Roughly, psychological egoism is the thesis that all of a person's intentional actions are ultimately self-interested in some sense; psychological altruism is the thesis that some of a person's intentional actions are not ultimately self-interested, since some are ultimately other-regarding in some sense. C. Daniel Batson and other social psychologists have argued that experiments provide support for a theory called the "empathy-altruism hypothesis" that entails the falsity of psychological egoism. However, several critics claim that there are egoistic explanations (...) of the data that are still not ruled out. One of the most potent criticisms of Batson comes from Elliott Sober and David Sloan Wilson. I argue for two main theses in this paper: (1) we can improve on Sober and Wilson’s conception of psychological egoism and altruism, and (2) this improvement shows that one of the strongest of Sober and Wilson's purportedly egoistic explanations is not tenable. A defense of these two theses goes some way toward defending Batson‘s claim that the evidence from social psychology provides sufficient reason to reject psychological egoism. (shrink)
In philosophy, egoism is the theory that one’s self is, or should be, the motivation and the goal of one’s own action. Egoism has two variants, descriptive or normative. The descriptive (or positive) variant conceives egoism as a factual description of human affairs. That is, people are motivated by their own interests and desires, and they cannot be described otherwise. The normative variant proposes that people should be so motivated, regardless of what presently motivates their behavior. Altruism (...) is the opposite of egoism. The term “egoism” derives from “ego,” the Latin term for the English word “I”. “Egoism” should be distinguished from “egotism,” which means a psychological overvaluation of one’s own importance, or of one’s own activities. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to argue for psychological egoism, i.e., the view that the ultimate motivation for all human action is the agent’s self-interest. Two principal opponents to psychological egoism are considered. These two views are shown to make human action inexplicable. Since the reason for putting forward these views is to explain human action, these views fail. If psychological egoism is the best explanation of human action, then humans will not differ as regards their (...) motivations for their actions. However, humans will differ as regards their knowledge of what is in fact in their self-interest. (shrink)
Psychological egoism says that a purposive action is self-interested in a certain sense. The trick is to say in what sense. On the one hand, the psychological egoist wants to avoid a thesis that can be falsified by trivial examples. On the other hand, what is wanted is a thesis that lacks vacuity. The paper’s purpose is to arrive at such a thesis and show that it is a reasonable guess with empirical content.
The Beloved Self is about the holy grail of moral philosophy, an argument against egoism that proves that we all have reasons to be moral. Part One introduces three different versions of egoism. Part Two looks at attempts to prove that egoism is false, and shows that even the more modest arguments that do not try to answer the egoist in her own terms seem to fail. But in part Three, Hills defends morality and develops a new (...) problem for egoism, an epistemological problem. She shows that it is not epistemically rational to believe the most plausible versions of egoism. The first part of the book will be most relevant to those interested in moral theory, as it contains detailed discussions of recent interpretations of virtue ethics and especially of Kant's moral theory. The second and third part of the book turn to epistemology, particularly moral epistemology, and include an account of the relationship between knowledge and action, a new theory of moral understanding, and a discussion of the epistemically rational response to various kinds of disagreement. Hills also defends a new account of virtue and of morally worthy action. (shrink)
Glasgow's conception of the doctrine of ethical egoism - that everyone ought to promote his own interest - is mistaken. Ethical egoism rightly understood holds no such doctrine or normative principle, and regards the promotion of one's own interest neither a "duty" nor an "ought." Everyone does in fact promote his own interests.
