What is in My Best Interest? Considering the constructs of moral theory to critique the act of cooperation among individuals

What is in My Best Interest? Considering the constructs of moral theory to critique the act of cooperation among individuals

Because of the limits of actions or decisions of individuals, it is important to consider the constructs of moral theory to evaluate cases when cooperation becomes an option. In the event of the prisoner’s dilemma, two prisoners have to make a difficult choice. An individual is torn between saving his life by cooperating with the authorities or considering the wellbeing of a cohort. Morality is the general idea of what is right or wrong and living in the understanding of distinction that exists between the right and the wrong (Driver, 2013). The utilitarianism concept of moral theory focuses on the consequences of an act. According to utilitarianism, the best decision or action to consider is one that will lead to a better existence. Thus, it focuses on achieving a good end. Utilitarianism answers the question: are actions justifiable?

The egoism concept of moral theory considers self-interest as the basis for morality (Martinich, 2012). According to the egoistic stand, individuals should act or make decisions at least in their interest.  On the other end, social contract theory of ethics talks of why people should be ethical. Social contract theory explains that in an interactive environment, individuals enter into binding social contracts that then coerce them to act ethically (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy). Social contract theory reveals important aspects of human nature and life. Firstly, all people have needs. In the case of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, there is a need to be free of all convictions, a need for better life. The police are aware of this fact thus use it to play the cohorts against each other. Also, principally, individuals have equal powers. Each prisoner has an equal chance to make a decision that will either impact on his or her life or that of his or mate. And again, individuals have a limited lack of selfishness (Martinich, 2012). In the case under study, the cohorts’ indecision is influenced by their desire to be free and the choices that the other individual will make.

However, after insightful analysis of these three concepts of moral theory, I deduce that utilitarianism is consistent with the prisoners cooperating amongst themselves and rejecting self-interest as the best option. Utilitarianism concentrates on the justification of actions. How consequential is an individual decision? If neither of the prisoners will cooperate with the police, the authority will lack evidence to convict them of the more severe crime that they were thought to have committed. Moreover, the inmates will serve similar sentences and then go about their businesses. The relationship between these two individuals will be right. They are all going to serve their sentences and learn from their mistakes, and this is good for the society.

I have learned from experience that cooperating is not in my best interest. Cooperation infringes on the wellbeing of other people. I have seen people used as informants against their friends. On discovering the betrayal, the subjects turned against them leading to much tension in the society. I cannot imagine living community that is all chaos because of making a wrong choice. Conversely, selfish people seem to prosper because they lack regard for other people. Self-centered individuals require responsibility. We should be responsible for ourselves together with other people. Either, morality comes with a reason. According to Hobbes’ claim, there are many impressions of senses that serve as a good means to a good end (Martinich, 2012). Reason helps us to reject self-interest as the best option but consider cooperating with others to meet a better end. We should be reasonable when making our decision.



Driver, J. (2013). Ethics: The Fundamentals. Wiley-Blackwell.

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Social Contract Theory. Retrieved 18 January 2017, from ISSN 2161-0002, http://www.iep.utm.edu/soc-cont/#SH2a

Martinich, A. (2012). Egoism, Reason, and the Social Contract *. Hobbes Studies, 25(2), 209-222. http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/18750257-02502006