different
questi on. The bitterly cold weather had left him with a ravenous hunger. And
answering the call of this hunger had brought him stealthily to the winter food store.
It was here that he was confronted with the problem of whether he should eat
another melon, or ano ther sweet potato? He resolved this by eating both, and then
another of each for good measure.

Beyond a tiny twinge of guilt in the back of his mind, he didn’t really worry too much
that what he was now eating was beyond his allocation of the stored food. After all
Baboon was the joker amongst the animals and not the thinker and finding a good
answer to the question of whether to eat a melon or a sweet potato left only enough
room in his small mind for a twinge of guilt.

Trouble began the next day. At bre akfast there was not enough food to go around
and so everyone was left feeling hungry. This hunger built up and by lunchtime, the
good life which had been debated the night before seemed but a distant memory.
Elephant was throwing her immense weight around and preventing all the other
animals from getting near the food until she had eaten her fill. And a little more to
make up for breakfast. Only Buffalo, with his great strength stood any chance against
Elephant. But he had a problem of his own. Lion, having tried to take a bite out of
Porcupine only to get a mouth full of quills, had decided that Buffalo was looking very
appetizing. Being the prudent sort, Buffalo cleared out. While not the brightest of the
animals, Baboon wasn’t silly enough not to see that he might be next on Lion’s menu
and so he took to the tree tops.

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Only Snake was left alone. But she didn’t need someone threatening to eat her to see
that the writing was on the wall. Through Baboon’s thoughtless act, the respect that
had kept the animals together and sustained the good life was evaporating. And so
with a heavy heart, Snake turned and slithered away into the grass.

So What?
“Thou shalt not steal” – Do what is right . Rules are rules.
To understand what deontology is fundamentally all about we first need to make a
distinction between doing what is right and achieving some good . According to a
deontologist, so long as you do what it right – so long as you act in the right way –
whatever the outcome is , it will b y definition be good. Doing w hat is right means
behaving morally, not doing what is right implies behaving immorally – end of story.
It doesn’t really matter what the outcome of the action is.
Rules come into the equation because, if formulated correctly, they specify what is
right . And so deontology is often thought of as being about rules which we are duty
bound to follow.
However, i t is vitally important to emphasize at this point that deontology is NOT
about blindly and stupidly following whatever rules are presented to you. No. The
rules must be correctly formulated . They must specify what is right .
It’s very easy to illus trate this. Just think about apartheid in South Africa. Amongst
other things apartheid was a set of rules or laws which citizens were told that they
must to f ollow – rules are rules . A brilliant ironic ex ample here would be the
Immorality Act, No. 5 of 1927 which prohibited sexual relations between people of
different races. Would a deontologist say that we ought to follow this rule because it
is a rule? Surely not. The passage of time has led us to generally accept that this was
never a correctly formulated rule. It was a rule that did not specify what was right. If
you like it was a bit like the rule “Thou shalt steal” . This is clearly a rule. But I’m sure
th at most of you would agree that it does not specif y what is right.

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This leads to a very vital point. J ust because someone doesn’t break the law, doesn’t
mean that the person is following a deontological moral path. The law might not be
right . Remember, alt hough we often think of deontology as being about rules we are
duty bound to follow, in fact this is not really the essence of the approach. Ultimately
i t is about doing the right thing. Please remember this point as when you are doing
your assignments .
So how does our story of the good life relate to this? Well it’s easy to see the
moment when the morally questionable act takes place isn’t it? We all intuitively get
it. Baboon goes and steals from the food store. And all of us have the idea that
stealing is wrong.

But, what would we have said if the story had ended as follows:
” …….the problem of whether he should eat another melon, or another sweet potato?
He resolved this by eating both, and then another of each for good measure.

The next morning all the animals got up and went about their business as usual. No
one even noticed that any food was missing. Life was still seemed to be fine .”

Would Baboon’s actions in this new story have been moral or immoral? Or worse
still, what would we have said if the story had ended as follows:

” …….the problem of whether he should eat another melon, or another sweet potato?
He resolved this by eating both, and then another of each for good measure.

The next morning all the animals got up as usual. The y noticed that there was a little
less food in the store than they had thought. But this was perhaps a good thing.
Several of the animals – Elephant, Rhino and Hippo in particular – were at risk of
picking up some lifestyle diseases associated with obesity . They decided that this was

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as good a sign as any that they should go on a diet and in so doing all extended their

Life was really good.

Hmmm. A bit more tricky right?
Well not if you are a deontologist who believes in a rule that stealing is wro ng. If you
are such a deontologist, you would still judge Baboon’s actions as being morally
wrong. Stealing is stealing and stealing is wrong. Baboon’s actions might have had :
• bad consequences (original version);
• no consequences (version 2);
• or even goo d consequences (version 3) .
Irrespective of this his actions would still have been judged as morally wrong.
7.3 Kant do it!
There are a lot of deontological moral philosophers out there. But none have been
more influential than a dude by the name of Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804). And so
we are going to spend a bit of time looking at some of Kant’s ideas. At the very heart
of Kant’s moral philosophy was a thing (a rule) that he called a ” Categorical
Imperative “.

Categorical = unconditional ;
Imperative = command.
So a categorical imperative is an unconditional command. Do the right thing –
unconditionally. This was in a sense Kant’s answer to what would a right rule would
look like.

But how to define these categorical imperatives? Do we look to our God whoever
th at may be? That’s the route many of us would follow. Not Kant though. Kant

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decided to go it alone. In fact, he argued that our moral knowledge is the only real
basis which we have to argue for religious faith. Or if you like he argued that in order
to be a
ble to recognize some sort of higher order, we would have to recognize the
difference between right and wrong intrinsically.

But that is an aside really. Getting back to categorical imperatives, Kant actually went
so far as to formulate no less than five v ersions of categorical imperatives:

The formula of universal law;

The formula of a universal law of nature;

The formula of humanity as an end in itself;

The formula of autonomy;

The formula of the Kingdom of Ends;
I’m only really telling you this detail to sound clever though. We are just going to
look at Kant’s most famous formulation – the formula of universal law .

This categorical imperative went as follows:
“Act only on that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should
become a universal law. ” (Kant 1785 cited in http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-
moral/ – accessed February 2012)

What the heck is a maxim ???!
The b est way to explain it is by giving you a general form of a maxim. That would
look like this:

“I will A when C in order to achieve E”
A – is some act e.g. stealing sweet potatoes and melons

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– is some circumstance e.g. I’m hungry

E – is some type of end e.g. feeling stuffed!
So in our story Baboon followed the maxim:
“I will steal sweet potatoes and melons (A) when I’m hungry (C) in order to achieve
feeling stuffed (E)!”

Ok, now that we know what a maxim is, we can get back to Kant’s first fo rmulation of
the categorical imperative: ” Act only on that maxim by which you can at the same
time will that it should become a universal law. ” What this formulation really
provides is a protocol or decision procedure for examining the morality of certain
acts. We can unpack this protocol as follows:

Step 1 : State your proposed act as a maxim;
Step 2: Restate this maxim as a universal law;
Step 3 : Ask whether your maxim is conceivable in a world ruled by the
universal law; and finally

Step 4 : Ask whether yo u would rationally act on your maxim in such a world.
Only if the maxim passes through all four steps can it be said to be moral. So let’s do
this for our story. In fact we have already stated Baboon’s act as a maxim:

Step 1: “I will steal sweet potatoes and melons when I’m hungry in order to
achieve feeling stuffed!”

Step 2: “All rational animals in the jungle will steal sweet potatoes and
melons all the time and will always feel stuffed”

Step 3: In all likelihood if all the animals are stealing sweet potatoes and
melons all the time they will soon run out and so it is highly likely that
Baboon's original maxim is not conceivable in a world ruled by the universal

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In other words Baboon's maxim fails at step 3 and cannot be considered to be moral.
A failure at Step 3 would result in what Kant referred to as a perfect
duty to refrain
from acting on this maxim .

What about Step 4 ?
Well imagine the animals lived in a jungle which essentially had a limitless food store.
In this world, it would not be inconceiv able that all the animals would be able to
“steal sweet potatoes and melons when they're hungry in order to achieve feeling
stuffed”. So the Maxim would pass Step 3.

But I imagine that after a while overindulgence would to get the better of Baboon.
Eventua lly he’s going to start getting indigestion, or acid reflux, or Baboon gout. Not
to mention increasing his chance of getting heart disease, hypertension or diabetes.
In other words, in all likelihood, in a world governed by the maxim in step 2, baboon
woul d soon stop acting on his own maxim. Or if you like it would fail at Step 4. Kant
called these failures at step 4 imperfect duties. You could apply them with some
exceptions – like when you were feeling ill from eating too many sweet potatoes and

A nd that is that! Well actually, that is what we are going to cover. If you want to
check out more on Kant’s ideas on ethics and morality go and have a look at
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant -moral/.
7.4 The Paradox of Deontological Constraints
There are problems with deontology of course. There are problems with all human
ideas really.

But for deontologists, probably the most frustrating problem is the paradox of
deontological constraints. It goes like this – a deontologist may not consider doing
what i s not right even if doing so will prevent a huge number of other wrong actions .
I can’t tell a lie to prevent 1000 lies. I can’t torture a person to prevent 1000 other
tortures. I can’t kill one person to prevent 1000 other killings. And I can’t steal a

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eet potato even if in some way this would prevent 1000 sweet potatoes from
being stolen!

This is a problem for most rational people. Some deontologist s have tried to get
around this but as they get closer and closer to avoiding it, they tend to get closer
and closer to deontology’s opponent – consequentialism. Which we are about to
deal with.
7.5 What You Should Know Now
• First and foremost you should understand that deontology is all about doing
what is right. According to deontologists, good will be the inevit able
consequence of this .

Because rules are used to specify what is right deontology is often thought of
as being duty bound to follow rules. BUT remember, the rules must specify
what is right . Deontology is NOT about blindly following the rules, and it is
NOT about complying with the law.

Then, if someone asks you: "Have you heard of Immanuel Kant?" you should
answer: "yes" .

You should also know that Kant's main ethical idea was a thing called a
Categorical Imperative .

And, you should know that a Catego rical Imperative is an unconditional
command – do what is right – unconditionally.

You should know what a maxim is (although I must confess that I have to go
back and read the explanation every time I have to define it!?)

And lastly, you should be able t o examine the moral validity of acts using
Kant's formula of universal law version of the Categorical Imperative.

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7.6 Assignment 02: Whitey Basson's millions
Once again, it’s time for you to log into myUnisa so that you can read the instructions
and do assignment 2. This is different to assignment 1 in that you will do this in a
discussion forum. But detailed instructions are available in myUnisa in the online
Learning Units .
8.1 The Great Thirst
“Long long ago when Kagge n created the animals, there were no fountains, rivers or
waterholes on earth. All that they had to drink was each other’s blood and they ate
the flesh off each other’s bones. Yes, those were blood- red days and no one was safe.

Then Elephant, the great one, said, “This can’t go on. I wish I were dead. Then my
bones could become fruit trees and my sinews could become tendrils that spread over
the ground and bear tsammas, and my hair could become a grassy field.”

And the animals asked him, “How long must we s till wait, Elephant? How long must
we still wait? Because Elephant’s live for a long, long time!”

