It’s late in the third period of a well contested hockey game. The score is tied and two forward break into the offensive zone with only one defender between them and the goal, a classic two-on-one. The player with the puck does not have a clear shot, yet he does have a good chance to score. Believe it or not, that forward with the puck faces an ethical dilemma. Is it selfishness to shoot the puck and try to score himself and altruistic to pass it to his teammate who has a better chance to score? Or would it actually be a sacrifice to shoot the puck himself in pursuit of his own glory?
The ethical dilemma is as old as humankind has been living in groups: Altruism v Selfishness. Altruism holds that one must sacrifice their self for the sake of another (yes, a highly simplified definition.) In the current situation, it would seem that means the puck carrier should pass the puck, sacrificing his chance to score for someone else’s chance. However, the puck carrier would actually be acting selfishly when passing to the open teammate. It’s really based on values. If the puck carrier values winning over his own scoring chances, then he selfishly wants to pass it to the other forward with a better chance to score. If giving his teammate the scoring glory is necessary to help his team win, with winning being the higher value, then he is acting selfishly, i.e., rationally selfish. It would only be a sacrifice, i.e., altruistic, if he didn’t value winning and valued his own, personal scoring statistics above those of the goals of the team. As long as it’s in the context of a team, then anything that would hurt the team’s chances to win would be an act of altruism.
Yet, even altruism, though morally suspect, is based values. Worse than that is the ethics of Pragmatism. The philosophy wear the ends justifies the means and the subject of the next blog post. Pragmatism is evil to its core and those who employ it should be aware of the moral minefield that comes with Pragmatism.