Egoism and altruism in ethics: Dispensing with spurious generality [Book Review]

Journal of Value Inquiry 29 (1):31-44 (1995)
Abstract
Is human behavior exclusively motivated by self-interest? Common sense indicates that we should flatly deny this, or so it seems to me. Yet the doctrine of universal self-interest, psychological egoism for short, has gained the support of many researchers in science. Common sense also seems to allow the rejection of ethical egoism, the doctrine that human behavior should be motivated exclusively by self-interest. It appears to be at variance with widely endorsed moralities. Yet it is a perennial subject of research in ethics. What stance should we take in the face of these discrepancies? Two views suggest themselves. Commonsensical views of egoism and altruism are flawed or research on the subject in science and ethics is misguided. Considering ethics I argue in this article that research is misguided to the extent that it is conducted at inappropriately high levels of generality. I argue that both ethical egoism and psychological egoism are mistaken.
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