On ethical egoism, the fact that I would suffer is no reason by itself for you not to torture me. This may seem implausible—monstrous, even—but what evidence can we offer against it? Here I examine several arguments which receive some expression in Thomas Nagel’s work. Each tries to show that a normative reason to end my pain is a reason for all agents. The arguments in Section 1 emphasize reasons that don’t entail agents and thus purportedly apply to all (...) agents. In Section 2, I examine the Argument from Dissociation, according to which my pain seems bad upon reflection, even without reflecting on its relation to me. Section 3 examines the Argument from Inability, which claims that my occurrent pains would seem bad to me, even if I couldn’t think about their relation to me. Finally, I discuss the Argument from Introspection, according to which I seem, introspectively, to have a reason to end my pain, a reason that has nothing to do with the pain’s being mine. All but one of these arguments fail utterly. The Argument from Introspection provides some grounds for rejecting egoism. (shrink)
Christine Korsgaard has argued recently that the thesis that reasons are "essentially public" undermines the distinction between agent-neutral and agent-relative reasons, thus refuting egoism by rejecting its commitment to the universal availability of agent-relative reasons. I conclude that Korsgaard's invocation of the essential publicity of reasons trades on ambiguities concerning the "sharing" of reasons and so does not refute egoism and does not ground moral normativity. Her account of the publicity of reasons shows that solipsism is incoherent, but (...) the egoist need not be a solipsist, nor is she an incompetent user of moral language or the language of reasons. (shrink)
Ayn Rand is well known for advocating egoism, but the substance of that instruction is rarely understood. Far from representing the rejection of morality, selfishness, in Rand's view, actually demands the practice of a systematic code of ethics. This book explains the fundamental virtues that Rand considers vital for a person to achieve their objective well-being: rationality, honesty, independence, justice, integrity, productiveness, and pride. Tracing Rand's account of the value and harmony of human beings' rational interests, Smith examines what (...) each of these virtues consists of, why it is a virtue, and what it demands of people in practice. Along the way she addresses the status of several conventional virtues within Rand's theory, considering traits such as kindness, charity, generosity, temperance, courage, forgiveness, and humility. Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics thus offers an in-depth exploration of several specific virtues and an illuminating integration of these with the broader theory of egoism. (shrink)
This paper seeks to analyze and to motivate a trend toward virtue ethics and away from deontology in the business ethics account of organizational loyalty. Prevailing authors appeal to “transcendent” values (deontology), skepticism (there is no loyalty), or Aristotelianism (loyalty is seeking mutual self-interest). I argue that the “Aristotelian” view clears up the “egoist” difficulty with loyalty. Briefly, critics feel we must “transcend,” “replace,” “overcome” and most especially sacrifice self-interest on the altar of ethics and loyalty. I argue that few (...) things can be more ethical than loyalty to shared values. When a company and I both pursue the same value X, there becomes no difference between my seeking my best interest and my seeking the best interest of the company (and vice versa). Hence, the way out of the egoist difficulty with loyalty is seeing a company’s interests as my own (Aristotle’s third stage of friendship). (shrink)
There has been a long tradition of interpreting Plato as a rational egoist. Over the past few decades, however, some scholars have challenged this reading. While Rational Egoism appeals to many ordinary folk, in sophisticated philosophical circles it has fallen out of favor as a general and complete account of the nature of reasons for action. I argue that while the theory of practical rationality that is often equated with rational egoism—a view that I call ‘Simple-Minded Rational (...) class='Hi'>Egoism'—is neither plausible nor endorsed by Plato in his Republic, there is a more complex version of Rational Egoism to which Plato is indeed committed. Moreover, such a conception of practical rationality is not vulnerable to the standard set of objections that contemporary philosophers have made against Rational Egoism. (shrink)
Recently, the idea that human beings may be totally egoistic has resurfaced in philosophical and psychological discussions. But many of the arguments for that conclusion are conceptually flawed. Psychologists are making a conceptual error when they think of the desire to avoid guilt as egoistic; and the same is true of the common view that the desire to avoid others’ disapproval is also egoistic. Sober and Wilson argue against this latter idea on the grounds that such a desire is relational, (...) but a deeper reason stems from the fact that it places such intrinsic importance on other human beings. And other basic human desires, like the desire for love, the desire for revenge, the impulse to imitate others, and the desire to belong, also treat others as important and on those grounds cannot count as egoistic. Another line of recent argument for egoism stems from the work of Robert Cialdini et al., and claims that the way we identify and feel one with those other people we empathize with and seek to help shows us to be thinking of those others as part of or identical with ourselves. This is supposed to show that our putative altruism is basically self-centered and egoistic, but Cialdini arguably misinterprets what we mean when we speak of feeling one with someone else, and the phenomena he mentions don’t therefore stand in favor of psychological egoism. More generally, many of the positive and negative emotions we feel toward others are best interpreted as non-egoistic, and there is no reason at this point to doubt that humans are capable of altruistic motivation. (shrink)
Bernard Gert’s distinctive interpretation of the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes in his recent book may be questioned in at least three areas: (1) Even if Hobbes is not a psychological egoist, he seems to be a desire egoist, which has the consequence, as he understands it, that a person acts at least for his own good in every action. (2) Although there are several senses of reason, it seems that Hobbes uses the idea that reason is calculation of means to (...) ends; while such calculation sets intermediate goals, reason itself does not set ultimate ends. (3) Hobbes’s political theory is best understood as a form of social contract theory because subjects covenant among themselves to authorize the sovereign to protect them; authorization has the consequence that subjects give some of the their rights to the sovereign; but this gifting of rights is not the essence of the origin of the civil state. (shrink)
I develop an argument that key theses from Ayn Rand's ethics and political philosophy are incompatible with one another. Her ethical egoism is not compatible with her rights theory. Though Rand's version of rights theory is libertarian, the argument does not depend upon any claims peculiar to her theory, but would apply to the (in)compatibility of ethical egoism and almost any plausible rights theory.
