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)
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)
John Clarke of Hull, one of the eighteenth century's staunchest proponents of psychological egoism, defended that theory in his Foundation of Morality in Theory and Practice. He did so mainly by opposing the objections to egoism in the first two editions of Francis Hutcheson's Inquiry into Virtue. But Clarke also produced a challenging, direct argument for egoism which, regrettably, has received virtually no scholarly attention. In this paper I give it some of the attention it merits. In (...) addition to reconstructing it and addressing interpretive issues about it, I show that it withstands a tempting objection. I also show that although Clarke's argument ultimately fails, to study it is instructive. It illuminates, for example, Hutcheson's likely intentions in a passage relevant to egoism. (shrink)
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)
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.
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.
Francis Hutcheson's objections to psychological egoism usually appeal to experience or introspection. However, at least one of them is theological: It includes premises of a religious kind, such as that God rewards the virtuous. This objection invites interpretive and philosophical questions, some of which may seem to highlight errors or shortcomings on Hutcheson's part. Also, to answer the questions is to point out important features of Hutcheson's objection and its intellectual context. And nowhere in the scholarship on Hutcheson do (...) we find these questions addressed. This paper addresses them. A fact that emerges is that the apparent errors or shortcomings the questions may highlight are just that – apparent errors or shortcomings; in reality they are nothing of the kind. (shrink)
Is Hobbes a normative egoist? That is: does Hobbes think that an agent’s normative reasons are all grounded in her own good? A once-dominant tradition of Hobbes scholarship answers ‘yes’. In an important recent work, however, S.A. Lloyd has argued that the answer to the question is ‘no’, and built an alternative non-egoistic interpretation of Hobbes that stresses reciprocity and mutual justifiability. My aim in this paper is to articulate and defend an original ‘middle way’ interpretation of Hobbes which steers (...) a course between an excessively egoistic and what we might call an excessively ‘moralistic’ interpretation. According to the interpretation I defend, our obligations have their source in self-interest in the sense that they are all self-assumed results of covenants, our reasons for making which are solely self-interested. But the obligations that result from such covenants can sometimes require us to act against our self-interest. (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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
This book is the first full-length treatment of rational egoism, and it provides both a selective history of the subject as well as a philosophical analysis of the arguments that have been deployed in its defense.
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)
Lévinas is the philosopher of the absolutely Other, the thinker of the primacy of the ethical relation, the poet of the face. Against the formalism of Kantian subjectivity, the totality of the Hegelian system, the monism of Husserlian phenomenology and the instrumentalism of Heideggerian ontology, Lévinas develops a phenomenological account of the ethical relation grounded in the idea of infinity, an idea which is concretely produced in the experience with the absolutely other, particularly, in their face. The face of the (...) other, irreducible to any ontological structure of being or any epistemological intentionality of representation, reaches out from on high across the abyss of the isolated ego, commanding respect all the while granting the possibility of murder. This experience overflows the subjective capacity of the separated ego, forcing it “beyond being.” This anarchic relation with the Other is the groundless condition of possibility for ethical life, that is, truly human life. The structure of the ethical relation can then be determined in hindsight as the ground of meaning for what it is to be an I at all. -/- This is a pretty uncontroversial reading of Lévinas' work, especially Totality and Infinity. And yet, there is one small problem. If this is what Lévinas is doing, then why does the largest section of Totality and Infinity – section II, “Interiority and Economy” – have nothing to do with ethics, the other, or the face at all? Why is it devoted to an arduous analysis of what he calls separation, egoism, economy, enjoyment, labour, and possession? In other words, why does Lévinas spend so much energy on writing about the egoist at the heart of his magnum opus, which is supposedly a text devoted to the Other? And furthermore, why is this section one of the least discussed in the secondary literature on Lévinas? -/- These questions motivate the present inquiry, which modestly seeks to understand what Lévinas is up to in this section. Once laying out the basic story, I will focus on the concepts of labour and possession, for I think these are the unrecognized pivots upon which the transition from ego to Other turns. I will also make some slight attempts to interpret Lévinas' direct or indirect comments on Plato, Kant, Hegel, Husserl and Heidegger. For although he distances himself from these giants, he stands on their shoulders as well. (shrink)
Like Bernard Mandeville, Archibald Campbell develops a profoundly egoistic conception of human psychology. However, Campbell attacks numerous points in Mandeville’s moral philosophy, in particular Mandeville’s treatment of self-love, the desire for esteem, and human nature in general as corrupt. He also criticises Mandeville’s corresponding insistence on self-denial and his rigorist conception of luxury. Campbell himself is subsequently attacked by Scottish orthodox Calvinists - not for his egoism, but for his optimism regarding postlapsarian human nature and self-love. This episode demonstrates (...) that the debates on egoism in Mandeville should be seen in the context of the debates on postlapsarian human nature. (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.