“That I don’t know,” said Elephant. “We’ll have to see.”
But Snake said, “I’ll help you!” And before Elephant could move, he had bitten
Elephant with his poi son fangs, and held on to him until he died.

Then the animals stormed forward! Lion and Leopard, Jackal and Hare, Hippo and
Rhino, and even old Tortoise with his knock knees. They ate and ate of Elephant’s
flesh, and drank his blood, and stopped only when all that remained were his bones
and sinews and hair. Then they went to sleep as everyone had eaten quite enough.

But when they awoke the next day, the animals began to complain again. “Now
Elephant is dead and his flesh is eaten up, where are we going to get food?” And if

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they had had tears they would surely have cried, but the sun caused their bodies to
become dried up, even their eyes.

“Don’t worry!” said Snake. “Remember Elephant’s promise?”
“He said that when he died
…..” said the animals. “But you have killed him.”
“Don’t complain so,” said Snake. “Let us not be hasty. Wait and see.”
That night, when the stars rose one by one from their resting place, there was a new
fire in the sky. “It’s Elephant’s spirit!” said the frightened animals. “Now he is
de finitely coming to destroy us all.”

“Wait and see,” said Snake.
Elephant’s eyes were two shining, burning coals that climbed high into the sky till
they stopped right over the place where the animals had devoured his body.

And suddenly, his bones stood upright and they grew roots and branches full of fruit.
And his sinews spread all over the earth and bore tsamma melons. And his hair
became a grassy field.

“Now we have food!” exclaimed the animals as they began to graze. Of course some
of the animals who couldn’t survive without meat and blood crept away in the night.
They were Lion and Leopard, Jackal, Wildcat and Owl and one or two others.

And when the other animals went to sleep they came out stealthily to kill and devour.
Hawk was so cheeky that he so ught his pray in broad daylight. Only Vulture said, “I
also want meat, but I’ll not kill for it myself.”

Even though they now had food, the animals were still not happy.
“Water! Water! Water!” they complained. “We’re dying of thirst.”
“But the fruit is f ull of water,” said Snake. “And the tsammas and the grass.”

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“Water! Water! Water!” groaned the animals and, as before they began looking at
each other for the youngest, sweetest blood to drink.

“Elephant gave his body for you,” said Snake angrily. “And I gave my poison for you.
But you never stop complaining.” The animals did not realize that snake had used up
all his poison to kill huge Elephant. “Wait a minute. I’ll make water for you!” said

Then Snake disappeared into a hole in the ground and he hissed and blew and
spewed out streams of water until the water bubbled above the ground, over the
empty plains and into low lying areas.

“Now we have a fountain and rivers and waterholes!” said the animals feeling

So that is how the animals re
ceived their food and water, and even today we hear
about elephant grass and the water snake.

A San tale, retold by Pieter Grobbelaar
in: Madiba Magic: Nelson Mandela’s Favorite Children’s Stories ,
Tafelberg: Cape Town

8.2 So What?
I want us to zoom in here on the killing of Elephant by Snake. The moral question is,
was Snake’s killing of Elephant a good thing or a bad thing?

Surely for Elephant it was a bad thing? Snake murdered him in cold blood! Cut him
down in the prime of his life in what sounds like a gruesome act – ” he had bitten
Elephant with his poison fangs, and held on to him until he died”. And doesn’t it say
in most holy books: “Thou shalt not kill” or something like that? Aren’t those the
rules? So surely this was not the right thing to do ?

But let’s not be too quick in judging here.

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Look at the end result! All the other animals were left better off. They had trees with
fruit, melons and grass to eat –
well those that wanted fruit and melons and grass
had these. And even those who still wanted to eat meat would probably have been
better off. All of a sudden Lion was not going to be competing with huge hungry
Hippo for his share of the meat. The consequence of Snake’s act of killing Elephant
was that the rest of the animals (the majority) were bett er off than before.

So maybe it was a good thing? Especially given that Elephant had said, ” This can’t go
on. I wish I were dead” anyway.

This illustrates the essence of consequentialism. Unlike deontology which we just
dealt with, in consequentialism, we focus entirely on achieving a good outcome and
not on doing what is right. C onsequentialism is a form of ethical thought in which the
consequences or results of an action are used to judge the morality of that action. In
other words the end result is what makes an act, decision or rule to be a right or
Whenever you ask yourself: “Does the end justify the means?” you are being
consequentialist in your thinking.
8.3 Let's break it down a bit
Ok. So we have the essence. In other words by now you should be able to tell if
someone is being consequentialist in their ethical thinking – you just need to ask:
“Are they focusing on the outcome rather than anything else?”
But as with most things philosophical it is a bit more complicated than that. So let's
get int o it then…….

By far the most commonly discussed form of consequentialism is a thing called
utilitarianism. In fact some might even say this is the defining type! So this is as good
a place to start as any. Utilit arianism holds that any action is judged as good if that
act maximizes the total amount of good in a system.

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We can illustrate this in a simple table:

Total amount of
Total amount of
Net good / bad
Option 1 10 4 6
Option 2 15 7 8

Two op tions are available. Taking Option 1 leads to a net good of 6 taking Option 2
leads to a net good of 8. The utilitarian would choose Option 2. End of story.
Irrespective of what that option involved.

Let’s think about our story:
Option Total amount of
Total amount of
Net good / bad
Option 1 – don’t
kill Elephant Elephant (1)
All the other
animals (many) 1
– many = bad
Option 2 – kill
Elephant All the other
animals (many) Elephant (1)
many – 1 = good

So killing Elephant was good?
This is where it all gets a bit tricky really. One school of thought is called hedonism.
Hedonism holds that the only real good is pleasure and the only real bad is pain. But
again, how do you really measure pleasure and pain? Different peop le have different
preferences and pain thresholds. And are the criteria of pleasure and pain really
enough anyway – what about beauty, or love, or knowledge and truth?

Think about our story again. We don’t really know how much pain Elephant suffered.
We ca n’t say it was a “7” or something.

Or how much pleasure the other animals got out of the deal? Actually within a very
short period of time they were already complaining because they didn’t have water.

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Remember the line: ”
Even though they now had food, the animals were still not
happy “. So perhaps they didn’t get too much pleasure?
We just don’t know do we? We can’t say they got “15” pleasures.

Or tsama melons or grass for that matter.
Look – let’s be honest, El ephant’s promise that his bones would become fruit trees,
his sinews would become tsama melon plants and his hair would become grass is
pretty farfetched. So what would we conclude about Snake’s killing of Elephant if his
promise had failed to happen?

Well let’s examine the consequences:
Option Total amount of
Total amount of
Net good / bad
Option 1 – kill
Elephant 0
1 dead Elephant
and nothing else 0
– many = bad

So would we say Snake’s killing of Elephant was bad because the actual
consequence s were that the system was left less well off? Elephant died and no one
really got any major benefit right.

Or …. would we recognize that Snake acted on the basis of expected consequences?
Would we say: “ok, Snake took a chance, things didn’t turn out so great, but his
intentions were good”?

This is a crucial question because hindsight is the only exact science. 2

2 And some philosophers have even argued that we cannot even know history so
hindsight might not be so exact.

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In other words, life is unpredictable. We may make decisions which we think will
have good consequences, but it may turn out that the consequen
ces are terrible. For
example, a retirement advisor advises a person to buy a particular portfolio of shares
because to the best of his knowledge this will yield good returns. Then some
Americans or Europeans come along with a sob story about not being abl e to pay
their debts and the whole stock market plummets. The intended consequences were
good, the actual consequences were dire.

Surely we are getting to the limits of what this story can tell now! Sorry about this.
But this is an important consideration in terms of consequentialism. One of the
major problems with utilitarianism – maximizing the good of the system – is that it
simply asks too much of individuals.

Is it really fair or reasonable to expect that E lephant should sacrifice his life to
maximize good for the other animals? Doesn’t seem fair to me. Which brings about
the question of whether maximizing good is really necessary?

What if Elephant could have given up just one leg – produced fewer trees, fewer
tsamas, and less grass, but retained his life? It’s quite possible that the net good in
the system with this sacrifice might be less than if Elephant actually gave up his
whole life. Instead of having a glut of food, the animals might have had just enou gh.

This is the difference between maximizing and satisfying consequentialism.
A lot!
This is the last what if – I promise. But imagine this. Imagine that Snake kills Elephant.
Elephant’s bones b ecome fruit trees, his sinews become tsama vines and his hair
becomes grass. Now Hippo (and Rhino, his friend and advisor) are the two biggest
animals in the jungle. Together they monopolize the bounty and so get even bigger

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and more powerful. For everyone
else life is the same old drudgery – it might even
be worse.

So what has happened here? Well, the good in the system has increased in
aggregate. But the distribution of this good is highly unequal. Some have benefited
hugely, others have not benefited at all.
Utilitarians would say “No problem”. So long as the aggregate good has increased
Snake killing Elephant was a good thing. So long as the economy grows, doesn’t
matter if inequality has also increased.

Doesn’t seem right to me.
8.4 What You Should Know Now
We could go on and on here but we won’t. You get the picture right?
• In consequentialism the morality of an action is judged on the basis of the
• The most common form of consequentialism is utilitarianism – maximizing
the aggregate good to the whole system

But how do you measure good? Perhaps hedonism – pleasure and pain?

And is it actual good or intended good?

And is maximizing really necessary? Can we get away with satisfying ?

And shouldn’t we worry about equality ?

3 Sound a bit like attempts to date to achieve Black economic empowerment in SA?

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Consequentialism is cool, and we all use it to some extent. But it is far from simple
which I guess is why we often get it wrong?!

8.5 Assignment 03: "20,000 children die each day "
Once again, it’s time for you to log into myUnisa so that you can read the instructions
in the online L earning Units and do assignment 3.
9.1 The Countryman and the Snake
“A Countryman happened in a hard winter to spy a Snake under a hedge, that was
half frozen to death. The man was good natured and took it up, and kept it to his
bosom, ti ll warmth brought it to life again; and as soon as ever it was in condition to
do mischief, it bit the very man that saved the life on’t. Ah thou ungrateful wretch!
Says he, is that venomous ill nature of thine to be satisfied with nothing less than the
ru in of thy preserver? ” (Pg 54)
Source: Rouse, W.H.D. Fables from Aesop and Others . Blackie & Son Limited: London
9.2 So what?
By now I don’t need to explain to you the basic structure which we follow when
presenting these ethical tradition study units right? Yo u know that we start out with
a story to illustrate the tradition and then explain it.

This story is a bit different though isn’t it? Most strikingly, it is not an African folk
tale. The reason for this is that I couldn’t find any African folk tales which really
illustrates egoism. Even this tale from Aesop’s Fables is a little bit dodgy really.

The reason? Well egoism is not really an ethical tradition that too many people who
are trying to sound ethical would usually talk about. At least not in popular circles.
This is because it is a tradition which is based on “self- interest” rather than some
idea of greater good. If you like it is a selfish tradition.

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Selfishness as an ethical tradition? That doesn’t sound right. Well let’s see…..

The story above is sim
ple. A dude is walking along and sees a snake in trouble. He
says: “That’s not good!” In other words he makes an ethical judgment. “Let me
correct this bad situation by saving the snake” he says. For his trouble, the snake
turns around and bites him.

