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Ethical egoism – Wikipedia

For other forms of egoism, see Egoism.

Ethical egoism is the normative ethical position that moral agents ought to do what is in their own self-interest. It differs from psychological egoism, which claims that people can only act in their self-interest. Ethical egoism also differs from rational egoism, which holds that it is rational to act in one's self-interest.[1]Ethical egoism holds, therefore, that actions whose consequences will benefit the doer can be considered ethical in this sense.

Ethical egoism contrasts with ethical altruism, which holds that moral agents have an obligation to help others. Egoism and altruism both contrast with ethical utilitarianism, which holds that a moral agent should treat one's self (also known as the subject) with no higher regard than one has for others (as egoism does, by elevating self-interests and "the self" to a status not granted to others). But it also holds that one should not (as altruism does) sacrifice one's own interests to help others' interests, so long as one's own interests (i.e. one's own desires or well-being) are substantially equivalent to the others' interests and well-being. Egoism, utilitarianism, and altruism are all forms of consequentialism, but egoism and altruism contrast with utilitarianism, in that egoism and altruism are both agent-focused forms of consequentialism (i.e. subject-focused or subjective). However, utilitarianism is held to be agent-neutral (i.e. objective and impartial): it does not treat the subject's (i.e. the self's, i.e. the moral "agent's") own interests as being more or less important than the interests, desires, or well-being of others.

Ethical egoism does not, however, require moral agents to harm the interests and well-being of others when making moral deliberation; e.g. what is in an agent's self-interest may be incidentally detrimental, beneficial, or neutral in its effect on others. Individualism allows for others' interest and well-being to be disregarded or not, as long as what is chosen is efficacious in satisfying the self-interest of the agent. Nor does ethical egoism necessarily entail that, in pursuing self-interest, one ought always to do what one wants to do; e.g. in the long term, the fulfillment of short-term desires may prove detrimental to the self. Fleeting pleasure, then, takes a back seat to protracted eudaimonia. In the words of James Rachels, "Ethical egoism ... endorses selfishness, but it doesn't endorse foolishness."[2]

Ethical egoism is often used as the philosophical basis for support of right-libertarianism and individualist anarchism.[3] These are political positions based partly on a belief that individuals should not coercively prevent others from exercising freedom of action.

Ethical egoism can be broadly divided into three categories: individual, personal, and universal. An individual ethical egoist would hold that all people should do whatever benefits "my" (the individual's) self-interest; a personal ethical egoist would hold that he or she should act in his or her self-interest, but would make no claims about what anyone else ought to do; a universal ethical egoist would argue that everyone should act in ways that are in their self-interest.[4][5]

Ethical egoism was introduced by the philosopher Henry Sidgwick in his book The Methods of Ethics, written in 1874. Sidgwick compared egoism to the philosophy of utilitarianism, writing that whereas utilitarianism sought to maximize overall pleasure, egoism focused only on maximizing individual pleasure.[6]

Philosophers before Sidgwick have also retroactively been identified as ethical egoists. One ancient example is the philosophy of Yang Zhu (4th century BC), Yangism, who views wei wo, or "everything for myself", as the only virtue necessary for self-cultivation.[7] Ancient Greek philosophers like Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics were exponents of virtue ethics, and "did not accept the formal principle that whatever the good is, we should seek only our own good, or prefer it to the good of others."[6] However, the beliefs of the Cyrenaics have been referred to as a "form of egoistic hedonism",[8] and while some refer to Epicurus' hedonism as a form of virtue ethics, others argue his ethics are more properly described as ethical egoism.[9]

Philosopher James Rachels, in an essay that takes as its title the theory's name, outlines the three arguments most commonly touted in its favor:[10]

It has been argued that extreme ethical egoism is self-defeating. Faced with a situation of limited resources, egoists would consume as much of the resource as they could, making the overall situation worse for everybody. Egoists may respond that if the situation becomes worse for everybody, that would include the egoist, so it is not, in fact, in his or her rational self-interest to take things to such extremes.[16] However, the (unregulated) tragedy of the commons and the (one off) prisoner's dilemma are cases in which, on the one hand, it is rational for an individual to seek to take as much as possible even though that makes things worse for everybody, and on the other hand, those cases are not self-refuting since that behaviour remains rational even though it is ultimately self-defeating, i.e. self-defeating does not imply self-refuting. Egoists might respond that a tragedy of the commons, however, assumes some degree of public land. That is, a commons forbidding homesteading requires regulation. Thus, an argument against the tragedy of the commons, in this belief system, is fundamentally an argument for private property rights and the system that recognizes both property rights and rational self-interestcapitalism.[17] More generally, egoists might say that an increasing respect for individual rights uniquely allows for increasing wealth creation and increasing usable resources despite a fixed amount of raw materials (e.g. the West pre-1776 versus post-1776, East versus West Germany, Hong Kong versus mainland China, North versus South Korea, etc.).[18]

It is not clear how to apply a private ownership model to many examples of "Commons", however. Examples include large fisheries, the atmosphere and the ocean.[19][20]

The term ethical egoism has been applied retroactively to philosophers such as Bernard de Mandeville and to many other materialists of his generation, although none of them declared themselves to be egoists. Note that materialism does not necessarily imply egoism, as indicated by Karl Marx, and the many other materialists who espoused forms of collectivism. It has been argued that ethical egoism can lend itself to individualist anarchism such as that of Benjamin Tucker, or the combined anarcho-communism and egoism of Emma Goldman, both of whom were proponents of many egoist ideas put forward by Max Stirner. In this context, egoism is another way of describing the sense that the common good should be enjoyed by all. However, most notable anarchists in history have been less radical, retaining altruism and a sense of the importance of the individual that is appreciable but does not go as far as egoism. Recent trends to greater appreciation of egoism within anarchism tend to come from less classical directions such as post-left anarchy or Situationism (e.g. Raoul Vaneigem). Egoism has also been referenced by anarcho-capitalists, such as Murray Rothbard.