19 It may be suggested that, in order to justify /4's treating himself differently from others, it does not have to be the case that A necessarily has some property which everyone else necessarily lacks, i.e., that there must be a property F such that, ...
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)
Sceptical theists undermine the argument from evil by claiming that our ability to distinguish between justified and unjustified evil is weak enough that we must take seriously the possibility that all evil is justified. However, I argue that this claim leads to a dilemma: either our judgements regarding unjustified evil are reliable enough that the problem of evil remains a problem, or our judgements regarding unjustified evil are so unreliable that it would be misguided to use them in our decision-making. (...) The first horn undermines theism, while the second undermines our moral decision-making. Thus, sceptical theism is problematic. (shrink)
This article is an evaluation of Christian views about Buddhism based on Paul Williams’ The Unexpected Way: On Converting from Buddhism to Catholicism . Studstill focuses specifically on five Christian claims about Buddhism: Buddhism prevents the recognition of objective reality and objective truth, Buddhism promotes egoism, Buddhism encourages immorality, Buddhism is quite possibly irrational, and Buddhism is excessively pessimistic. Studstill critically examines Williams’ defense of these claims and concludes that each is either false or highly problematic. As a corrective (...) to Williams’ errors about Buddhism, Studstill clarifies Buddhist views regarding suffering and egoism, the transformation of consciousness, the realization of truth, and the cultivation of altruism and compassion. (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.
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.
There are problems with egoism as a theory, but what matters here is the point that intuitively ethics is thought to be about the good of others, so that focusing on your own good seems wrong from the start. Virtues are not just character traits, however, since forgetfulness or stubbornness are not virtues. Virtues are character traits which are in some way desirable. Criticism is generally renewed at this point on the grounds that claims about flourishing are now including (...) claims about virtue, and are thus no longer common ground to the defender and the critic of virtue ethics. But virtue ethics has never held that they are, so this is not a problem. It is only to be expected that the virtuous will differ from the nonvirtuous in their assessments of flourishing, because we are dealing here with virtue in the context of a formally characterized conception of flourishing. (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)
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.
In this paper I suggest that Spinoza’s understanding of virtue and collective flourishing, rooted in his psychological and ethical egoism, offers a fresh perspective on the question of egoism in education. To this end, I suggest an understanding of the teacher as egoist, where the self-seeking of the teacher is conditioned by – and runs parallel to – the flourishing of his or her students. The understanding of the egoistic teacher is offered as a productive counter-image to the (...) altruistic ideal in education as well as to the commonplace conception of the teacher as primarily a provider of services and the student as a consumer on an educational market. (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)
Patrick Frierson - Learning to Love: From Egoism to Generosity in Descartes - Journal of the History of Philosophy 40:3 Journal of the History of Philosophy 40.3 313-338 Learning to Love: From Egoism to Generosity in Descartes Patrick R. Frierson The whole of philosophy is like a tree. The roots are metaphysics, the trunk is physics, and the branches emerging from the trunk are all the other sciences, which may be reduced to three principal ones, namely medicine, mechanics, (...) and morals. Descartes is well known for his metaphysics and physics, the roots and trunk of his philosophical project. But Descartes's morals are generally neglected, partly because they are so difficult to find. He does not dedicate a major published work to morality. His most direct comments on it are in letters to Princess Elizabeth and Pierre Chanut. The published work that most touches on moral issues is The Passions of the Soul, which is primarily a treatise on the relationship between mind and body. As a result of this lack of primary sources , there have been only a few significant studies of Descartes's moral philosophy in French, and only two major works devoted to it in English. This neglect of Descartes's ethics is unfortunate, not least since ethical concerns sometimes influence his work in other areas. This.. (shrink)
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)
The primary aim of this paper is to accentuate those features that distinguish Levinasian ethics from the egoism that prevails in management thought. It focuses on differences in the constitution of the subject, how Levinas seeks an ethics that goes beyond the subjective point of view that structures the self as being self-present, self-interested, free and systematic and relates to others through this perspective. Levinas's concepts are critically discussed by reading these alongside Jacques Lacan and Adam Smith, which enable (...) observations to be made about Levinas's concept of the Same and about the difference he effects between human and the nonhuman. It is concluded that it can be easy to misread Levinas in key respects in ways that may act to assimilate his thought to egoism. (shrink)
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)
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)