Though utilitarianism is far from being universally accepted in the philosophical community, it is taken seriously and treated respectfully. Its critics do not dismiss it out of hand; they do not misrepresent it; they do not belittle or disparage its proponents. They allow the theory to be articulated, developed, and defended from criticism, even if they go on to reject the modified versions. Ethical egoism, a longstanding rival of utilitarianism, is treated very differently. It is said to be “refuted” (...) by arguments of a sort that apply equally well to utilitarianism. It is said to be “unprovable,” when many of the greatest utilitarians themselves, such as Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832), John Stuart Mill (1806–1873), and Henry Sidgwick (1838–1900), admitted that no normative ethical theory, including their own, is provable. Critics of ethical egoism seldom discuss the various theoretical moves that utilitarians are routinely allowed to make, such as (1) fighting the facts, (2) transforming the theory from “act utilitarianism” to “rule utilitarianism,” and (3) biting the bullet. This essay argues that every defensive move made by utilitarians can be made, with equal vigor (if not also plausibility), by ethical egoists. The conclusion is that ethical egoism deserves to be taken more seriously than it is. (shrink)
It is a common enough view that market agents are self-interested, not benevolent or altruistic – call this market egoism – and that this is morally defensible, even morally required. There are two styles of defence – utilitarian and deontological – and while they differ, they confront a common problem. This is the availability problem. The problem is that the more successful the moral justification of self-interested economic activity, the less there is for the justification to draw upon. Religious (...) justifications of market egoism at least make a stab at dealing with the problem; secular accounts typically do not. (shrink)
In this paper I shall consider the difficulty for Ethical Egoism, Act Utilitarianism and later what I shall call Cumulative Effect Utilitarianism, that they both commit the fallacy of pragmatic inconsistency. I shall distinguish various forms of the fallacy of pragmatic inconsistency; in particular I shall distinguish between the fallacy of direct and indirect pragmatic inconsistency, and shall argue that though both Ethical Egoism and Act Utilitarianism probably commit both, Cumulative Effect Utilitarianism does not.
Michael Huemer argues that there is a tension between two principles putatively essential to Rand's ethics: the principle of egoism, which states that the only reason for doing (or not doing) anything is that it will serve (or frustrate) one's own interests; and the principle that one must not sacrifice others. Huemer considers several arguments that Rand offers for the second principle but finds that each involves either implausible empirical assumptions or assumptions that conflict with egoism. Huemer suggests (...) that Rand may not be an egoist in the usual sense; her positions are much more consistent with the second principle. (shrink)
Huemer responds to Michael Young's argument that an ethical egoist should not embrace prudent predation because accepting a principle of prudent predation has serious negative consequences over and above the consequences of individual predatory acts. In addition, he addresses the advantages Young claims for an agent-relative conception of value over an agent-neutral one. He finds that the agent-relative conception does not clearly have any of the advantages Young names, and that some paradigmatic uses of the concept of value are agent-neutral.