The m oral of the story? Well there are a couple really, but for the purposes of this
particular tradition the moral is that, you need to look after yourself before you
worry about snakes (or anyone else for that matter). Your self – this is the key to

Th e previous study unit should be fresh in your mind so you should immediately see
that egoism is a special case of consequentialism right? The morality of acts is
evaluated on the basis of consequences – for one’s self in this case. Do I benefit?
There are at least three recognized types of egoism:

Psychological egoism – the idea that we are programmed to be selfish. That
there is a Countryman who acts unselfishly might tell us that this is not
absolutely true. This is something that most of us feel intuitiv ely. Most of us
feel that within all of us is the capacity to be a bit unselfish right?

Rational egoism – the idea that being selfish is just plain sensible. The story
illustrates the consequences of this breaking down. The Countryman rather
irrationally p uts the snake's interest before his own and suffers dire
consequences as a result

Ethical egoism – the view that being selfish is not just sensible, but morally
good. For this to hold you would have to say that the Countryman was
morally bad to put the sna kes interests before his own.

Right – can you start to see where this might be heading? In terms of this module's
title? Towards a justification for greed perhaps? Yes indeed. That is where it might be
going. Or it might not ….

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Just before moving on to w
hat some big thinkers have had to say about egoism, it is
probably important to just mention the opposite of egoism – altruism. Altruism is
about giving something away that is valuable without any expectation of return.
Altruism, means putting the interests of others before your own. The Countryman
and the Snake story is essentially an illustration of altruism. Many would say it's an
example of irrational altruism.
9.3 Movers and Shakers
Deontology had Kant, we didn’t really look at any movers and shakers in
consequentialism, but names like Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill would be
front and centre. So who are the movers and shakers in terms of egoism? Actually
there are a couple of people who we are going to talk about:

Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882)

Frederich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900)

Ayn Rand (1905 – 1982)

Adam Smith (1723 – 1790)
Why so many? Well, partly it’s because I really like to present big name mover and
shakers. Darwin, Nietzsche and Smith would all qualify as big names. But as you will
see, none of th em were really out and out advocates of egoism. Rand is a real egoist,
but is not quite such a big name. So I decided to present a bit about all of them.
There are many others of course – Mandeville, Stirner, Milton Friedman and on and
on. You can check th em out if you like.

But besides wanting really big names, as I already said, this is the ethical tradition
which touches on one of the two key concepts in this module overall – Greed . So it
seems fair to put a bit more effort into understanding it. Is it a real philosophy of
greed or isn't it?

CHARLES DARWIN (1809 -1882)

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Darwin wasn’t really a moral philosopher. He was what was known as a naturalist.

No – A naturalist is not someone who runs around with no clothes on! In fact it is
what they used to call peo ple who studied natural phenomena in the old days. In
Darwin’s case, it was biology and geology that floated his boat. And as you probably
know, he is particularly associated with the subject of evolution. His main claim to
fame was proposing a basic mechanism by which evolution is now widely believed to
occur: the theory of natural selection.

Now you can be pretty certain that you won’t find many chapters in ethics text books
describing the ethical traditions of Darwin! Because he wasn’t a moral philosophe r.
So why do I start out with Darwin?

Well it all boils down to the implications of his theory of natural selection. So we
need to have a quick look at this. A very quick look! The first thing to understand is
that in presenting his theory, Darwin was really trying to explain how the diversity of
plants and animals that he observed came to be, and in some cases went out of
being (i.e. went extinct). And his thinking went as follows.

He observed that in populations of animals or plants at any moment in time,
variation exists. You don’t really have to think beyond humans to see this – some of
us are tall, some of us are short; some of us have red hair, some of us have black
hair; some of us wear size 10 shoe and some of us wear a size 15 shoe. You can call
the se things traits. I have a set of traits; you have a set of traits.

Many of these traits don’t make one bit of difference really. But some traits are
important because they affect what Darwin referred to as our “fitness”. This is NOT
fitness in the running- a -marathon sense of the word. Fitness in the Darwinian sense
of the word refers to our ability to reproduce!

Think of it this way – if we go back to our story – the trait of picking up snakes would
probably be detrimental to our fitness. Get bitten by th e wrong snake and you are
not going to be alive long enough to reproduce!

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So now we have the idea of variations in populations, and the idea that some
variations will affect our ability to reproduce. Darwin then observed that some traits
at least seem to b
e passed on from one generation to the next. They are inherited in
other words. He didn’t understand the mechanism by which this happened – that
only came later once we began to understand genetics – but he did nonetheless
observe the inheritance of traits .

Well once he had these basic facts, natural selection was obvious to him. Check this

Picking up snakes is an evolutionary dead end. Not picking snakes up leads to long
lasting families!

So what does this all have to do with egoism?
Well it presents a basis for anyone wanting to justify selfishness from a very basic
biological reality kind of pers pective. Let’s look at the story we began this section
with. The act of saving the life of the snake, which on the surface seems to be a
morally good thing to do, turns out to be the kind of behaviour that is not really
going to stick around for long becau se natural selection will eliminate it eventually.

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It’s a behaviour that is likely to go extinct as you can see from the illustration above.
Going back to the three types of egoism I listed above (psychological, rational and
ethical) a simple reading of natural selection would give us a mechanism to explain
why psychological egoism would come to be. Because individuals lacking rational
egoism would die and eventually the trait would presumably not be passed on
anymore. And that is that.

Before leaving Darwin, it is important to note that Darwin himself did not advocate
egoism as a moral tradition. In other words he was not an ethical egoist. And his
intention was not to provide a basis for defending egoist behaviour. However, his
theory of natural selecti
on was, and indeed remains, a very important theoretical
basis upon which egoism might be justified.
To put it mildly Nietzsche is a rather controversial moral philosopher. He is perhaps
best known for saying: “God is dead . And we have killed him” in his book The Gay
Science published in 1882, and for claiming to be the “first immoralist”. But then
egoism is perhaps a controversial moral philosophy so I suppose there is little
wonder that he might be brought into the fray.
Now Nietzsche is a very complex philosopher to try and get your head around. A lot
of what he wrote was written in aphorisms which are open to interpretation and
inevitably misinterpretation. I’m telling you this for two reasons. The first reason is
that what I present here is a very, very superficial interpretation (or possibly a

4 For some e ven better examples than snake handling why not check out
5 The words “brought into” are very important. As you will see Nietzsche does not
really seem to advocate egoism. However, like Darwin, he is frequently used to lend
authority t o egoism.

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misinterpretation) of what Nietzsche had to say about morality in general and how
this might be interpreted as contributing a case for egoism. The second is to reiterate
the fac
t that linking Nietzsche to egoism is probably a misinterpretation. Nietzsche
often claimed to be against all moralities and if egoism is a morality, then Nietzsche
would presumably be against it.
So as we did with Darwin, let’s start out by understanding what the objective of
Nietzsche’s little project was. Darwin wanted to explain the diversity of plants and
animals. What did Nietzsche want? Well it seems that he was driven by a desire to
see human kind move to higher and higher states of being. In partic ular he wanted to
see the emergence of what he called “Ubermensche” . Loosely translated it means,
“over -men” or “supermen”.
In his desire to see such progress, Nietzsche wanted all barriers to progress removed.
And this seems to have been what brought hi m into conflict with “morality”. Unlike
more conventional moral philosophers who harped on about what was moral and
what wasn’t, what was good and what wasn’t, Nietzsche asked "What is morality’s
value"? What is the point of it all? Or more precisely, what does morality contribute
to or detract from progression to the “superman”?
In answering this question Nietzsche basically noted that all moralities tend to claim
to be unconditional – to be The morality. In a sense they tend lay claim to being the
end po int. And reaching an end point is clearly contrary to striving towards a higher
state. So I guess you could say he viewed the claim of most moralities as a dead end
in human development. And so he labelled himself an “immoralist”.

6 And immediately you should begin to see the kind of problems which might emerge
out of Nietzsche writings. You can imagine all sorts of supremacist crackpots taking
up this kind of idea. Not least of all his ideas were reportedly taken up as a key part
of Nazi anti- Semitic ideology. This despite the fact that Nietzsche himself was
vehemently opposed to anti -Semitism.
7 Sounds kind of Darwinian – what contribution does morality make to our fitness?

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So if Nietzsche is oppose
d to all moralities, how is it that he gets held up as a
supporter of egoism? Well in a world where egoism (selfishness) does not have many
supporters, a philosopher who criticizes its nemesis, altruism, is likely to become a de
facto ally. Beyond this, it seems that Nietzsche felt that the prevailing morality at the
time he was writing was one based on altruism and so he perhaps spent more time
criticizing this than other moralities.
8 So his writings are littered with criticism of
altruism. Finally, as I already mentioned, Nietzsche’s riddl ey (enigmatic is a better
word I guess) writing style helped no end in cementing this. People could interpret
the riddles in a way that supported their own personal projects.

So let’s wrap up this bit on Nietzsche. First ly, what would Nietzsche have said about
the snake story? My guess is he would have applauded the style of writing and
perhaps (just perhaps) might have concluded that picking up snakes hardly seems
like a path to becoming a “superman”. But really who know what Nietzsche might
have said? In terms of egoism, it seems that while he didn’t really advocate egoism,
he was a strong critic of altruism. And that was enough to bind him to egoism. Just
like the fact that he advocated a “superman”, was enough to turn him into a
champion for various supremacist types.
AYN RAND (1905- 1982)
Finally – a real egoist! Up until now, the two big names have really just been used as
advocates of egoism. You can easily tell that Rand is the real deal. She wrote a book
entitled ” The Virtue of Selfishness “. It doesn’t get more real than that! That’s
essentially another way of saying that ethical egoism, or self interest, is morally good
or virtuous. And make no mistake, in this book she defends selfishness as though the
future of ma nkind depended on it.

8 Personally I recon Nietzsche made a mistake he re. He did not draw a distinction
between the theoretical prevailing morality (the stuff contained in religious texts and
moral philosophy treatises), and the realities of moral practice. Or if you like
between “Sunday morality” and “rest -of -the -week morality”. Perhaps?

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So how does Rand go about her argument? Well she starts out by bashing altruism –

egoism’s nemesis. Remember altruism is defined as giving up something that is
valuable without getting anything in return.

Her bashing of altruism goes like this. Altruism she says holds that any action taken
for the benefit of someone else is good and that any action taken for your own
benefit (in your self interest) is bad.

She then gives some examples which apparently demonstrate the absurdity of this .
For instance she compares an industrialist who pursues and accumulates a huge
personal fortune and a bank robber who steals a huge personal fortune and suggests
that altruism would claim they are both bad. Absurd right? Well assuming
9 that the
industria list didn’t exploit anyone in his accumulation of a fortune, it doesn’t really
seem fair.