Philosopher Max Stirner, in his book The Ego and Its Own, was the first philosopher to call himself an egoist, though his writing makes clear that he desired not a new idea of morality (ethical egoism), but rather a rejection of morality (amoralism), as a nonexistent and limiting "spook"; for this, Stirner has been described as the first individualist anarchist. Other philosophers, such as Thomas Hobbes and David Gauthier, have argued that the conflicts which arise when people each pursue their own ends can be resolved for the best of each individual only if they all voluntarily forgo some of their aimsthat is, one's self-interest is often best pursued by allowing others to pursue their self-interest as well so that liberty is equal among individuals. Sacrificing one's short-term self-interest to maximize one's long-term self-interest is one form of "rational self-interest" which is the idea behind most philosophers' advocacy of ethical egoism. Egoists have also argued that one's actual interests are not immediately obvious, and that the pursuit of self-interest involves more than merely the acquisition of some good, but the maximizing of one's chances of survival and/or happiness.

Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche suggested that egoistic or "life-affirming" behavior stimulates jealousy or "ressentiment" in others, and that this is the psychological motive for the altruism in Christianity. Sociologist Helmut Schoeck similarly considered envy the motive of collective efforts by society to reduce the disproportionate gains of successful individuals through moral or legal constraints, with altruism being primary among these.[21] In addition, Nietzsche (in Beyond Good and Evil) and Alasdair MacIntyre (in After Virtue) have pointed out that the ancient Greeks did not associate morality with altruism in the way that post-Christian Western civilization has done.Aristotle's view is that we have duties to ourselves as well as to other people (e.g. friends) and to the polis as a whole. The same is true for Thomas Aquinas, Christian Wolff and Immanuel Kant, who claim that there are duties to ourselves as Aristotle did, although it has been argued that, for Aristotle, the duty to one's self is primary.[22]

Ayn Rand argued that there is a positive harmony of interests among free, rational humans, such that no moral agent can rationally coerce another person consistently with his own long-term self-interest. Rand argued that other people are an enormous value to an individual's well-being (through education, trade and affection), but also that this value could be fully realized only under conditions of political and economic freedom. According to Rand, voluntary trade alone can assure that human interaction is mutually beneficial.[23] Rand's student, Leonard Peikoff has argued that the identification of one's interests itself is impossible absent the use of principles, and that self-interest cannot be consistently pursued absent a consistent adherence to certain ethical principles.[24] Recently, Rand's position has also been defended by such writers as Tara Smith, Tibor Machan, Allan Gotthelf, David Kelley, Douglas Rasmussen, Nathaniel Branden, Harry Binswanger, Andrew Bernstein, and Craig Biddle.

Philosopher David L. Norton identified himself an "ethical individualist", and, like Rand, saw a harmony between an individual's fidelity to his own self-actualization, or "personal destiny", and the achievement of society's well being.[25]

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Ethical egoism - Wikipedia

What Is Ethical Egoism? – ThoughtCo

Ethical egoism is the view that each of us ought to pursue our own self-interest, and no-one has any obligation to promote anyone elses interests. It is thus a normative or prescriptive theory: it is concerned with how we ought to behave. In this respect, ethical egoism is quite different from psychological egoism, the theory that all our actions are ultimately self-interested. Psychological egoism is a purely descriptive theory that purports to describe a basic fact about human nature.

1. Everyone pursuing their own self-interest is the best way to promote the general good.This argument was made famous by Bernard Mandeville (1670-1733) in his poem The Fable of the Bees, and by Adam Smith (1723-1790) in his pioneering work on economics, The Wealth of Nations.In a famous passage, Smith writes that when individuals single-mindedly pursue the gratification of their own vain and insatiable desires they unintentionally, as if led by an invisible hand, benefit society as a whole. This happy result comes about because people generally are the best judges of what is in their own interest, and they are much more motivated to work hard to benefit themselves than to achieve any other goal.An obvious objection to this argument, though, is that it doesnt really support ethical egoism. It assumes that what really matters is the well-being of society as a whole, the general good. It then claims that the best way to achieve this end is for everyone to look out for themselves. But if it could be proved that this attitude did not, in fact, promote the general good, then those who advance this argument would presumably stop advocating egoism.

Another objection is that what the argument states is not always true. Consider the prisoners dilemma, for instance. This is a hypothetical situation described in game theory.You and a comrade, (call him X) are being held in prison. You are both asked to confess. The terms of the deal you are offered are as follows:

Now heres the problem.Regardless of what X does, the best thing for you to do is confess. Because if he doesnt confess, youll get a light sentence; and if he does confess, youll at lest avoid getting totally screwed! But the same reasoning holds for X as well. Now according to ethical egoism, you should both pursue your rational self-interest. But then the outcome is not the best one possible. You both get five years, whereas if both of you had put your self-interest on hold, youd each only get two years.

The point of this is simple. It isnt always in your best interest to pursue your own self-interest without concern for others.

2.Sacrificing ones own interests for the good of others denies the fundamental value of ones own life to oneself.

This seems to be the sort of argument put forward by Ayn Rand, the leading exponent of objectivism and the author of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.Her complaint is that the Judeo-Christian moral tradition, which includes, or has fed into, modern liberalism and socialism, pushes an ethic of altruism.Altruism means putting the interests of others before your own.This is something we are routinely praised for doing, encouraged to do, and in some circumstances even required to do (e.g. when we pay taxes to support the needy).According to Rand, no-one has any right to expect or demand that I make any sacrifices for the sake of anyone other than myself.

A problem with this argument is that it seems to assume that there is generally a conflict between pursuing ones own interests and helping others.In fact, though, most people would say that these two goals are not necessarily opposed at all.Much of the time they compliment one another.For instance, one student may help a housemate with her homework, which is altruistic.But that student also has an interest in enjoying good relations with her housemates. She may not help anyone whatsoever in all circumstances, but she will help if the sacrifice involved is not too great.Most of us behave like this, seeking a balance between egoism and altruism.

Ethical egoism, it is fair to say, is not a very popular moral philosophy. This is because it goes against certain basic assumptions that most people have regarding what ethics involves. Two objections seem especially powerful.

1. Ethical egoism has no solutions to offer when a problem arises involving conflicts of interest.

Lots of ethical issues are of this sort. For example, a company wants to empty waste into a river; the people living downstream object. Ethical egoism just advises both parties to actively pursue what they want. It doesnt suggest any sort of resolution or commonsense compromise.

2. Ethical egoism goes against the principle of impartiality.

A basic assumption made by many moral philosophersand many other people, for that matteris that we should not discriminate against people on arbitrary grounds such as race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or ethnic origin. But ethical egoism holds that we should not even try to be impartial. Rather, we should distinguish between ourselves and everyone else, and give ourselves preferential treatment.

