David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Canadian Journal of Philosophy 22 (2):211-221 (1992)
It is widely thought among philosophers that Joseph Butler's criticism of psychological egoism in his Sermons is, in the words of A.E. Duncan-Jones, 'the classic refutation of it.' Indeed, no less a philosopher than David Hume restated and put forth Butler's central argument against hedonistic egoism - without due credit - as part of his own critique. Yet recent commentators have begun to question Butler's arguments, albeit usually with sympathy and in the hope of saving what they take to be his insights. I propose to focus on Butler's main objection to hedonistic psychological egoism, to show how and why it fails to refute plausible forms of the thesis, and briefly to indicate why philosophical attempts to disprove this theory of motivation are misguided.
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