Rand then goes on to present the following argument:
” Since nature does not provide man with an automatic form of survival, since he has
to support his own life by hi s own effort, the doctrine that concern with one’s own
interests is evil means that man’s desire to live is evil – that man’s life, as such, is evil.
No doctrine could be more evil than that. ”
Think of the Countryman and the Snake. According to Rand, alt ruism would judge the
countryman evil had he not picked up the snake which does seem a little wonky
really. Note that although Rand uses the word “survival” which kind of ties back to
Darwin’s natural selection, her critique of altruism is very much in the realm of

9 And this is a very big assumption.
10 Arrgh! I only have a Kindle version of Rand’s 1961 book The Virtue of Selfishness
(published by Signet, New York) and this particular quote doesn’t have page
numbers. But it is in the Introduction.

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– altruism is an evil doctrine. Not just an irrational one or an evolutionary
dead end one.

Having bashed altruism, Rand then goes on to clarify or constrain selfishness. She
says that her philosophy does not advocate absolute unconstrai ned pursuit of self
11 Rather she claims it to be “rational”. To render it rational, she suggests an
objective moral code based on three central virtues of:


productiveness and

pride. 12
These she claims encapsulate the two things which allow humans to sustain life:
thinking and productive work. And sustaining life, one’s own life in particular, is the
original objective standard of value.

The Countryman in story at the beginning had the productive work bit right, but not
the thinking bi t and so he met his end and in so doing his act was immoral –
according to Rand.

And that is that really. At least that’s enough on Rand for this study unit.
ADAM SMITH (1723 -1790)
If you are wide awake you will have spotted that Adam Smith predates all o f the
other movers and shakers discussed so far. However, the contribution to the
development of egoism which is traced back to Smith is very very important because
it binds the prevailing economic system in the world today (capitalism) to egoism.

11 An egoist form which she attributes (probably incorrectly) to Nietzsche.
12 Personally I’m not really clear where pride comes from?

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And in f
act some might say that I could have just presented Smith as the mover and
shaker and left it at that.

So how is Adam Smith linked to egoism? Well, as was the case with both Darwin and
Nietzsche his simplistic binding to egoism perhaps has more to do with those who
have interpreted his work than what he himself said. Although self interest did
indeed play an important role in Smith's thinking.

So what was it that he did in fact say? Well in general, Adam Smith is probably best
recognized as the father of mo dern economics and capitalism. Actually calling him
the father of capitalism is a little bit of a stretch. Capitalism was up and running in a
form before Smith. But he was the first person to really have a crack at describing
how it worked. He did this in his book entitled: ” An Inquiry into the Nature and
Causes of the Wealth of Nations “.
13 The Wealth of Nations for short.
Just being the first person to describe capitalism, the economics which is today an
economics characterized by the pursuit of self interest (and probably even greed) is
probably enough for most to say Adam Smith must have been the father of egoism

But this is almost certainly not a fair assessment of Smith. But let’s just quickly check
out the (tiny) bit of the Wealth of Nations that has most frequently been used to
justify egoism. This all really revolves around one of Smiths famous “invisible hand”
quotes. Let’s examine the most famous of these and how it might be interpreted:

” By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his
own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be
of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other
cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end wh ich was no part of his intention.

13 You can download this (and many other books) for free from

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Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was not part of it. By pursuing his
own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when
he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who
affected to trade for the public good. It is an affectation, indeed, not very common
among merchants, and very few words need be employed in dissuading them from

You can see selfishness dripping from this quote:

“intends o nly his own security”,

“he intends only his own gain”,

“pursuing his own interest”.
But by means of this “invisible hand” – the market ( according to popular
interpretation) – the selfish person's actions actually result in an end that is not just
his ow n gain or security. In the context of a book entitled the Wealth of Nations you
might well jump to the conclusion that this end is the wealth of the nation. That’s
really all that's needed for pop -egoists. Individual self interest (possibly greed) in a
fre e market leads to the wealth of society as a whole – the nation.

BUT! There is a huge “but” here. For starters check out the detail of this quote alone.
Smith is speaking about a very specific thing here – supporting domestic rather than
foreign industry. So it hardly seems appropriate to claim that he is making any
sweeping, general defence of egoism right?

Then there is the bit in the sentence immediately after the reference to the “invisible
hand” appearance where he says: “Nor is it al ways the worse for the society…..”
emphasis added. This is definitely not the same as saying: “It is always better for
the society” which is what would be needed for a general defence of egoism. Beyond

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this quote we need to recognize that elsewhere in th
e Wealth of Nations Smith
clearly warns against unchecked self interest and greed.

However, perhaps the most important “but” is the fact that before publishing the
Wealth of Nations , Smith had published another book. This one entitled: ” The Theory
of Moral Sentiments “. In this Smith actually wrote about moral philosophy. And what
is clear is that Smith wasn’t really interested in saying that egoism or altruism were
the more important moral traditions. He was more interested in how real people
actually came to moral judgments.

And his idea was? Well one of the central elements of his thinking was imagination –
the capacity of humans to imagine. And, in particular, their capacity to imagine what
other people could be feeling. Just knowing this is enough to kno w that Smith can
really hardly be held up as a defender of rabid and absolute self interest (let alone
greed). What would the point of imagining what other people are feeling be if you
were advocating absolute self interest?
9.4 From Egoism to Greed?
Throughout this section we have hinted at the possibility that egoism might be
linked to greed – that it might be the ethic of greed. And on some sort of level this
seems to make sense: self -interest …… selfishness …… greed. Seems to be a
reasonable chain, if not a set of outright synonyms.
But is this argument really sound? If it's not, then egoism cannot really be thought of
as an ethic of greed. Well let’s examine self -interest and greed. Self -interest, as the
words suggest, is an interest in self and is generally assumed to be an interest in
some sort of wellbeing. And given that it is generally recognised that as a social
species – our wellbeing is ultimately served by living in a "happy" society – one might
easily argue that it becomes part of our self- interest to ensure a "happy" society.

Greed on the other hand is by definition much more harsh. More sociopathic (or
socially destructive) if you like. You can go and look up a pile of definitions of greed

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on the web or in your dictionary. But they all se
em to share the idea of greed being
an excessive desire to accumulate something. In other words you might think of it as
self- interest gone mad.
Now no ethical tradition can really bear the label of socially destructive. And so greed
cannot really be acco mmodated in any proper ethical tradition.
However, the line between self -interest and greed is definitely not as clear as the
definitions might lead us to believe. And so the possibility exists that egoism might
well be used to defend greed. And this is a problem.
9.5 Problems with Egoism
As with all the other ethical traditions which we have covered, we do need to think
about problems with egoism. So what are these? Let me list three:
1. Well let’s start out with the most basic one. What is your initial reactio n to
the word “selfish”, and even more so to the word “greed”? My guess is that
you have a basic negative gut reaction. That’s got to count for something. It
suggests if you like the opposite of psychological egoism – psychological
2. Then there is the fact that it’s really hard to find a big name thinker who can
really be called an out and out egoist. Darwin more than likely wasn’t; nor
was Nietzsche; and Smith most definitely wasn’t. But Ayn Rand was.
3. For the last one, I’m going to take you back to Darwin. Of all the movers and
shakers mentioned, Darwin is the one who presents a mechanism by which
(psychological) egoism might come to exist in humankind. The problem is
that while Darwin’s mechanism seems so simple and intuitive, there is a lot
more to it when it comes to what really happens. We have already noted
that humans are a social species – and in this regard, our survival cannot
simply be dependent on our individual thinking and productive effort (as
Rand suggested). It must be dependent on our thinking and productive effort

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in the context of our society. There are even more technical issues with just
using Darwin's natural selection as a mechanism. For one, natural selection
probably doesn’t really happen at the level of individuals (selfs).
It happens
on the level of genes. Without getting in technical details of evolutionary
theory, in our story, we might well ask what if the snake was substituted
with Countryman’s child, and the man gave up his coat and froze himself to
save the child? In effect he would probably be protecting the long term
prospects of his genes, and many fathers would do this. Rand of course
would say that any threat to individual sovereignty is “savage, blind, ghastly,
bloody unreality”. Bottom line, Darwin’s mechanism s houldn’t be
interpreted too simply, and the egoism / altruism divide is probably not black
and white.
9.6 What You Should Know Now
Right! It's that time of the study unit again when we take some time to recap. We
have covered a lot of ground in this study uni t haven't we?

• We have come to know that egoism is all about self -interest;
• We know that it is a form of consequentialism;
• And we know that there are at least three types:
o Psychological egoism – biologically programmed selfishness
o Rational egoism – self ishness just makes plain sense
o Ethical egoism – selfishness is not just sensible it is morally good.
• And we know the opposite of egoism is altruism;
• We have examined the contributions to egoism that have been made by
some big name thinkers:

o Darwin – pr oviding a mechanism for psychological egoism;
o Nietzsche – violently criticizing altruism;

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o Rand – declaring selfishness a virtue;
o Smith – as the father of capitalism.
• We have thought about the link between egoism and greed;
• And finally we looked at som e of the problems with egoism
And that's that!
9.7 Assignment 04: "ME, ME, ME!"
Once again, it’s time for you to log into myUnisa so that you can read the instructions
in the online Learning Units and do assignment 4.
10.1 The Story: Honeyguide's Revenge
The generosity of Honeyguide was known far and wide. At some time or another
everyone in the area had been invited by her to share in a delicious treat of honey
made by her good friends, the bees. And so it seemed only right that, when one day
Honeyguide came upon a huge hive in the forest, dripping with wonderful golden
honey, she should chose to share it with the man who had just recently arrived in the
Now, although the man was new in the area he had still heard of the generous
Honeyguide. And so, when the little brown bird flew up to him while he was working
in his fields and started flying around in circles chirping excitedly, he knew exactly
what to do. He knew that all he had to do to get to a magnificent feast was to follow
Honeyguide. And the man loved honey! Boy did he love honey!
So he followed Honeyguide. Across the fields, up the hill, back down the hill and
through the river, and into the forest. Had he not been so certain of the feast that
awaited him at the end of the trip he would no doubt have stopped following

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Honeyguide very early on because the day was hot, and it wasn’t a short trip to the

But he knew the treat he was in for and so he followed, and at last they came to the
tree with the hive in it . The man didn’t need Honeyguide anymore to point out the
rich prize. So bountiful was the hive that beautiful golden honey literally dripped out
of it. The man was so excited he could hardly contain himself. He set about gathering
all the honey. And then he proceeded to eat all the honey – every last morsel. He
didn’t leave a single drop for Honeyguide.
Honeyguide was astounded. Surely everyone knew that the whole point of all of her
efforts was sharing the rich produce of her friends the bees? But she was wrong. This
man didn’t seem to know or if he knew, didn’t seem to care. After he had finished all
the honey (every last morsel) he took a short nap under the tree because he was
feeling a little bit stuffed. And, once he had rested for a while, he made hi s way back
to his house.
There and then Honeyguide knew that she had to teach this man a lesson. If she
didn’t her beautiful sharing friendship with all people would be lost forever. And so
when she happened to come across another huge hive, dripping with wonderful
golden honey, but this time in the tree where Leopard was busy with her cubs, she
knew what she would do.
Off she flew to the fields where the greedy man was working.
The man could hardly believe his luck when Honeyguide showed up for a second t ime
in just a few days. With the memory of his last feast still fresh in his mind, the man
dropped his tools and quickly followed the little brown birds. Across the fields, up the
hill, back down the hill, through the river, and again, into the forest. But this time he
hardly noticed the trip. All he could think about was the honey.
And when they finally came to the tree with the huge hive he also didn’t notice
anything but the wonderful golden honey dripping from the hive. Specifically, he
didn’t notice Leopard. Unfortunately for him, Leopard’s attention was not equally

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held by the honey. She was very much aware of this hungry looking man coming
closer and closer to her cubs!