To many, this seems to contradict the very essence of morality. The golden rule, versions of which appear in Confucianism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, says we should treat others as we would like to be treated. One of the greatest moral philosophers of modern times, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), argues that the fundamental principle of morality (the categorical imperative, in his jargon) is that we should not make exceptions of ourselves. According to Kant, we shouldntperform an action if we couldnt honestly wish that everyone would behave in a similar way in the same circumstances.

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What Is Ethical Egoism? - ThoughtCo

What Are Examples of Ethical Egoism? | Reference.com

An example of ethical egoism would be a person who owes money to a friend and decides to pay the friend back not because that person owes money, but because it is in his best interest to pay his friend back so that he does not lose his friend. Another example of ethical egoism would be a person who invites a friend to a movie that she wants to see because she does not want to go alone and is thinking of her own self-interests first.

In ethical egoism, a person focuses on her own self-interests before all others. Ethical egoism proponents believe that focusing on one's own self-interests benefits all of society because society runs more efficiently. Thomas Hobbes was a famous proponent of ethical egoism.

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What Are Examples of Ethical Egoism? | Reference.com

Ethical egoism – Wikipedia

For other forms of egoism, see Egoism.

Ethical egoism is the normative ethical position that moral agents ought to do what is in their own self-interest. It differs from psychological egoism, which claims that people can only act in their self-interest. Ethical egoism also differs from rational egoism, which holds that it is rational to act in one's self-interest.[1]Ethical egoism holds, therefore, that actions whose consequences will benefit the doer can be considered ethical in this sense.

Ethical egoism contrasts with ethical altruism, which holds that moral agents have an obligation to help others. Egoism and altruism both contrast with ethical utilitarianism, which holds that a moral agent should treat one's self (also known as the subject) with no higher regard than one has for others (as egoism does, by elevating self-interests and "the self" to a status not granted to others). But it also holds that one should not (as altruism does) sacrifice one's own interests to help others' interests, so long as one's own interests (i.e. one's own desires or well-being) are substantially equivalent to the others' interests and well-being. Egoism, utilitarianism, and altruism are all forms of consequentialism, but egoism and altruism contrast with utilitarianism, in that egoism and altruism are both agent-focused forms of consequentialism (i.e. subject-focused or subjective). However, utilitarianism is held to be agent-neutral (i.e. objective and impartial): it does not treat the subject's (i.e. the self's, i.e. the moral "agent's") own interests as being more or less important than the interests, desires, or well-being of others.

Ethical egoism does not, however, require moral agents to harm the interests and well-being of others when making moral deliberation; e.g. what is in an agent's self-interest may be incidentally detrimental, beneficial, or neutral in its effect on others. Individualism allows for others' interest and well-being to be disregarded or not, as long as what is chosen is efficacious in satisfying the self-interest of the agent. Nor does ethical egoism necessarily entail that, in pursuing self-interest, one ought always to do what one wants to do; e.g. in the long term, the fulfillment of short-term desires may prove detrimental to the self. Fleeting pleasure, then, takes a back seat to protracted eudaimonia. In the words of James Rachels, "Ethical egoism ... endorses selfishness, but it doesn't endorse foolishness."[2]

Ethical egoism is often used as the philosophical basis for support of right-libertarianism and individualist anarchism.[3] These are political positions based partly on a belief that individuals should not coercively prevent others from exercising freedom of action.

Ethical egoism can be broadly divided into three categories: individual, personal, and universal. An individual ethical egoist would hold that all people should do whatever benefits "my" (the individual's) self-interest; a personal ethical egoist would hold that he or she should act in his or her self-interest, but would make no claims about what anyone else ought to do; a universal ethical egoist would argue that everyone should act in ways that are in their self-interest.[4][5]

Ethical egoism was introduced by the philosopher Henry Sidgwick in his book The Methods of Ethics, written in 1874. Sidgwick compared egoism to the philosophy of utilitarianism, writing that whereas utilitarianism sought to maximize overall pleasure, egoism focused only on maximizing individual pleasure.[6]

Philosophers before Sidgwick have also retroactively been identified as ethical egoists. One ancient example is the philosophy of Yang Zhu (4th century BC), Yangism, who views wei wo, or "everything for myself", as the only virtue necessary for self-cultivation.[7] Ancient Greek philosophers like Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics were exponents of virtue ethics, and "did not accept the formal principle that whatever the good is, we should seek only our own good, or prefer it to the good of others."[6] However, the beliefs of the Cyrenaics have been referred to as a "form of egoistic hedonism",[8] and while some refer to Epicurus' hedonism as a form of virtue ethics, others argue his ethics are more properly described as ethical egoism.[9]

Philosopher James Rachels, in an essay that takes as its title the theory's name, outlines the three arguments most commonly touted in its favor:[10]

It has been argued that extreme ethical egoism is self-defeating. Faced with a situation of limited resources, egoists would consume as much of the resource as they could, making the overall situation worse for everybody. Egoists may respond that if the situation becomes worse for everybody, that would include the egoist, so it is not, in fact, in his or her rational self-interest to take things to such extremes.[16] However, the (unregulated) tragedy of the commons and the (one off) prisoner's dilemma are cases in which, on the one hand, it is rational for an individual to seek to take as much as possible even though that makes things worse for everybody, and on the other hand, those cases are not self-refuting since that behaviour remains rational even though it is ultimately self-defeating, i.e. self-defeating does not imply self-refuting. Egoists might respond that a tragedy of the commons, however, assumes some degree of public land. That is, a commons forbidding homesteading requires regulation. Thus, an argument against the tragedy of the commons, in this belief system, is fundamentally an argument for private property rights and the system that recognizes both property rights and rational self-interestcapitalism.[17] More generally, egoists might say that an increasing respect for individual rights uniquely allows for increasing wealth creation and increasing usable resources despite a fixed amount of raw materials (e.g. the West pre-1776 versus post-1776, East versus West Germany, Hong Kong versus mainland China, North versus South Korea, etc.).[18]

It is not clear how to apply a private ownership model to many examples of "Commons", however. Examples include large fisheries, the atmosphere and the ocean.[19][20]

The term ethical egoism has been applied retroactively to philosophers such as Bernard de Mandeville and to many other materialists of his generation, although none of them declared themselves to be egoists. Note that materialism does not necessarily imply egoism, as indicated by Karl Marx, and the many other materialists who espoused forms of collectivism. It has been argued that ethical egoism can lend itself to individualist anarchism such as that of Benjamin Tucker, or the combined anarcho-communism and egoism of Emma Goldman, both of whom were proponents of many egoist ideas put forward by Max Stirner. In this context, egoism is another way of describing the sense that the common good should be enjoyed by all. However, most notable anarchists in history have been less radical, retaining altruism and a sense of the importance of the individual that is appreciable but does not go as far as egoism. Recent trends to greater appreciation of egoism within anarchism tend to come from less classical directions such as post-left anarchy or Situationism (e.g. Raoul Vaneigem). Egoism has also been referenced by anarcho-capitalists, such as Murray Rothbard.