Being a friend makes our lives better, but it seems this consideration cannot guide our pursuit of friendship, lest this mean we are not true friends and that our lives are not made better. The aim of this paper is to show how, appearances notwithstanding, being a true friend is consistent with having one's own happiness as one's ultimate end. Aristotle's idea that friends are other selves, and recent accounts of practical reason, show how (i) one's acting as a friend (...) could be motivated and justified by one's being a friend (and not directly by one's own happiness), and yet (ii) one's being a friend (and not one's friendly actions) is in turn supervised and justified by one's own happiness. The paper ends by considering whether such a person's pursuit of another's good is still too circumscribed by that of their own for them to count as a true friend. (shrink)
Now it is plain that such consequences as these conflict sharply with common-sense notions of morality. If we had been obliged to accept Psychological Egoism, in any of its narrower forms, on its merits, we should have had to say: 'So much the worse for the common-sense notions of morality!' But, if I am right, the morality of common sense, with all its difficulties and incoherences, is immune at least to attacks from the basis of Psychological Egoism.
Hobbes has served for both philosophers and political scientists as the paradigm case of someone who held an egoistic view of human nature. In this article I shall attempt to show that the almost unanimous view that Hobbes held psychological egoism is mistaken, and further that Hobbes's political theory does not demand an egoistic psychology, but on the contrary is incompatible with psychological egoism. I do not maintain that Hobbes was completely consistent; in fact, I shall show that (...) there was a continuous development in Hobbes's works away from an egoistic psychology. But I do think that the main outlines of Hobbes's political theory, i.e., his account of the laws of nature, the right of nature, the obligations imposed by laws and covenants, and the rights and duties of citizen and sovereign, are essentially the same in The Elements of Law, De Cive, and Leviathan. I thus hold that even in his earliest work, The Elements, the only one where a charge of egoism is justifiable, the political theory does not depend on egoism. But the first and most important point to be established is that Hobbes did not hold an egoistic psychology. (shrink)
A discussion of egoism and altruism as related both to ethical theory and moral psychology. Williams considers and rejects various arguments for and against the existence of egoistic motives and the rationality of someone motivated by self-interest. He ultimately attempts to give a more Humean defense of altruism, as opposed to the more Kantian defenses found in Thomas Nagel, for example.
In the present paper I wish to argue that psychological egoism may well have a basis in the empirical facts of human psychology. Certain contemporary learning theorists, e.g., Hull and Skinner, have put forward behavioristic theories of the origin and functioning of human motives which posit a certain number of basically "selfish, " unlearned primary drives or motives (like hunger, thirst, sleep, elimination, and sex), explain all other, higher-order, drives or motives as derived genetically from the primary ones via (...) certain "laws of reinforcement," and, further, deny the "functional autonomy" of those higher-order drives or motive. Now it is a hotly debated issue in contemporary Learning Theory whether any theory such as we have described briefly above could adequately explain adult human behavior. I shall, however, argue only that a theory of the above kind may well be true, and that from such a theory, fortified only by one additional psychological premise, the truth of egoism (non-altruism) logically follows. I hope to show, thereby, that the question of psychological egoism is still an open empirical issue, however fallacious be the philosophical arguments for it. (shrink)
[Emerging Scholar Prize Essay for Spindel Supplement] Some philosophers and psychologists have evaluated psychological egoism against recent experimental work in social psychology. Dan Batson (1991; forthcoming), in particular, argues that empathy tends to induce genuinely altruistic motives in humans. However, some argue that there are egoistic explanations of the data that remain unscathed. I focus here on some recent criticisms based on the idea of self-other merging or "oneness," primarily leveled by Robert Cialdini and his collaborators (1997). These authors (...) argue that the putatively altruistic subjects are acting on ultimately egoistic motives because empathic feelings for someone in distress tend to cause them to blur the distinction between themselves and the other. Employing a conceptual framework for the debate, I argue that the self-other merging explanation fails to explain the empathy-helping relationship on primarily non-empirical grounds, regardless of the empirical results Cialdini and colleagues report. (shrink)
Provides an overview of the theory of psychological egoism—the thesis that we are all ultimately motivated by self-interest. Philosophical arguments for and against the view are considered as well as some empirical evidence.