The rest, as they say, is history. Honeyguide got her revenge thanks to an angr y
Leopard and from that fateful day on all people knew with absolute certainty that the
bounty of nature was meant to be shared.
A tale told to me when I was a child. I can’t tell you who told me (either my
grandfather or a teacher) but I’m sure they won’ t mind me telling you.
10.2 So what?
This is a pretty common folk tale. It told to me at some point in my own childhood –
can’t remember whether it was by my grandfather or at school. It doesn’t really
matter I suppose. The point is this story is all about sharing and fairness – distributive
justice if you like. And there are layers and layers.

So let’s look at it – this is what I see. Firstly, there’s the "elephant in the boardroom",
the greedy man who doesn’t share any of the honey with the Honeyguide despite
Honeyguide’s generosity in leading him to the honey. On the surface, this is an act of
pure greed or selfishness that enrages “nature” – the guys gets a swat from an angry
leopard to prove that he has violated some sort of law of nature. Sure, he did some
work for his honey. He walked ” across the fields, up the hill, back down the hill and
through the river, and into the forest “. But this according to the tale doesn’t entitle
him to eat all the honey. And indeed the conclusion is that in nature, resources are
shared – ” that the bounty of nature was meant to be shared by all “.

So much for the obvious. As usual though, if you think a bit harder about this
situation other problems start to emerge. For instance, what about the bees? We
focus all this attention on the injustice of the man, and the generosity of
Honeyguide. But why should either the Honeyguide or the man, or anyone other
than the bees for that matter have any claim on the honey? It was the efforts of the
bees which produced the honey. The story suggests that the bees and the
Honeyguide are friends. So perhaps the bees don’t mind this little arrangement. But I

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must admit that I’m not sure how long I would stay friends with someone who was in
the habit of kindly sharing the spoils of my labour with
all and sundry. It just doesn’t
seem fair.

So what is fair? How do we decide (on a personal and on a social level)? Well,
philosophically, the field dealing with these questions is known as distributive justice .
Now, real philosophers will tell you that when you get into the field of distributive
justice, you are no longer really in the realm of moral philosophy. You are entering
into the world of political philosophy . Certainly this is the case when you try and
figure out how to share on a social rather than an individual level.

But let’s not get caught up in this. Let's rather focus on some of the main models
which have been proposed.
10.3 How to share …. common intuitions
Well for starters, there are some “common intuitions” which most of us entertain
when we think about sharing:

One of the most obvious ones is that rewards should go to those who deserve those
rewards. In our story, you might argue that the Honeyguide deserved a share of the
honey, and so it was unjust that the man ate it all. Of course, you can think of being
deserving in terms of good and bad. The man presumably got what he deserved
when the leopard gave him a smack!
In the real world you will often hear this being used to justify why some people have
so much more than others . For example, “Bill Gates is stinking rich because he was
smart and he worked exceedingly hard. He deserves all of his money.” If you like, it’s
a very capitalist kind of distributive fairness. If you work really hard, you can become
as rich as you like. And because of this kind of logic, it is argued that people have a
strong personal incentive to work really hard.

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The next one is that rewards should go to those in need. No one in our story really
seems particularly needy. The man has crops for h
is main food, so the honey is just a
luxury. The Honeyguide just seems to share because she is kind (with other people’s
stuff if you ask me). No -one really seems to worry about the bees too much. But I
suppose if you read between the lines, it seems that the bees don’t seem to object
too strongly to their friend the Honeyguide handing out their honey, so we can
perhaps assume that they don’t really need it too much either.

However, need is still an important reason for sharing. Let’s imagine for a minute
that the story is the same except for one minor detail – the man was in fact starving.
If he did not eat every single bit of the honey he would fall down dead. Would it then
have been fair for him to eat all the honey? Even though it was the bees who made it
all, and the Honeyguide who shared it. Given that neither the Honeyguide of the
bees seem to need the honey, I would probably say that this would change

Need as a distributive justice model is anything but capitalist. In fact, Karl Marx is
famously linked to this basis for distribution in the quote which goes: " From each
according to their ability to each according to their need. "

The idea of benefit is related to that of need, but is not exactly the same. Need
implies that there is no alternative. It’s ‘do or die’. Benefit is not like this. It’s not a
matter of life or death. You can benefit greatly from something even if failing to gain
it would not result in unbearable hardship.

Again, we have to add some information t o our story to illustrate this. Let’s assume
that while the Honeyguide and the bees kind of like honey, the man really loves it.
It’s the light of his life. The reason he gets up in the morning. It makes him
completely happy. In this case, the bees and the Honey guide eating the honey will
kind of benefit them. But if the man eats the honey – boy is he going to be happy.
The benefit will just be so much greater.

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Doesn’t it then make sense that he should go ahead and eat it? Assuming of course,
as we have don
e, that none of the three really need the honey.

Last but not least is the notion of equality. We all know what this one is about. Split
the honey up equally between the three! Simple.
14 The bees get 1/3rd, the
Honey guide gets 1/3
rd, and the man gets 1/3rd.
This seems to be the one that the story itself hints at in the closing line: “that the
bounty of nature was meant to be shared”.

The thing with common intuitions is that they are common! All of these things would
no doubt ha ve resonated with you. They all make perfect sense in isolation. The
problem is that they are not always compatible. Dividing things according to who
deserves what might mean that someone who is really needy, but perhaps not
deserving may end up ….well dyi ng. Need is about do or die right? Is that just their
tough luck?

The same sort of arguments can really be applied to any pair of these intuitive
notions. So how then do we divide things fairly? Well, the simple answer then
becomes: it depends. It depends on the context. Which is hardly a basis for any kind
of universally satisfactory model of distributive justice is it? Who decides what it
depends on after all?

14 Or is it. Should we split it equally in proportion to body weight? Or just plain

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10.4 How to share …. utilitarianism
Enter utilitarianism. Well, it’s not really the entry. You sho uld remember that we
discussed this under consequentialism. Let’s just recap though in case you have
forgotten what utilitarianism is all about. Utilitarianism is about the “maximum good
in the jungle”. In technical terms the fairest distribution of stuff according to
utilitarians, is the one that maximizes the total net benefits to the population. It
doesn’t worry about individual interests at all.

In our story, we would divide the honey in such a way that it yields the maximum net
good in the system, irr espective of individual proportions. If for some reason,
maximum good was generated by the man eating everything, then there would be
no problem with the current story other than that the man got a smack from the
Leopard for essentially irrational reasons.

But as we have already discussed at length, there are problems with utilitarianism,
not least of all that it really doesn’t have anything to say about massive inequalities.
Utility might well be maximized through an unacceptably unequal distribution of
10.5 How to share …. John Rawls (1921 – 2002)
Enter John Rawls. Rawls was, without a doubt, one of the most influential
philosophers of the 20th Century. He didn't like either the "common intuitions" idea
or utilitarianism which I have just discussed – for more or less the reasons as I
outlined above. Of course, it's easy not to like something. It's usually more difficult to
come up with a superior alternative. But this was what Rawls set out to do.
Basically his ultimate goal was to define principles fo r distributive justice which are
aligned or compatible with the ideals of freedom and equality. Now this is no easy
task. Many have argued that these two ideals are opposite sides of the coin.
Freedom often seems to result in inequality and achieving equality often seems to
require constraints of freedom. So how did Rawls go about doing this?

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Well his starting point was a thing called the "original position". This held that valid
principles of justice are ones which everyone would rationally chose (i.e. freedom)
from a position of equality. Freedom and equality. So in our story, what model of
justice would the bees, Honeyguide and the man have chosen/agreed to if they were
all equal? Must admit, I can't say I know off the top of my head ?
But after careful thinking Rawls came up with three principles. Actually he said there
were two principles, but the second principle actually has two sub -principles – in my
mind this makes three principles! He argued that if these were applied to the bas ic
structure of society, they would deliver a just or fair society. Or at least a society that
was fairer than either utilitarianism of common intuitions would deliver. So what
were these principles?
The first principle that Rawls presented was as follows:
” each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive basic liberty compatible
with a similar liberty for others ” (Rawls, 1971, pg 60).
If you are still awake, this should remind you a little bit of Kant shouldn ‘t it?
Remember making the maxim universal? The liberty is appropriate if, and only if, you
would be willing to accept it as a universal law – " a similar liberty for others ".
Anyway, that is an aside really. The point is that with this principle, Rawls set out to
guarantee our most basic liberties e.g. the right to vote, the right to freedom of
thoughts and speech, the right to own property etc. Basic non -negotiable human
The second principle (or Rawls’ pr inciple 2a if you like) is the principle of ” equality of
fair opportunity ” (Rawls 1971, pg 60). According to this principle, any person,

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irrespective of where they sit in society should have absolutely equal opportunity to
attain absolutely any position. A
nyone can become the president! Perhaps the most
important practical implication of this principle, is that this means that at the very
least everyone must have access to equal education irrespective of the accidents of
birth – irrespective of whether one is born into a wealthy family or into a poor
family. In fact the idea of this principle is basically to try and remove any arbitrary
benefit associated with where people are born in society.
Rawls’ third principle (or more correctly the second part of his second principle) is a
principle which he called ” the difference principle” (Rawls 1971, pg 60). Perhaps
more than any of the other principles, this principle allowed some degree of
inequality to be considered. Wha t Rawls basically said was that any inequality could
not be detrimental to the interests of the least well off in society – the poorest of the
poor, the weakest of the weak. In fact it ought to be beneficial to the poorest of the
poor! But how the heck wou ld that work? Well here is an example. If inequality is a
motivator, then inequality could drive poor people to do what it takes to get rich – to
take the future into their own hands and shed the shackles of poverty. Another
example might be having the wea lthy paying taxes which disproportionately pay for
the delivery of public services.
So those are the principles:
1. Greatest equal liberty – which guarantees basic non -negotiable human
rights; and
2. Equality of fair opportunity and the di fference principle – which really define
conditions under which inequality might be considered acceptable or

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But are these principles all equally important? And if so what happens if they happen
to be in conflict? Well actually Rawls argued th
at they are not equal. He said that
they must be applied in the order which they have been presented here. First the
basic liberties delivered in principle 1 get guaranteed. Then equality of opportunity is
guaranteed. And finally, once these are in the bag , inequality can only be
contemplated if only if that inequality is in the interest of the least advantaged in
I probably should have introduced this right at the beginning when I told you about
the Or iginal Position because this is really an important ingredient of a legitimate
original position according to Rawls. But I want you to think about this very carefully
– in fact if there is one thing I absolutely insist that you take out of this discussion it is
Rawls’ "invention" known as the veil of ignorance. Actually it's not really entirely his
invention. Lady Justice has typically been blindfolded. It doesn't really matter though.
The point is that this is really a brilliantly useful tool for thinking about what is fair
and right as far as I am concerned.
Rawls' idea goes like this: when we are thinking about principles which we are going
to use for distributing stuff fairly, we should not know anything about where we sit in
society or our natural talen ts – the accidents of our birth place/family and our
genetic makeup. So for example, we should not know whether we are black or white
(or any other colour); whether we are Hindu or Muslim or Christian (or from any
other religion); we should not know whether we are a woman or a man; we should
not know our sexual orientation; or the socio -economic class from which we come;
we should not know whether we are blessed with some incredible sporting ability, a
brilliant mind for maths, or whether we will suffer fro m a debilitating psychiatric
illness etc. Or in the case of our story whether we are a person or a bird or an insect.
In short we should be ignorant of accidents of birth.
Can you imagine the implications of this? Let's go back to our story which we kind o f
lost for a while. So imagine that in the original position the bees, the Honeyguide and