Philosopher Max Stirner, in his book The Ego and Its Own, was the first philosopher to call himself an egoist, though his writing makes clear that he desired not a new idea of morality (ethical egoism), but rather a rejection of morality (amoralism), as a nonexistent and limiting "spook"; for this, Stirner has been described as the first individualist anarchist. Other philosophers, such as Thomas Hobbes and David Gauthier, have argued that the conflicts which arise when people each pursue their own ends can be resolved for the best of each individual only if they all voluntarily forgo some of their aimsthat is, one's self-interest is often best pursued by allowing others to pursue their self-interest as well so that liberty is equal among individuals. Sacrificing one's short-term self-interest to maximize one's long-term self-interest is one form of "rational self-interest" which is the idea behind most philosophers' advocacy of ethical egoism. Egoists have also argued that one's actual interests are not immediately obvious, and that the pursuit of self-interest involves more than merely the acquisition of some good, but the maximizing of one's chances of survival and/or happiness.

Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche suggested that egoistic or "life-affirming" behavior stimulates jealousy or "ressentiment" in others, and that this is the psychological motive for the altruism in Christianity. Sociologist Helmut Schoeck similarly considered envy the motive of collective efforts by society to reduce the disproportionate gains of successful individuals through moral or legal constraints, with altruism being primary among these.[21] In addition, Nietzsche (in Beyond Good and Evil) and Alasdair MacIntyre (in After Virtue) have pointed out that the ancient Greeks did not associate morality with altruism in the way that post-Christian Western civilization has done.Aristotle's view is that we have duties to ourselves as well as to other people (e.g. friends) and to the polis as a whole. The same is true for Thomas Aquinas, Christian Wolff and Immanuel Kant, who claim that there are duties to ourselves as Aristotle did, although it has been argued that, for Aristotle, the duty to one's self is primary.[22]

Ayn Rand argued that there is a positive harmony of interests among free, rational humans, such that no moral agent can rationally coerce another person consistently with his own long-term self-interest. Rand argued that other people are an enormous value to an individual's well-being (through education, trade and affection), but also that this value could be fully realized only under conditions of political and economic freedom. According to Rand, voluntary trade alone can assure that human interaction is mutually beneficial.[23] Rand's student, Leonard Peikoff has argued that the identification of one's interests itself is impossible absent the use of principles, and that self-interest cannot be consistently pursued absent a consistent adherence to certain ethical principles.[24] Recently, Rand's position has also been defended by such writers as Tara Smith, Tibor Machan, Allan Gotthelf, David Kelley, Douglas Rasmussen, Nathaniel Branden, Harry Binswanger, Andrew Bernstein, and Craig Biddle.

Philosopher David L. Norton identified himself an "ethical individualist", and, like Rand, saw a harmony between an individual's fidelity to his own self-actualization, or "personal destiny", and the achievement of society's well being.[25]

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Ethical egoism - Wikipedia

What Are Examples of Ethical Egoism? | Reference.com

An example of ethical egoism would be a person who owes money to a friend and decides to pay the friend back not because that person owes money, but because it is in his best interest to pay his friend back so that he does not lose his friend. Another example of ethical egoism would be a person who invites a friend to a movie that she wants to see because she does not want to go alone and is thinking of her own self-interests first.

In ethical egoism, a person focuses on her own self-interests before all others. Ethical egoism proponents believe that focusing on one's own self-interests benefits all of society because society runs more efficiently. Thomas Hobbes was a famous proponent of ethical egoism.

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What Are Examples of Ethical Egoism? | Reference.com

Dr. Charles Kay Egoism

Egoism is a teleological theory of ethics that sets as its goal the benefit, pleasure, or greatest good of the oneself alone. It is contrasted with altruism, which is not strictly self-interested, but includes in its goal the interests of others as well. There are at least three different ways in which the theory of egoism can be presented:

This is the claim that humans by nature are motivated only by self-interest . Any act, no matter how altruistic it might seem, is actually motivated by some selfish desire of the agent (e.g., desire for reward, avoidance of guilt, personal happiness). This is a descriptive claim about human nature. Since the claim is universalall acts are motivated by self interestit could be proven false by a single counterexample.

It will be difficult to find an action that the psychological egoist will acknowledge as purely altruistic, however. There is almost always some benefit to ourselves in any action we choose. For example, if I helped my friend out of trouble, I may feel happy afterwards. But is that happiness the motive for my action or just a result of my action? The psychological egoist must demonstrate that the beneficial consequences of an action are actually the motivation of of all of our actions. (Why would it make me happy to see my friend out of trouble if I didnt already care about my friends best interest? Wouldnt that be altruism?)

This is the claim that individuals should always act in their own best interest. It is a normative claim. If ethical egoism is true, that appears to imply that psychological egoism is false: there would be no point to arguing that we ought to do what we must do by nature.

But if altruism is possible, why should it be avoided? Some writers suggest we all should focus our resources on satisfying our own interests, rather than those of others. Society will then be more efficient and this will better serve the interests of all. By referring to the interests of all, however, this approach reveals itself to be a version of utilitarianism, and not genuine egoism. It is merely a theory about how best to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number.

