We’ve all had to make some serious ethical choices in our lives so I wanted to draw from a recent life experience that is fairly light in terms of how ethically important it was. A few weeks ago, I went out of town to meet up with friend of mine for lunch who I had not seen in a long time, he recommended a great place to eat. Later he casually mentioned how a few members of his office would go out to lunch once a week, and after the group seemed unanimous on selecting a place to eat, he would say something to the effect of: “I really don’t want to eat there, but I’m willing to go because everyone else seems so keen on it, as long as I get to pick the next lunch location.’ His co-workers found this to be a fair Unitarian compromise that allows everyone to experience the most good. However, he would use this technique only when they were selecting a place he already wanted to eat at, giving him an Egoist two for one value for picking lunch spots.
I laughed because it seemed clever and relatively harmless. After all, getting extra sway on where co-workers get to meet up for lunch does not inflict harm on them, and they were free to decline if it did not meet their dietary needs or tastes. My girlfriend and I have different tastes which has allowed both of us to open each other up to new foods and experiences, but can sometimes we go back and forth on picking a place to eat when we choose to eat out. I strongly considered stealing my friend’s technique of being able to double down on restaurant choice selection. While I love my girlfriend and value trust in relationships, this is a super low stakes ethical choice with low moral ramifications: picking where we get to eat lunch twice. After careful consideration, I chose against it. The largest reason being that I would not appreciate it being done to me. While I was not thinking of it in these terms at the time, I goes against Kant’s categorical imperative: the moral law did not hold true in all circumstances. It was also a maxim that could not be applied with universal acceptability. Finally, it was held individuals as an end, and not a means.