Egoism and the Concept of One's Own Good

Dissertation, Brown University (1983)
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Abstract

There are two main tasks which I undertake in this thesis. First, I consider critically certain concepts of one's own good and the relation of these concepts to egoism. I distinguish between subjective and objective views of one's own good and argue that no subjective account, such as that offered by R. B. Brandt, is satisfactory. I attempt to provide an objective account of one's own good which is compatible with Moore's criticisms of the concept of "good for me". Unfortunately, the objective account which I present appears ill-suited to egoism, and I therefore consider whether there is either a non-subjective or objective account of one's own good which is compatible with egoism. I present and consider both a strong and weak "personal" conception of value, along with Kalin's view of formal value. I argue that the weak personal account of value does not accord with our preanalytic notions of one's own good and is not suited to egoism. I argue that neither the strong personal conception of value nor Kalin's formal conception of value is satisfactory. In discussing these views, I consider the relation of such views to universal egoism and the view that virtue or having a good will is part of one's own good. The second main task is to consider the objections to moral egoism raised by Richard Brandt, G. E. Moore, Brian Medlin, and Richard Feldman. The objections raised by these philosophers are of three sorts: that egoism is either not a moral theory, not a coherent theory, or an unsatisfactory account of our actual moral obligations. Of these objections I find only the third to be compelling. But even the force of this objection diminishes somewhat where the concept of one's own good is understood objectively and such things as virtue and having a good will are held to be intrinsically good for a person

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Noah Lemos
William & Mary

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