An alternative formulation of ethical egoism states that I ought always to act in my own self-interesteven if this conflicts with the values and interests of otherssimply because that is what I desire most. It is not clear how an altruist could find common ground to argue with such an individualistic ethical egoist, but it is also not clear why such an egoist would ever want to argue against the altruist: Since the individualistic egoist believes that whatever serves his own interests is (morally) right, he will want everyone else to be altruistic. Otherwise they would not serve the egoists own interests! It seems that anyone who truly believed in individualistic ethical egoism could not publicly promote the theory without such inconsistency. Indeed, the self-interest of the egoist is best served by publicly claiming to be an altruist and thereby keeping everyones good favor.

When working with certain economic or sociological models, we may frequently assume that people will act in such a way as to promote their own interests. This is not a normative claim and usually not even a descriptive claim. Instead it is a minimalist assumption used for certain calculations. If we assume only self-interest on the part of all agents, we can determine certain extreme-case (e.g., maximin) outcomes for the model. Implicit in this assumption, although not always stated, is the idea that altruistic behavior on the part of the agents, although not presupposed, would yield outcomes at least as good and probably better.

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Dr. Charles Kay Egoism

Psychological egoism – Wikipedia

For other forms of egoism, see Egoism.

Psychological egoism is the view that humans are always motivated by self-interest and selfishness, even in what seem to be acts of altruism. It claims that, when people choose to help others, they do so ultimately because of the personal benefits that they themselves expect to obtain, directly or indirectly, from doing. This is a descriptive rather than normative view, since it only makes claims about how things are, not how they ought to be. It is, however, related to several other normative forms of egoism, such as ethical egoism and rational egoism.

A specific form of psychological egoism is psychological hedonism, the view that the ultimate motive for all voluntary human action is the desire to experience pleasure or to avoid pain. Many discussions of psychological egoism focus on this type, but the two are not the same: theorists have explained behavior motivated by self-interest without using pleasure and pain as the final causes of behavior.[1] Psychological hedonism argues actions are caused by both a need for pleasure immediately and in the future. However, immediate gratification can be sacrificed for a chance of greater, future pleasure.[2] Further, humans are not motivated to strictly avoid pain and only pursue pleasure, but, instead, humans will endure pain to achieve the greatest net pleasure. Accordingly, all actions are tools for increasing pleasure or decreasing pain, even those defined as altruistic and those that do not cause an immediate change in satisfaction levels.

Beginning with ancient philosophy, Epicureanism claims humans live to maximize pleasure.[3] Epicurus argued the theory of human behavior being motivated by pleasure alone is evidenced from infancy to adulthood. Humanity performs altruistic, honorable, and virtuous acts not for the sake of another or because of a moral code but rather to increase the well being of the self.

In modern philosophy, Jeremy Bentham asserted, like Epicurus, that human behavior is governed by a need to increase pleasure and decrease pain.[4] Bentham explicitly described what types and qualities of pain and pleasure exist, and how human motives are singularly explained using psychological hedonism. Bentham attempted to quantify psychological hedonism. Bentham endeavored to find the ideal human behavior based on hedonic calculus or the measurement of relative gains and losses in pain and pleasure to determine the most pleasurable action a human could choose in a situation.

From an evolutionary perspective, Herbert Spencer, a psychological egoist, argued that all animals primarily seek to survive and protect their lineage. Essentially, the need for the individual and for the individual's immediate family to live supersedes the others' need to live.[5] All species attempt to maximize their own chances of survival and, therefore, well being. Spencer asserted the best adapted creatures will have their pleasure levels outweigh their pain levels in their environments. Thus, pleasure meant an animal was fulfilling its egoist goal of self survival, and pleasure would always be pursued because species constantly strive for survival.

Whether or not Sigmund Freud was a psychological egoist, his concept of the pleasure principle borrowed much from psychological egoism and psychological hedonism in particular.[6] The pleasure principle rules the behavior of the Id which is an unconscious force driving humans to release tension from unfulfilled desires. When Freud introduced Thanatos and its opposing force, Eros, the pleasure principle emanating from psychological hedonism became aligned with the Eros, which drives a person to satiate sexual and reproductive desires.[7] Alternatively, Thanatos seeks the cessation of pain through death and the end of the pursuit of pleasure: thus a hedonism rules Thanatos, but it centers on the complete avoidance of pain rather than psychological hedonist function which pursues pleasure and avoids pain. Therefore, Freud believed in qualitatively different hedonisms where the total avoidance of pain hedonism and the achievement of the greatest net pleasure hedonism are separate and associated with distinct functions and drives of the human psyche.[8] Although Eros and Thanatos are ruled by qualitatively different types of hedonism, Eros remains under the rule of Jeremy Bentham's quantitative psychological hedonism because Eros seeks the greatest net pleasure.

Traditional behaviorism dictates all human behavior is explained by classical conditioning and operant conditioning. Operant conditioning works through reinforcement and punishment which adds or removes pleasure and pain to manipulate behavior. Using pleasure and pain to control behavior means behaviorists assumed the principles of psychological hedonism could be applied to predicting human behavior. For example, Thorndike's law of effect states that behaviors associated with pleasantness will be learned and those associated with pain will be extinguished.[9] Often, behaviorist experiments using humans and animals are built around the assumption that subjects will pursue pleasure and avoid pain.[10] Although psychological hedonism is incorporated into the fundamental principles and experimental designs of behaviorism, behaviorism itself explains and interprets only observable behavior and therefore does not theorize about the ultimate cause of human behavior. Thus, behaviorism uses but does not strictly support psychological hedonism over other understandings of the ultimate drive of human behavior.