Egoism can be a descriptive or a normative position. Psychological egoism, the most famous descriptive position, claims that each person has but one ultimate aim: her own welfare. Normative forms of egoism make claims about what one ought to do, rather than describe what one does do. Ethical egoism claims that it is necessary and sufficient for an action to be morally right that it maximize one's self-interest. Rational egoism claims that it is necessary and (...) sufficient for an action to be rational that it maximize one's self-interest. (shrink)
Weak psychological egoism is the doctrine that anything an agent does intentionally, that agent does at least expecting thereby to realize one of her self-regarding ends. (Strong psychological egoism, by contrast, is the doctrine that agents act always intending thereby to realize a self-regarding end.) Though weak psychological egoism is a doctrine ultimately answerable to empirical evidence, we presently have excellent a priori reasons for accepting it and attempting to construct psychological theories that include it as an (...) organizing principle. These reasons have mainly to do with the idea that to understand the motivation behind an action, we need to understand the force of the consideration that motivates the agent, and the way to do this is to find a self-regarding end associated in the agent''s mind with acting on that consideration. (shrink)
Recently Terrance McConnell has attempted to show that not only does psychological egoism lend no support to ethical egoism but is even incompatible with it. 1 McConneU's attempt has been vitiated by Paul Simpson's critique of the version of psychological egoism that McConnell offered) In this discussion I will consider McConnell's and Simpson's arguments and then offer a version of psychological egoism that avoids Simpson's objections. After showing that one version of ethical egoism is incompatible (...) with that version of psychological egoism, I will consider other versions of ethical egoism in an attempt to find the best version of that moral doctrine. It will turn out that even the best version of ethical egoism is incompatible with the version of psychological egoism that avoids Simpson's criticisms. However, another version of psychological egoism will be offered that is compatible with all versions of ethical egoism and that is also not open to Simpson's objections. An argument will be offered, and then criticized, that seems to lend support to ethical egoism and that rests, in part, on this other version of psychological egoism. (shrink)
Until recently it has been conventional to assume that ethical egoism is "ethical" is name, alone, and that no account that considers one's own interests as the standard of moral obligation could count as seriously "ethical." In recent years, however, philosophers have shown increasing respect for more sophisticated forms of ethical egoism which attempt to define self-interest in enriched terms characterizing self-interest as human flourishing in both material and psychological dimensions. But philosophers are still skeptical that any conception (...) of self-interest could underpin ethical theory. This paper considers recent arguments by Richard Joyce, who is willing to concede enriched conceptions of self-interest, but who claims that egoism cannot support appropriate counterfactual conditionals about morality, or inferential uses of ordinary moral thinking. I argue that ethical egoism can satisfy each of Joyce's desiderata for morality, provided that it is taken to involve the very notion of enriched self-interest that Joyce is elsewhere willing to consider. In showing that egoism can count as a moral theory, I show, in effect, that Joyce's arguments for error theory about morality are really arguments for error theory about agent-neutral, non-egoistic morality. (shrink)
In this paper I distinguish three degrees of epistemic egoism, each of which has an ethical analogue, and I argue that all three are incoherent. Since epistemic autonomy is frequently identified with one of these forms of epistemic egoism, it follows that epistemic autonomy as commonly understood is incoherent. I end with a brief discussion of the idea of moral autonomy and suggest that its component of epistemic autonomy in the realm of the moral is problematic.
Doubts about the adequacy of appeals to impartial practical reason give those with rationalist sympathies reason to explore the metaphysical, and not merely strategic, reconciliation of prudence and altruism contained in metaphysical egoism. Even if we recognize impartial practical reason, the supremacy of moral demands may depend upon the plausibility of metaphysical egoism. For as long as we recognize the demands of prudence, the conflict between altruism and prudence will threaten altruism's supremacy. We might consider one version of (...) metaphysical egoism that appeals to psychological reductionism about personal identity and exploits some Platonic and Aristotelian analogies between intrapersonal and interpersonal relations and concern. (shrink)
Interpretations of ethical egoism as advocating the unconstrained harming of others, or as an absurd meta-ethical definition of morality, are unwarranted. The social definition of morality provided by, e.g., William Frankena, fails to rule out egoism. Instead, it forms the background against which egoism develops as a possible, normative position. Examples from "The Immoralist" and "Zorba the Greek" illustrate this possibility.