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the man were all sitting around a table at a workshop trying to agree on how to split
this honey fairly. And imagine that they pulled on this veil of ignorance which
mean that all they knew was that there was a pile of beautiful honey and three
possible eaters of this honey. What principles would they design to allow them to
split it? Do you think that they agree to a split where all the honey goes to one of the
three as happened in the story? That would mean there would be a 2/3 chance (66%)
that they would get nothing at all! Hmmm? Quite an interesting question isn't it?
You might apply the same kind of thinking to wealth inequalities. Do you think that
the rich would defend their exceedingly huge wealth if they weren't really sure
whether they were going to be one of the rich or one of the poor? The probabilities
would not be good for being amongst the rich in today's increasingly unequal world
would they.
Which brings me to the last word on this – If the only thing you remember and grasp
out of all of this stuff on Rawls is the veil of ignorance then I'll be a happy lecturer. So
go and think about this again!
Rawls, J. 1971. A Theory of Justice . Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA.
10.6 What You Should Know Now
As usual it's time for a little summary. At the highest level, we have covered three
schools of thought on sharing:

• Common intuitions
• Utilitarianism
• Rawls' ideas
Within common intuitions you sho uld recall the following four:
• Rewards to those who deserve them;

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• Rewards to those in need ;
• Rewards to those who will benefit most ; and
• Rewards split equally.
In terms of utilitarianism, there was nothing new here: maximizing the aggregate
good to the whole system.
Finally in terms of Rawls' ideas we touched on:

• his "Original position";
• his thinking about agents and interests (fundamental interests and not so
fundamental interests)

• his idea of "permissible inequality" and the two principles governing this:
o "Difference principle";
o "Fair and equal opportunity principle";
• And finally his idea of the " veil of ignorance" (remember if this is all you
remember then I'm happy! )

10.7 Assignment 05: 4 billion living in poverty
Once again, it’s time for you to log into myUnisa so that you can read the instructions
in the online Learning Units and do assignment 5.
11.1 What? …. No Story??!
Nope. Not this time. We don’t need one. Picking up bits and pieces from the other
stories which we have already discussed will do just fine to illustrate environmental
ethics thank you very much. And it will give us a chance to recap all the stories so it’s
a win -win situation!

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So, let’s just remind ourselves what those stories were:

For Do the right thing – Deontology we had the story ” How the Good Life Was
Lost “. Let’s call it GLL for short;

• For “It’s All About Consequences” (Consequentialism) we had the story ” The
Great Thirst “. GT for short;

• For “ME, ME, ME” (Egoism) there was the very short story of ” The
Countryman and the Snake “. CS for short;

• And finally, for “Fair’s Fair” (Distributive Justice) we used ” Honeyguide's
Revenge “. HR for short.

Now the first thing that you should spot as you look at all four of the titles together
like this is that t o some extent they all involve “nature”. In GLL the second line is:
” Mother Earth provided them with all that they needed: air to breathe, water for
drinking and for washing, and fertile soil for growing crops “. All very idealistically
“natural” – the idea of a life sustaining ” Mother Earth” providing for the needs of the
inhabitants. As the story progresses, this beautiful idealistic “natural” image is
shattered by a selfish act.

In GT , the progression is exactly the opposite. It starts out with a violent bloodthirsty
image of “nature” with animals running around eating each other just to survive. And
through sacrifices of Elephant and Snake, it becomes more bearable. Although, it
never quite achieves the idealistic state which is described in the beginning of GLL .

As you know, CS is quite different to all the other stories – it’s very short. There is no
long description of the state of “nature”. But we might quite easily think of the snake
as representing “nature”. As a symbol of “nature” if you like. Which brings us to HR.
Once again it’s all about “nature”. There are fields, there are bees, there are birds
and trees. And there are leopards.

All of them therefore rely on “nature” images. The last two, ( CS and HR) are special
though because they have humans as part of the picture – either part of nature or at

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the very least interacting with nature. In CS
the countryman interacts with the snake
– he picks it up and he gets bitten. In HR the man interacts with the honeyguide and
the bees and because of his gree d he has a brush with an angry leopard.
This is the very essence of environmental ethics – it’s about how humans ought to
think and behave in terms of nature.
11.2 Value – Intrinsic vs Instrumental
To get your head around environmental ethics, you must first g et you head around
the difference between two types of value: intrinsic and instrumental. I know, I know
– you’re really tired of these nasty big words, but we’re on the home straight now so
bear with me.

Intrinsic value is the more difficult of the two t o actually get your head around if you
ask me. But basically intrinsic value is value just because! Something has intrinsic
value in and of itself. It has virtue in and of itself, rather than being granted value by
someone else. Instinctively most of us wi ll immediately think along the lines of saying
all people have intrinsic value simply because they are people. In some religious
traditions, this intrinsic value is linked to the teaching that human beings (and all of
nature) have been created by God. God loves you or created you and if God loves
you or created you, you must be valuable.
Instrumental value is much easier to understand. Something has instrumental value
by virtue of what it can do for you (or someone else). In other words it is useful.
Think of a hammer. A hammer is a great instrument. You would never say that a
hammer has value just because it is. But if you have to hit nails into wood, for some
or other reason, you would say that a hammer has great value. It’s an instrument
and its value eme rges out of this – so it has instrumental value!
Got it?

• Intrinsic value – is value just because.
• Instrumental value – is value because of what it can do for you.

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11.3 So what?
Why is understanding intrinsic and instrumental value important in terms of
environmental ethics? Well there are really two basic schools of thought in
environmental ethics:

The first holds that nature only has instrumental value . In other words it only has
value in so far as it can do stuff for us humans – provide us with air to breath , with
food to eat, water to drink, with shade to sit in, with hammers …. the stuff we need
to survive and indeed thrive as humans.
You will appreciate that this is an extremely human centred view of things – that’s
why it is called the anthropocentric view. Anthropos = human, centric = centred. Now
there is a word you might want to drop at your next party! This has important
implications in terms of how we ought to behave towards nature. If we have an
anthropocentric view, then we only need to worry abou t looking after nature in so
far as we don’t want it to stop doing useful stuff for us. Just like you look after a
hammer because you might want to hammer in more nails in the future. You would
never say that a hammer has some “God given” right to being lo oked after. And
likewise, if you hold an anthropocentric view of nature you would never say that
nature has “God given” rights to protection. It is not worthy of protection just
because it is. It is only entitled to protection because of what it can give u s.

The second school of thought should then be obvious? It’s the opposite of this. It
holds that nature (as a whole or in part) has intrinsic value. In other words, nature
has value simply because it is. Now all of a sudden, we have a very different view o f
nature. All of a sudden, we have a situation where we would think of nature as
having “God given” rights. And all of a sudden, nature becomes entitled to protection
not because of what it can give us, but because it is just the right thing to do because
it has value in and of itself.

Ok – that’s the theory. But what does this actually mean? Well, perhaps we can
examine this using our stories. As mentioned, because we are talking about the

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interaction between people and nature here, CS
and HR hold out th e best prospects
for clues. So we’ll focus on them for now.
In CS the countryman clearly acts as though he believes that that snake has intrinsic
value . He saves the snake simply because it seems like the right thing to do and not
because he thinks that S nake will be useful to him in the future. In fact, Snake turns
out to be worse than useless to him in the end. Snake turns out to be harmful! If the
countryman had been a bit more anthropocentric, he might have seen no particular
value in snake, and would have felt no obligation to save him. And he probably
wouldn’t have gotten bitten!

HR is a bit more tricky because it seems like the man is not doing too much thinking
at all in this story. He’s just being greedy. But let’s for a minute become a little bit
more realistic about this situation, and imagine that Honeyguide is not nearly as
smart as she is made out to be. In fact let’s assume (and it is not an unreasonable
assumption) that she is actually not really intelligent enough to hold a grudge or
enginee r a meeting between the man and the irritable leopard. Then what would be
the correct course of action for the man? Should he eat all the honey himself, or
should he share some? Well, it would depend on:

• whether he felt that the bird had intrinsic value a nd therefore “God given”
rights (to honey in this case), or

• whether he felt that the bird only had instrumental value and therefore no
special rights to fair treatment.

11.4 Nature – and our place in it
At the end of the last section, I asked you to think abo ut whether you believe nature
has intrinsic value (i.e. you are non -anthropocentric) or whether you think its value is
purely instrumental (i.e. you are anthropocentric). Keep that thought in your mind.
You are going to need it later.

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From my side though, I think I’m anthropocentric in my outlook. Or at the very least,
I believe that the value of people is so far greater than the value of anything else
that, in general, I would think about nature in a very human centred or
anthropocentric way. In an instrum ental way.

Why am I telling you this? Well for starters, I’m not telling you this to try and get you
to change your mind if you had originally felt that nature has significant intrinsic
value. In all likelihood I’ll have changed my own mind in a couple of months’ time

The reason I’m telling you this because anthropocentric thinking like mine can really
get us into trouble. BIG trouble! In fact many would argue that it has already gotten
us into big trouble and that is why we have to think about env ironmental ethics at

And the root cause of this trouble in my opinion is that while we are busy focusing on
people, we can easily lose sight of our actual place in nature . To be precise, we start
to believe that there is a) nature and there is b) hum anity and that these are
separate entities. Once we start thinking like this, we start to believe that a certain
amount of independence might be possible. That one might be able to exist without
the other. And of course, because we tend to think that we ar e the smart ones here
– the rational, thinking ones – we are inevitably inclined think that it is humans that
can exist without nature.

When it comes to nature’s independence from
us we tend to be a bit less certain. In fact the
general view seems to be that nature is
dependent on us for protection isn’t it? Think
about it – you have environmental protection
agencies, and nature conservation agencies.
Fragile Earth needing protection images. It’s
about humans protecting nature right? Like in the picture?

WRONG?! Very wrong.

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Here’s how I see it. At the end of the day humans are animals. Sure we are smart.
Well maybe smart is too strong a word –
we can think. Which makes us very
successful as a species. But for all our smartness, we really have not yet fig ured out
how to live on another planet. The reality is that we are absolutely dependent on this
planet and the “nature” which it provides.

So is “nature” dependent on humans? Well let’s be frank, there was “nature” long
before humans fell out of trees! Or arrived depending on your view of the origins of
people. Scientists have estimated that the first signs of humans running around on
the Earth date back about 200,000 years. In contrast, there appears to have been life
on Earth since around 3,800,000,000 y ears ago. The dinosaurs had come and gone by
65,000,000 year ago – that’s 6 4,8 00,000 years before the first people appeared. In
short, historically, nature has not been dependent on humans.
But, what about the future? Would there still be life on Earth if somehow humans
were to vanish tomorrow? Personally I can’t see any reason to believe that life and
nature would not persist even if we were removed. It just doesn’t make sense.