Psychological egoism is controversial. Proponents cite evidence from introspection: reflection on one's own actions may reveal their motives and intended results to be based on self-interest. Psychological egoists and hedonists have found through numerous observations of natural human behavior that behavior can be manipulated through reward and punishment both of which have direct effects of pain and pleasure.[11] Also, the work of some social scientists has empirically supported this theory.[12] Further, they claim psychological egoism posits a theory that is a more parsimonious explanation than competing theories.[13]

Opponents have argued that psychological egoism is not more parsimonious than other theories. For example, a theory that claims altruism occurs for the sake of altruism explains altruism with less complexity than the egoistic approach. The psychological egoist asserts humans act altruistically for selfish reasons even when cost of the altruistic action is far outweighed by the reward of acting selfishly because altruism is performed to fulfill the desire of a person to act altruistically.[13] Other critics argue that it is false either because it is an over-simplified interpretation of behavior[14][15][16] or that there exists empirical evidence of altruistic behaviour.[17] Recently, some have argued that evolutionary theory provides evidence against it.[18]

Critics have stated that proponents of psychological egoism often confuse the satisfaction of their own desires with the satisfaction of their own self-regarding desires. Even though it is true that every human being seeks his own satisfaction, this sometimes may only be achieved via the well-being of his neighbor. An example of this situation could be phoning for an ambulance when a car accident has happened. In this case, the caller desires the well-being of the victim, even though the desire itself is the caller's own.[19]

To counter this critique, psychological egoism asserts that all such desires for the well being of others are ultimately derived from self-interest. For example, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche was a psychological egoist for some of his career, though he is said to have repudiated that later in his campaign against morality. He argues in 133 of The Dawn, that in such cases compassionate impulses arise out of the projection of our identity unto the object of our feeling. He gives some hypothetical examples as illustrations to his thesis: that of a person, feeling horrified after witnessing a personal feud, coughing blood, or that of the impulse felt to save a person who is drowning in the water. In such cases, according to Nietzsche, there comes into play unconscious fears regarding our own safety. The suffering of another person is felt as a threat to our own happiness and sense of safety, because it reveals our own vulnerability to misfortunes, and thus, by relieving it, one could also ameliorate those personal sentiments. Essentially, proponents argue that altruism is rooted in self-interest whereas opponents claim altruism occurs for altruism's sake or is caused by a non-selfish reason.[20]

David Hume once wrote, "What interest can a fond mother have in view, who loses her health by assiduous attendance on her sick child, and afterwards languishes and dies of grief, when freed, by its death [the child's], from the slavery of that attendance?".[15] It seems incorrect to describe such a mother's goal as self-interested.

Psychological egoists, however, respond that helping others in such ways is ultimately motivated by some form of self-interest, such as non-sensory satisfaction, the expectation of reciprocation, the desire to gain respect or reputation, or by the expectation of a reward in a putative afterlife. The helpful action is merely instrumental to these ultimately selfish goals.

In the ninth century, Mohammed Ibn Al-Jahm Al-Barmaki ( ) has been quoted saying:

"No one deserves thanks from another about something he has done for him or goodness he has done, he is either willing to get a reward from God, therefore he wanted to serve himself, or he wanted to get a reward from people, therefore, he has done that to get profit for himself, or to be mentioned and praised by people, therefore, to it is also for himself, or due to his mercy and tenderheartedness, so he has simply done that goodness to pacify these feelings and treat himself."[21]

This sort of explanation appears to be close to the view of La Rochefoucauld[22] (and perhaps Hobbes[23]).

According to psychological hedonism, the ultimate egoistic motive is to gain good feelings of pleasure and avoid bad feelings of pain. Other, less restricted forms of psychological egoism may allow the ultimate goal of a person to include such things as avoiding punishments from oneself or others (such as guilt or shame) and attaining rewards (such as pride, self-worth, power or reciprocal beneficial action).

Some psychologists explain empathy in terms of psychological hedonism. According to the "merge with others hypothesis", empathy increases the more an individual feels like they are one with another person, and decreases as the oneness decreases.[24] Therefore, altruistic actions emanating from empathy and empathy itself are caused by making others' interests our own, and the satisfaction of their desires becomes our own, not just theirs. Both cognitive studies and neuropsychological experiments have provided evidence for this theory: as humans increase our oneness with others our empathy increases, and as empathy increases our inclination to act altruistically increases.[25] Neuropsychological studies have linked mirror neurons to humans experiencing empathy. Mirror neurons are activated both when a human (or animal) performs an action and when they observe another human (or animal) performs the same action. Researchers have found that the more these mirror neurons fire the more human subjects report empathy. From a neurological perspective, scientists argue that when a human empathizes with another, the brain operates as if the human is actually participating in the actions of the other person. Thus, when performing altruistic actions motivated by empathy, humans experience someone else's pleasure of being helped. Therefore, in performing acts of altruism, people act in their own self interests even at a neurological level.

Even accepting the theory of universal positivity, it is difficult to explain, for example, the actions of a soldier who sacrifices his life by jumping on a grenade in order to save his comrades. In this case, there is simply no time to experience positivity toward one's actions, although a psychological egoist may argue that the soldier experiences moral positivity in knowing that he is sacrificing his life to ensure the survival of his comrades, or that he is avoiding negativity associated with the thought of all his comrades dying.[26] Psychological egoists argue that although some actions may not clearly cause physical nor social positivity, nor avoid negativity, one's current contemplation or reactionary mental expectation of these is the main factor of the decision. When a dog is first taught to sit, it is given a biscuit. This is repeated until, finally, the dog sits without requiring a biscuit. Psychological egoists could claim that such actions which do not 'directly' result in positivity, or reward, are not dissimilar from the actions of the dog. In this case, the action (sitting on command) will have become a force of habit, and breaking such a habit would result in mental discomfort. This basic theory of conditioning behavior, applied to other seemingly ineffective positive actions, can be used to explain moral responses that are instantaneous and instinctive such as the soldier jumping on the grenade.

Psychological egoism has been accused of being circular: "If a person willingly performs an act, that means he derives personal enjoyment from it; therefore, people only perform acts that give them personal enjoyment." In particular, seemingly altruistic acts must be performed because people derive enjoyment from them and are therefore, in reality, egoistic. This statement is circular because its conclusion is identical to its hypothesis: it assumes that people only perform acts that give them personal enjoyment, and concludes that people only perform acts that give them personal enjoyment. This objection was tendered by William Hazlitt[27] and Thomas Macaulay[28] in the 19th century, and has been restated many times since. An earlier version of the same objection was made by Joseph Butler in 1726.

Joel Feinberg, in his 1958 paper "Psychological Egoism", embraces a similar critique by drawing attention to the infinite regress of psychological egoism. He expounds it in the following cross-examination:

In their 1998 book, Unto Others, Sober and Wilson detailed an evolutionary argument based on the likelihood for egoism to evolve under the pressures of natural selection.[18] Specifically, they focus on the human behavior of parental care. To set up their argument, they propose two potential psychological mechanisms for this. The hedonistic mechanism is based on a parent's ultimate desire for pleasure or the avoidance of pain and a belief that caring for its offspring will be instrumental to that. The altruistic mechanism is based on an altruistic ultimate desire to care for its offspring.