In what follows, I shall first outline Broad's description of, and attitude to, psychological egoism. Then, I shall examine briefly the form which a defense against his criticisms might take. This raises the query whether such a defense is consistent with the doctrine's empirical character. It is suggested that the egoist could evade this difficulty by questioning an assumption which Broad (and others) make about psychological egoism. By abandoning this assumption, we can state the doctrine in a more (...) adequate form-a form which emphasizes the point that men, although psychological egoists, are also rational beings, capable of acting on principle! (shrink)
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. (shrink)
The distinction between egoistic and altruistic motivation is firmly embedded in contemporary moral discourse, but harks back too to early modern attempts to found morality on an egoistic basis. Rejecting that latter premise means accepting that others’ interests have intrinsic value, but it remains far from clear what altruism demands of us and what its relationship is with the rest of morality. While informing our duties, altruism seems also to urge us to transcend them and embrace the other-regarding values and (...) virtues constitutive of a good life. This rather wide conception of morality may strike us today as too demanding. At the same time, however, currently popular impartialist accounts of morality can disrupt much everyday altruism in their insistence that each person’s interests are weighed precisely equally. Having sketched this problematic of altruism, the second half of this Introduction outlines the arguments of the four papers and review essay in this collection, each of which, in a different way, negotiates the difficult relationships between egoism, altruism, morality and impartiality. (shrink)
I will present what I think is the best argument for the version of psychological egoism under consideration here, and explain why I think even that argument fails to go much distance toward establishing it. It turns out, though, I will caution, that defeating that argument means only that we are right to reject psychological egoism as extremely implausible; it does not entitle us to claim to have shown the thesis itself to be either confused and senseless or (...) false. However, my main goal in this paper is neither to refute nor to defend psychological egoism, but rather to show how it, even in a very strong form, manages to survive a number of common objections both to itself and to arguments meant to support it. (shrink)
Psychological egoism is, I suppose, regarded by most philosophers as one of the more simple-minded fallacies in the history of philosophy, and dangerous and seductive too, contriving as it does to combine cynicism about human ideals and a vague sense of scientific method, both of which make the ordinary reader feel sophisticated, with conceptual confusion, which he cannot resist. For all of these reasons it springs eternal, in one form or another, in the breasts of first-year students, and offers (...) excellent material for their philosophy instructors, who like nothing better than an edifice of sturdy appearance but with rotten foundations on which to display their skill as demolition experts. (shrink)
One principal challenge to the rationalist thesis that the demands of morality are requirements of rationality has been that posed by the "rational egoist." In attempting to answer's the egoist's challenge, some rationalists have supposed that an adequate reply must take the form of a deductive argument that "converts" the egoist by showing that her position is contradictory, arbitrary, or violates some precept that defines practical rationality as such. Here I argue (a) that such rationalist replies will fail to persuade (...) the egoist to adopt a recognizably moral way of life; (b) that this failure can be traced to epistemic assumptions that underlie typical rationalist replies; (c) that egoist conversion can better be understood by rejecting these assumptions and seeing egoist conversion as akin to a paradigm shift in the sciences; and (d) that conceptualizing egoist conversion as a paradigm shift accords with empirical psychological evidence regarding the acquisition and modification of individuals' moral attitudes and beliefs. (shrink)
Psychological Altruism (PA) is the view that everyone, ultimately, acts altruistically all the time. I defend PA by showing strong prima facie support, and show how a reinterpretive strategy against supposed counterexamples is successful. I go on to show how PA can be argued for in ways which exactly mirror the arguments for an opposing view, Psychological Egoism. This shows that the case for PA is at least as plausible as PE. Since the case for PA is not plausible, (...) neither is that for PE. (shrink)
In his discussion of "Psychological Egoism" (PPR, June, 1960), Professor Lemos chooses to legislate it out of existence by means of a definition; so I choose to legislate it back into existence by a similar device. The pertinent question is whether definitions of psychological egoism are arbitrary or not.