Oh dear! So it seems that while we are dependent on nature, realistically nature is
not really dependent on us? If you like, while nature might not have too much
intrinsic value, its instrumental value from a human point of view is immeasurably
big. Without nature we die. And really we do need to wonder about the value of
intrinsic v alue! Take a person and drop him in the middle of a jungle and he is going
to end up as some other animal’s lunch, intrinsic value or not.
Bottom line, if you are anthropocentric in your outlook, just make sure that you
don’t lose sight of your place in na ture. Also bear in mind that an anthropocentric
viewpoint lacks a spiritual sense of awe, wonder and gratitude towards the natural
11.5 What You Should Know Now
Well this was a nice short section wasn't it? Basically there are four concepts that we
have really covered:

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• Intrinsic value – value just because
• Instrumental value – value because of what something can do
• Anthropocentric view of nature – the human centred view
• Non -anthropocentric view of nature – it's obvious what this is right?

And then we spent a bit of time reflecting on our place and relationship with nature.

That's it!
11.6 Assignment 06: "Save the rhino!"
Once again, it’s time for you to log into myUnisa so that you can read the instructions
in the online Learning Units and do assignment 6 .

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12.1 Introduction
Welcome to the first case study in this module. In this case (as with all other cases)
you are presented with something. In this case it's a problem. In fact some of us
think that this particular problem may be ” The problem” of our species in our times:
the sustainability problem.

WARNING – Some of what we present here will shock you.
What we hope, is that it shocks you into beginning a journey of thinking about real

So, what is this sustainability problem then? Well, check out Figure 1 below:

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Figure 1: The sustainability problem (2008 data)

Does this say anything to you? Does it move you? Guess it’s not exactly horrifying
yet. In fact, as graphs go, it’s pretty beautiful really –
don’t you think? It’s got

• Bubbles;
• But not just any bubbles – different size and different colour bubbles;
• It also has lines (dotted and also different colours);
• And look at the beautiful sliding “J” shape that the bubbles make!
Ok, ok. We get a bit carried away whenever we present this graph. The important
thing is that this is not ju st a pretty face … pretty graph. It actually tells a story too.
So what does it tell us? Well read on…..
12.2 The Human Development Index
Let’s start out by clearing everything off the graph which we showed you in Figure 1
above. In other words, let’s deconstru ct it.

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Figure 2: Blank space – A bit like your lecturers brain on many an occasion!
And then we can build it up again from the ground. The first thing that we do is add
the x- axis (the horizontal one). On this axis is a variable called “The Human
Development Index”:

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Figure 3: Step 1
– add The Human Development Index
And, surprise, surprise, The Human Development Index (HDI for short) is a measure
of human development! It’s a number which is published by the Unit ed Nations
Development Programme (the UNDP), and you can read up much more about it at
the following site: http://hdr.undp.org/en/statistics/hdi/ (site last checked: 1
December 2011).

But in a nutshell, according to the HDI, the level of development of a g roup of people
can be evaluated by measuring three things:
• The health of that group of people;
• The level of education of that group of people;
• The wealth (specifically the financial wealth) of that group of people.

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So what the UNDP does is chuck a bunch
of measures for these three things into a
calculator which miraculously comes up with a number between 0 and 1 – as you can
see in Figure 3. A score of 0 is absolutely undeveloped. In fact it is probably not
possible to get 0. Even a group of monkeys has a life expectancy and therefore some
measure of health!
At the other end, 1 is absolutely developed. But again, scoring a 1 is probably
technically impossible.

There is an important threshold in the HDI … 0.8:
• Any group with an HDI greater than 0.8 is considered developed;
• Any group with an HDI less than 0.8 is considered developing.
This is indicated by the vertical line in Figure 3. Anything to the right of this line is
developed while anything to the left is developing.

That’s the HDI. What’s next ?
12.3 The Ecological Footprint
Well, the next step in reconstructing Figure 1 is to add the y -axis (the vertical one):

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Figure 4: Step 2 – add the Ecological Footprint
This is a variable called the Ecological Footprint. Not quite as easy to figure out what
this is all about as it was to figure out what the HDI was about right? Although the
word “ecological” does pr obably make you think “environment” perhaps? And
indeed this is in fact a measure of environmental sustainability. But how does it

Well, if you look carefully, the units in which Ecological Footprints are measured is
hectares (ha) per capita. Now a h ectare is a measure of area – specifically it is 100m x
100m or 10,000 m
2. That’s a little less than the area of two football fields. And
basically the Ecological Footprint is a measure of the area of planet Earth that is
needed to support a person (that’s why it’s “per capita” or per person). If you think
about yourself, it’s the area of the Earth that will support your personal lifestyle.
As with the HDI you can go read up a bit more about the Ecological Footprint at the
following site: http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/ (site last
checked: 1 December 2011).

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Now this area isn’t as simple as the size of your backyard. Duh! In addition to the size
of your back yard, you have to think about the area that it would take to:

• grow the vegetables that you eat;
• graze the animals you eat;
• produce any seafood that you eat;
• grow the trees that provide the paper that you use;
• and the big one – produce the energy that you use.
Add all of this up and you get your Footprint. So if you eat a lot of foo d, use a lot of
paper, drive a huge car, fly overseas 4 times a year, and leave your lights on all the
time, your footprint will be high. If you eat less food, ride a bicycle to work, have
never been in a plane and turn off your lights, your footprint will be lower.

But how does this relate to environmental sustainability?
Well, as with the HDI, there is a threshold on the y -axis too – the yellow dotted line.
And it works like this: If you take the area of the entire planet and divide it by the
number of p eople on the planet (the population) you get how much area each
person should get if everyone got equal shares. And this number was about 1.8 ha.
• So, if your footprint is greater than 1.8 ha you are using more than your
share – i.e. you are unsustainable ;
• If your footprint is less than 1.8 ha you are living sustainably .

15 Remember what Kant said – a thing is only ok if you can imagine generalizing it to
all people, and if all people are using more than their fair share we would run out of
planet Earth right!

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12.4 The Quadrants
Now that we have the axes and thresholds, we notice that the graph is logically
divided into four quadrants (Figure 5):

Figure 5: Step 3 – Defining the quadrants
To really understand these quadrants it is useful at this point to introduce a very
popular definition of the conc ept of sustainable development attributed to a famous
report known as the Brundtland report:

"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of
the present without compromising the ability of future generations
to meet their own needs."

16 United Nati ons. 1987. Report of the World Commission on Environment and
Development: Our Common Future. Annex to document A/42/427, Development
and International Co -operation: Environment

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So keeping this in your mind, and starting in the bottom left
corner we have a
situation where the group in question has:

• an HDI of less than 0.8 (i.e. it is developing)
• and an Ecological Footprint of less than 1.8 ha (i.e. it is sustainable )
Thinking of this in terms of the Brundtland definition of sustainable development,
the group is not really meeting the present needs of the people, but on the plus side,
it is not compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs . Not
enti rely good, and not entirely bad.

If we then move clockwise to the quadrant in the top left corner we have the
situation where the group in question has:

• an HDI of less than 0.8 (i.e. it is developing)
• and an Ecological Footprint of greater t han 1.8 ha (i.e. it is unsustainable)
Thinking of this in terms of the Brundtland definition of sustainable development,
this group is not really meeting the present needs of the people, AND, it is
compromising the ability of future generations to meet th eir needs. This is all bad.

Moving right along to the top right corner then, we have the situation where the
group in question has:

• an HDI of greater than 0.8 (i.e. it is developed)
• but it has an Ecological Footprint of greater than 1.8 ha (i.e. it is
unsustainable )

In terms of the Brundtland definition of sustainable development, the group is now
meeting the present needs of the people, but on the downside, it is compromising

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the ability of future generations to meet their needs
. As with Quadrant I this is not
entirely good, and not entirely bad.

Finally we come to Quadrant IV in the bottom right. Here we have the situation
where the group in question has:

• an HDI of greater than 0.8 (i.e. it is developed)
• and it has an Ecological Footprint of less than 1.8 ha (i.e. it is sustainable )
In terms of the Brundtland definition of sustainable development, the group is now
meeting the present needs of the people, AND it is not compromising the ability of
future generations to meet th eir needs. This is all good. This is where we want to
12.5 The Problem
We still don’t know what the problem is though. But at least we are now in the home
straight – we know what the axes on Figure 1 mean. So let’s put all the bubbles back
and do the las t explanations:

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Figure 6:
Step 3 – put the bubbles back
Each bubble on the graph represents a country. You can see this because we have
labeled one or two. The size of the bubble is proportional to the population of the
country. The bigger the bubble, the bigger the population. To be precise, from
biggest to smallest, the population categories are as follows:

• Greater than 1 billion (there are only 2 – China and India)
• 100 million to 1 billion
• 20 million to 100 million
• 10 million to 20 million
• 5 million to 10 million
• Less than 5 million

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colour of the bubble tells you the region in which the country is found (you can
see the detail in the key in Figure 6).

Right. Now, finally, we get to the heart of the issue – the problem. There are 2 things
on Figure 6 that you should be able to spot which we have not yet discussed:
• The shape of the graph
• The red hor izontal line at an Ecological Footprint of 2.6 ha
These two capture the problem which is as follows: If you calculate the average
Ecological Footprint for all people on Earth the number you get is 2.6 ha. And you will
immediately appreciate that this is gr eater than 1.8 ha. In fact it translates into
roughly 1 ½ Earths. In other words we are consuming more than we have, or if you
like, at a global level we are unsustainable .

Oh Oh!
And if that is not enough, the shape of the graph tells us that in general , as we
develop – as countries move from being developing to being developed – we
become exponentially less sustainable.
Oh Oh!
But surely this can’t be right? If there is only 1.8 Ha per person how can we be using
2.6 Ha? Good question. The answer is thi s. A long, long time ago (between 250 – 350
million years ago to be precise) big chunks of the planet was covered with forests.
Then something happened. We’re not sure exactly what but rumour has it that a
large meteorite (or meteorites) might have hit the Earth. Anyway, whatever it was, it
caused these forests to die. These dead forests gradually got covered with soil and
water and over the course of 250 – 350 million years – hey presto – they became
fossil fuels. Coal, oil and gas! They are the saved up e nergy which we are using today.
Because of this, most of us don’t need to have a little forest to grow trees for
firewood to supply our daily energy.

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So, in essence, we are living on savings and this is why our footprint can get bigger
than 1.8 ha. But th
is is not sustainable. At some point we will use up 250 – 350
million years of savings. And besides which burning these fossil fuels is causing
another little sustainability problem which you might have heard about – climate
“So what?” you might say. Well, let’s go a step further and begin to speculate on the
realm of possible solutions that we might consider. It’s in examining these that things
get shocking. Very shocking indeed! Be warned this is where things could/should get
But le t’s be brave and see what all the fuss is really about. In essence there are two
possible solutions :
12.6 Solution 1 – Reduce per capita footprint
The first obvious solution is to reduce the per capita footprint – down to 1.8 ha to be
precise. In other words w e do something – anything – to bring the red horizontal line
on the graph down to the yellow horizontal line. And there are two broad ways in
which we can do this:
12.6.1 Technology – Produce efficiently
Let’s start with the solution that seems to be most favoured – improved technology.
And in particular we are looking at improved production technology. The basic idea
here is that we’re supposed to be a pretty smart species. For crying in a bucket, we
have put people onto the moon! So surely we can figure out smar t ways to produce

17 For more information on this go and look at:
http://www.unep.org/climatechange/, http://www.newscientist.com/topic/climate-

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the stuff that we consume in a smaller Footprint area? Obviously this is the most
favoured solution because there is nothing particularly shocking or alarming about it.