Sober and Wilson argue that when evaluating the likelihood of a given trait to evolve, three factors must be considered: availability, reliability and energetic efficiency. The genes for a given trait must first be available in the gene pool for selection. The trait must then reliably produce an increase in fitness for the organism. The trait must also operate with energetic efficiency to not limit the fitness of the organism. Sober and Wilson argue that there is neither reason to suppose that an altruistic mechanism should be any less available than a hedonistic one nor reason to suppose that the content of thoughts and desires (hedonistic vs. altruistic) should impact energetic efficiency. As availability and energetic efficiency are taken to be equivalent for both mechanisms it follows that the more reliable mechanism will then be the more likely mechanism.

For the hedonistic mechanism to produce the behavior of caring for offspring, the parent must believe that the caring behavior will produce pleasure or avoidance of pain for the parent. Sober and Wilson argue that the belief also must be true and constantly reinforced, or it would not be likely enough to persist. If the belief fails then the behavior is not produced. The altruistic mechanism does not rely on belief; therefore, they argue that it would be less likely to fail than the alternative, i.e. more reliable.

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A Framework for Making Ethical Decisions | Science and …

MAKING CHOICES: A FRAMEWORKFORMAKING ETHICAL DECISIONS

Decisions about right and wrong permeate everyday life. Ethics should concern all levels of life: acting properly as individuals, creating responsible organizations and governments, and making our society as a whole more ethical. This document is designed as an introduction to making ethical decisions. It recognizes that decisions about right and wrong can be difficult, and may be related to individual context. It first provides a summary of the major sources for ethical thinking, and then presents a framework for decision-making.

1. WHAT IS ETHICS?:

Ethics provides a set of standards for behavior that helps us decide how we ought to act in a range of situations. In a sense, we can say that ethics is all about making choices, and about providing reasons why we should make these choices.

Ethics is sometimes conflated or confused with other ways of making choices, including religion, law or morality. Many religions promote ethical decision-making but do not always address the full range of ethical choices that we face. Religions may also advocate or prohibit certain behaviors which may not be considered the proper domain of ethics, such as dietary restrictions or sexual behaviors. A good system of law should be ethical, but the law establishes precedent in trying to dictate universal guidelines, and is thus not able to respond to individual contexts. Law may have a difficult time designing or enforcing standards in some important areas, and may be slow to address new problems. Both law and ethics deal with questions of how we should live together with others, but ethics is sometimes also thought to apply to how individuals act even when others are not involved. Finally, many people use the terms morality and ethics interchangeably. Others reserve morality for the state of virtue while seeing ethics as a code that enables morality. Another way to think about the relationship between ethics and morality is to see ethics as providing a rational basis for morality, that is, ethics provides good reasons for why something is moral.

2. TRADITIONAL ARRANGEMENT OF THE FIELD OF ETHICS:

There are many systems of ethics, and numerous ways to think about right and wrong actions or good and bad character. The field of ethics is traditionally divided into three areas: 1.) meta-ethics, which deals with the nature of the right or the good, as well as the nature and justification of ethical claims; 2.) normative ethics, which deals with the standards and principles used to determine whether something is right or good; 3.) applied ethics, which deals with the actual application of ethical principles to a particular situation. While it is helpful to approach the field of ethics in this order, we might keep in mind that this somewhat top down approach does not exhaust the study of ethics. Our experience with applying particular ethical standards or principles can inform our understanding of how good these standard or principles are.

Three Broad Types of Ethical Theory:Ethical theories are often broadly divided into three types: i) Consequentialist theories, which are primarily concerned with the ethical consequences of particular actions; ii) Non-consequentialist theories, which tend to be broadly concerned with the intentions of the person making ethical decisions about particular actions; and iii) Agent-centered theories, which, unlike consequentialist and non-consequentialist theories, are more concerned with the overall ethical status of individuals, or agents, and are less concerned to identify the morality of particular actions. Each of these three broad categories contains varieties of approaches to ethics, some of which share characteristics across the categories. Below is a sample of some of the most important and useful of these ethical approaches.

i.) Consequentialist Theories:

The Utilitarian Approach Utilitarianism can be traced back to the school of the Ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus of Samos (341-270 BCE), who argued that the best life is one that produces the least pain and distress. The 18th Century British philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) applied a similar standard to individual actions, and created a system in which actions could be described as good or bad depending upon the amount and degree of pleasure and/or pain they would produce. Benthams student, John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) modified this system by making its standard for the good the more subjective concept of happiness, as opposed to the more materialist idea of pleasure.

Utilitarianism is one of the most common approaches to making ethical decisions, especially decisions with consequences that concern large groups of people, in part because it instructs us to weigh the different amounts of good and bad that will be produced by our action. This conforms to our feeling that some good and some bad will necessarily be the result of our action and that the best action will be that which provides the most good or does the least harm, or, to put it another way, produces the greatest balance of good over harm. Ethical environmental action, then, is the one that produces the greatest good and does the least harm for all who are affectedgovernment, corporations, the community, and the environment.

The Egoistic ApproachOne variation of the utilitarian approach is known as ethical egoism, or the ethics of self- interest. In this approach, an individual often uses utilitarian calculation to produce the greatest amount of good for him or herself. Ancient Greek Sophists like Thrasymacus (c. 459-400 BCE), who famously claimed that might makes right, and early modern thinkers like Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) may be considered forerunners of this approach. One of the most influential recent proponents of ethical egoism was the Russian-American philosopher Ayn Rand (1905-1982), who, in the book The Virtue of Selfishness (1964), argues that self-interest is a prerequisite to self-respect and to respect for others. There are numerous parallels between ethical egoism and laissez-faire economic theories, in which the pursuit of self-interest is seen as leading to the benefit of society, although the benefit of society is seen only as the fortunate byproduct of following individual self-interest, not its goal.