Virtue ethics is often alleged to be egoistic, based upon its linking of virtue and happiness. Virtue ethicists often respond that their approach to the moral life is only “formally egoistic” and therefore not objectionable. This paper develops a clear, non-arbitrary definition of egoism (often lacking in these exchanges) as systematic pursuit of one’s own welfare, and then catalogues four broad egoistic strategies for achieving it. I identify “formal foundational egoism” as the one mostplausibly attributed to virtue ethics (...) (its subtlety allows it to account for many features of the moral life, seemingly justifying Aristotelians in their admission that their theory is egoistic in this way). I show instead that any moral theory whose first principle is that each should pursue her own welfare is indeed objectionable. I conclude by showing how virtue ethics can avoid all forms of egoism by counseling the pursuit of perfection rather than welfare alone. (shrink)
Those who subscribe to a prudential conception of practical reason do not believe that there is a conflict between other-regarding and self-regarding norms as the former are held to be founded on the latter. Moral conduct, they maintain, is always rationally justifiable. The reasons we should fulfil the demands of other-regarding norms are the same as those we have for fulfilling self-regarding norms. David Brink has put forth an interesting and novel account of this approach to practical reason which he (...) calls ‘metaphysical egoism’. Metaphysical egoism requires that we modify our pre-theoretical understandings of self-interest on metaphysical grounds. I critically assess Brink’s argument and claim that metaphysical egoism does not adequately function as a motive or guide for action. It is susceptible to many of the same problems which strategic egoism faces. (shrink)
Psychological egoists deny that men ever voluntarily act to promote the interests of others as an end in itself or ever act in such a way that they have the same regard for others as they have for themselves. [...] This theory has a long history and was supposedly decisively refuted by Butler. Yet it continues to haunt the scene. I want, in the tradition of Butler but not in his manner, to try to set out a short snappy but (...) definitive refutation of psychological egoism which will also show why it has such a hold on people. (shrink)
TO the egoist the ultimate justification of his acts lies in their being conducive of his personal interest. This refusal to submit his own interests to any moral test beyond themselves in their interrelations and prospects of fulfillment makes the egoist the object of fierce attack. The non-egoist is supposed to be always ready to question the ultimacy of his own interests. Even where he pursues them, it is because on some other basis-general happiness or duty or anything else-he thinks (...) it right for a man in such circumstances to follow self-interest or give free play to inclination. (shrink)
ABSTRACT: Romantic love and its predecessor eros have both been characterized as forms of egoistic love. Part of this claim is concerned specifically with the relation between love and knowledge. Real love, it is claimed, is prior to knowledge and is not motivated by it. Romantic love and eros according to this view are egoistic in that they are motivated by a desire for knowledge. Agapic love characterized by bestowal represents a true form of love unmotivated by selfish desires. I (...) argue that such an emphasis on bestowal at the expense of knowledge or appraisal of the beloved is problematic. The knowledge dimension of romantic love, rather than contributing to selfishness, can be a means of freeing us from egoism when we understand identity in its relational or social form.RÉSUMÉ: L'amour romantique et son prédécesseur, Éros, sont tous deux considérés comme des lormes d'amour égoïste. Une partie de cette prétention concerne spécifiquement le lien entre l'amour et la connaissance : l'amour véritable précède la connaissance et n'est pas motivé par elle. Selon ce point de vue, l'amour romantique et Éros sont égoïstes parce qu'ils sont motivés par le désir de connaître. L'amour agapique d'autre part se caractérise par le don; il représente une forme d'amour véritable que ne motive aucun désir égoïste. Cet accent mis sur le don au détriment de la connaissance ou de l'appreciation de l'être aimé se révèle pourtantproblématique. La connaissance, qui caractérise l'amour romantique, représente un moyen de nous libérer de l'égoïsme au lieu de l'alimenter, lorsque nous acquérons une compréhension de l'identité sous sa lorme relationnelle et sociale. (shrink)
Internal mechanisms, especially those implicating the self, are crucial for the egoism-altruism debate. Self-liking is extended to close others and can be extended, through socialization and reinforcement experiences, to non-close others: Altruistic responses are directed toward others who are included in the self. The process of self-extension can account for cross-situational variability, contextual variability, and individual differences in altruistic behavior.