There are however a couple of problems which we need to think about
before we
conclude that some smart engineer is going to solve this problem for us:

Most people believe that we really are innovative enough. But let me pose this
challenge to you: when was the last time we really had a revo lutionary innovation in
transport technology? Probably in the first 40 years of the 1900’s when we took to
the skies. Since then not a lot has really changed if you think about it. Sure our cars
have airbags these days. But they are still generally powered by internal combustion
engines. And if you think hybrid cars are The Answer, you might want to check out
the fuel consumption of the Lexus hybrid SUV compared to other comparably sized
SUV’s. It’s actually less efficient than many?!

So what if we are not really as smart as we think?
The next problem is kind of related to the first. Depending on how smart we actually
turn out to be, developing the technology necessary to reduce our per capita
footprint is going to take more or less tim e.

The thing is though, we are already at 1.5 times our planet’s entire capacity. The
other “little” thing is, that the human population is growing every day. In 2008 – the
year the data in the figures above comes from – the world population was estimated
at about 6.7 billion people. On the 27
th October 2011, it apparently reached 7 billion.

What does this mean in terms of the graph? Well, it means that today the available
Ecological Footprint is actually not 1.8 ha anymore, but 1.72 ha ! The horizontal
y ellow line is moving down on the graph – or if you like, the clock is ticking. Time is
an issue.

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Ok, so we might (or we might not) be smart enough to reduce our per capita
Footprint. And we might (or we might not) have the time to red uce our per capita
Footprint. But assuming that we have the brains and the time, the next thing we
really need to ask is whether we really want to. This might seem like a pretty stupid
question. But if you really think about it, you have to wonder.

This i ssue is really most apparent when we consider technologies which could help us
become more sustainable and which actually already exist – like solar energy for
instance. We know how to capture solar energy and have done for many years now.
And yet, in Sout h Africa at least, our major forward energy supply strategy as a
country is largely based on coal. The same can be said for many other parts of the

So we have some technology – but we don’t seem to have the will to really
implement it. Incidentally , when things don’t make logical sense, you really do need
to ask who stands to benefit from behaving irrationally? It must be someone
powerful. So who does own the coal mines?

Last, but definitely not least, we n eed to think about what will actually happen if
production gets more efficient. Well, for better or worse, we live in a capitalist
society where consumption is king. So inevitably when someone develops a
technology which makes production of some commodity more efficient, this “saving”
usually gets split into 2 (at least so the theory goes):

• A little bit will get passed back to the consumer – the commodity becomes a
bit cheaper. In effect this makes the owner of the new technology more
competitive in the ma rketplace.

• And the bulk of the other savings will go back to shareholders (the business
of business being profit for the owners and all that sort of stuff).

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The bottom line is that consumers and shareholders are going to have a bit more
cash. And what, i
n a consumption society, do we do when we have spare cash? We
buy stuff!!

The point is, this production efficiency stuff can only work if we actually bank the
savings. It is not going to work if we just use the saving to buy a whole lot of other
rubbish w hich will clog up our cupboards or garages. This unfortunately is not my
original idea. If you are interested in reading more on this, why don’t you check out
Jevon’s Paradox

So, there are problems with the preferred solution to the sustainability problem
outlined above. Given this we must then begin to consider the alternative, and as you
will see, less favourable solutions.
12.6.2 Consume less – WARNING: Dire economic consequences
We can reduce our per capita Footprint in another way. We can consume less. Eat
le ss food, drive a smaller car (or better still ride a bicycle), fly overseas less frequently
etc etc.

Sounds ok right? Well it’s not ok at all. Consumption is what fuels economic growth.
So if you reduce consumption dramatically, you risk throwing the econ omy into a
recession. Why do you think the Chinese are so willing to lend American’s money?
Well, on a global scale there are very few countries who have mastered the art of
consumption the way the American’s have. If you don’t believe me on this just look
at Figure 1! Sure, the United Arab Emirates has a slightly higher per capita Footprint.
But there are less than 5 million people there. In America there are over 300 million.
The point is if the Americans stop consuming, Chinese economic growth is at risk .
Simple. (Although I’m not sure why the Chinese don’t just lend the money to the 1.4
billion Chinese people so that they can consume more?)
The point is that reducing consumption is not something which we seem likely to
take very easily. But we might want to ask ourselves how big the problem would be?
Well we can get a rough idea by looking at Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Most of
you will have heard about this, but for those of you who need a reminder, GDP is

2016/0 1 (Eccles)
basically one measure of economic activity. It
‘s important because two successive
quarters of GDP shrinkage marks a recession in the minds of many. And a big part of
the numbers that make up GDP is consumption. So let’s use this as a proxy for

Figure7 : World GDP (nominal) over time – blue line. And the approximate effect of
adequate consumption reduction – red line.
Figure 7 then shows the wo rld GDP between 1980 and 2015 (2009 to 2015 are

So now we can ask, what is it we want to achieve? Well we want to reduce our
average Ecological Footprint to about 2/3 of the present Footprint (1.8/2.6 to be
precise). So it stands to reason tha t we would need to reduce our consumption (as
proxied by GDP) to about 2/3 the present consumption. The effect of this is shown in
the red line on Figure 7.
This would take world GDP back to about the 2003 level. Doesn’t sound so bad?

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BUT check out the s ize of this relative to the actually recession that happened during
the global financial crisis which started in 2008. It’s huge! And remember, in South
Africa, we lost a million jobs during the 2008 financial crisis.
So, let’s face it, reducing consumptio n is no easy solution. Of course if you think this
is alarming, now we really get crazy.
12.7 Solution 2 – Increase the available footprint
The second solution suggested by the graph is to increase the available footprint – up
to at least 2.6 ha to be precise. In other words we do something – anything – to bring
the yellow horizontal line on the graph up to the red horizontal line. And once again,
there are two broad ways in which we can do this:
12.7.1 Find another planet!
Look, we could pretend to think about this,
but 50 odd years of space exploration has
not really yielded anything to give us much
hope that this is possible!

So let's just move right along……
12.7.2 Reduce Capita WARNING: Genocidal thoughts
There is no comfortable way to say this. The second possible way to bring the
available footprint up to the current consumption is reducing the number of people
on planet Earth – i.e. genocide. In other words we carry on consuming at present (or
even higher) Footprint levels, but we are able to do so sustainably beca use we are
taking the area of the Earth and dividing it up between fewer people.

Ok. Now sane people would never really advocate such a solution. However, we're
going to explore it in a bit more detail anyway. The reason for this is that by looking
at wha t would actually be required, we perhaps really begin to appreciate the scale
of the problem which we are facing.

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So, how many people would we need to wipe out in order to make our consumption
sustainable? Well, the answer to this would depend on the leve
l of consumption that
we want to sustain. So if we wanted to sustain a level of consumption equivalent to
the average consumption in the United Arab Emirates (the least sustainable country
on Figure 1) we would need to wipe out more people than if we wanted to sustain
consumption equivalent to the average Chinese consumption. But what are the
actual numbers? Well check out Figure 8:

F igure 8: Wipeout needed to sustain various consumption levels.
What does this tell us? Well, to make the average consumption of the
least sustainable group of people on planet Earth (i.e. citizens of the
UAE) sustainable, we would have to wipe out 5.5 BILLION people!
To make the average consumption of the U.S. sustainable, we would
have to wipe out about 5.3 billion. To make the average consumption
of the most sustainable major Western European country (happens to
be Germany) sustainable we would need to wipe out 3.5 billion

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people. For South African average consumption to be made
sustainable, we would need to wipe out more than 2 billion people.
And so on, and so on.

Why have I put the last five bars on the graph? Well, those of you
who know your history will know that these five “events” are the
biggest genocide events which we know about:

• Mao Tse Tungs Cultural Revolution – 70 – 100 million?
• Nazi Germany – 6+ million?
• Stalin’s Russia – 6+ million?
• Cambodia – 2 million?
• Rwanda – 1 million?
The import ant thing here is that besides Mao's efforts, you can’t even see any of
these on the scale of this graph!!!

This, ladies and gentlemen, is crazy stuff. Even with the declining population in much
of Western Europe and efforts such as China's one child polic y, the human
population continues to rise alarmingly. And remember we are already consuming
the productive capacity of 1.5 planets!
This is the problem!
12.8 Assignment 07: Sustainability?
There is no conclusion to this section. I'm not going to tell you that I know the
solution. Or even that I'm hopeful that anyone knows the solution. What I can tell
you is that I believe we are going to have to undergo a social transformation on the
kind of scale that our predecessors underwent when our societies moved from

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nter gatherer societies to agricultural ones, or when they moved from agricultural
societies to industrial ones. Major changes!
Anyway, assignment 07 is your chance to think about this stuff. So please log into
myUnisa for the instructions in the online L earning Units and to submit your
Case study 2 is just about as opposite to the last case as it is possible to be. No pages
and pages of reading here?! Here we jump straight into the assignment.

13.1 Assignment 08: “Gr eed is Good”
Once again, it’s time for you to log into myUnisa so that you can read the instructions
in the online Learning Units and do assignment 8.

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Phew! Almost done. Just one last activity left – assembling a portfolio. But before we
get down to the nitty gritty, I’m curious. In the introduction to this module 15 weeks
ago, we promised you a crazy module. In fact we warned you that:

“If by the end of this module you have not:
• wond ered whether you are registered for the wrong degree;
• wondered whether your lecturers have lost their marbles;
• wondered whether you have lost your marbles;
• had to go for a walk to clear your mind;
• wondered what the point of all this stuff is; or
• wonde red what the point of everything is;
well then you need to check that you have a pulse!”

So, did you? …… Did you:

• wonder whether you were registered for the wrong degree?;
• wonder whether your lecturers had lost their marbles?;
• wonder whether you h ad lost your marbles?;
• have to go for a walk to clear your mind?;

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• wonder what the point of all this stuff was?; or
• wonder what the point of everything was?

Hope so!
Ok let’s get on with the final activity.
14.1 Aim of the Portfolio
The aim of this portfolio is for you to reflect, in a reasonably organized fashion, on
the things that you have thought about throughout this crazy module.

Three things to remember
• This is the single biggest “assignment” that you will be doing in this module.
• In a sense it re places the typical examination which you would usually do in

• But it probably doesn’t count as much as a typical exam – i.e. you will not be
able to p ass this module just by waxing the exam! However, you must get
40% for this or you will not pass.

14.2 Final portfolio: Back at the crossroads
Time for you to log into myUnisa, for the very last time in this module, so that you
can read the instructions in the online Learning Units and do assignment 8.


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