The Common Good Approach The ancient Greek philosophers Plato (427-347 BCE) and Aristotle (384-322 BCE) promoted the perspective that our actions should contribute to ethical communal life life. The most influential modern proponent of this approach was the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), who argued that the best society should be guided by the general will of the people which would then produce what is best for the people as a whole. This approach to ethics underscores the networked aspects of society and emphasizes respect and compassion for others, especially those who are more vulnerable.

ii.) Non-consequentialist Theories:

The Duty-Based ApproachThe duty-based approach, sometimes called deontological ethics, is most commonly associated with the philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), although it had important precursors in earlier non-consquentialist, often explicitly religious, thinking of people like Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430), who emphasized the importance of the personal will and intention (and of the omnipotent God who sees this interior mental state) to ethical decision making. Kant argued that doing what is right is not about the consequences of our actions (something over which we ultimately have no control) but about having the proper intention in performing the action. The ethical action is one taken from duty, that is, it is done precisely because it is our obligation to perform the action. Ethical obligations are the same for all rational creatures (they are universal), and knowledge of what these obligations entail is arrived at by discovering rules of behavior that are not contradicted by reason.

Kants famous formula for discovering our ethical duty is known as the categorical imperative. It has a number of different versions, but Kant believed they all amounted to the same imperative. The most basic form of the imperative is: Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law. So, for example, lying is unethical because we could not universalize a maxim that said One should always lie. Such a maxim would render all speech meaningless. We can, however, universalize the maxim, Always speak truthfully, without running into a logical contradiction. (Notice the duty-based approach says nothing about how easy or difficult it would be to carry out these maxims, only that it is our duty as rational creatures to do so.) In acting according to a law that we have discovered to be rational according to our own universal reason, we are acting autonomously (in a self-regulating fashion), and thus are bound by duty, a duty we have given ourselves as rational creatures. We thus freely choose (we will) to bind ourselves to the moral law. For Kant, choosing to obey the universal moral law is the very nature of acting ethically.

The Rights Approach The Rights approach to ethics is another non-consequentialist approach which derives much of its current force from Kantian duty-based ethics, although it also has a history that dates back at least to the Stoics of Ancient Greece and Rome, and has another influential current which flows from work of the British empiricist philosopher John Locke (1632-1704). This approach stipulates that the best ethical action is that which protects the ethical rights of those who are affected by the action. It emphasizes the belief that all humans have a right to dignity. This is based on a formulation of Kants categorical imperative that says: Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of another, always at the same time as an end and never simply as a means to an end. The list of ethical rights is debated; many now argue that animals and other non-humans such as robots also have rights.

The Fairness or Justice Approach The Law Code of Hammurabi in Ancient Mesopotamia (c. 1750 BCE) held that all free men should be treated alike, just as all slaves should be treated alike. When combined with the universality of the rights approach, the justice approach can be applied to all human persons. The most influential version of this approach today is found in the work of American philosopher John Rawls (1921-2002), who argued, along Kantian lines, that just ethical principles are those that would be chosen by free and rational people in an initial situation of equality. This hypothetical contract is considered fair or just because it provides a procedure for what counts as a fair action, and does not concern itself with the consequences of those actions. Fairness of starting point is the principle for what is considered just.

The Divine Command ApproachAs its name suggests, this approach sees what is right as the same as what God commands, and ethical standards are the creation of Gods will. Following Gods will is seen as the very definition what is ethical. Because God is seen as omnipotent and possessed of free will, God could change what is now considered ethical, and God is not bound by any standard of right or wrong short of logical contradiction. The Medieval Christian philosopher William of Ockham (1285-1349) was one of the most influential thinkers in this tradition, and his writings served as a guide for Protestant Reformers like Martin Luther (1483-1546) and Jean Calvin (1509-1564). The Danish philosopher Sren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), in praising the biblical Patriarch Abrahams willingness to kill his son Isaac at Gods command, claimed that truly right action must ultimately go beyond everyday morality to what he called the teleological suspension of the ethical, again demonstrating the somewhat tenuous relationship between religion and ethics mentioned earlier.

iii.) Agent-centered Theories:

The Virtue Approach One long-standing ethical principle argues that ethical actions should be consistent with ideal human virtues. Aristotle, for example, argued that ethics should be concerned with the whole of a persons life, not with the individual discrete actions a person may perform in any given situation. A person of good character would be one who has attainted certain virtues. This approach is also prominent in non-Western contexts, especially in East Asia, where the tradition of the Chinese sage Confucius (551-479 BCE) emphasizes the importance of acting virtuously (in an appropriate manner) in a variety of situations. Because virtue ethics is concerned with the entirety of a persons life, it takes the process of education and training seriously, and emphasizes the importance of role models to our understanding of how to engage in ethical deliberation.

The Feminist ApproachIn recent decades, the virtue approach to ethics has been supplemented and sometimes significantly revised by thinkers in the feminist tradition, who often emphasize the importance of the experiences of women and other marginalized groups to ethical deliberation. Among the most important contributions of this approach is its foregrounding of the principle of care as a legitimately primary ethical concern, often in opposition to the seemingly cold and impersonal justice approach. Like virtue ethics, feminist ethics concerned with the totality of human life and how this life comes to influence the way we make ethical decisions.

Applied Ethics

Terms Used in Ethical JudgmentsApplied ethics deals with issues in private or public life that are matters for ethical judgments. The following are important terms used in making moral judgments about particular actions.

Obligatory: When we say something is ethically obligatory we mean that it is not only right to do it, but that it is wrong not to do it. In other words, we have a ethical obligation to perform the action. Sometimes the easiest way to see if an action is ethically obligatory is to look at what it would mean NOT to perform the action. For example, we might say it is ethically obligatory for parents to care for their children, not only because it is right for them to do it, but also because it is wrong for them not to do it. The children would suffer and die if parents did not care for them. The parents are thus ethically obligated to care for their children.

Impermissible: The opposite of an ethically obligatory action is an action that is ethically impermissible, meaning that it is wrong to do it and right not to do it. For example, we would say that murder is ethically impermissible.

Permissible: Sometimes actions are referred to as ethically permissible, or ethically neutral, because it is neither right nor wrong to do them or not to do them. We might say that having plastic surgery is ethically permissible, because it is not wrong to have the surgery (it is not impermissible), but neither is it ethically necessary (obligatory) to have the surgery. Some argue that suicide is permissible in certain circumstances. That is, a person would not be wrong in committing suicide, nor would they be wrong in not committing suicide. Others would say that suicide is ethically impermissible.

Supererogatory: A fourth type of ethical action is called supererogatory. These types of actions are seen as going above and beyond the call of duty. They are right to do, but it is not wrong not to do them. For example, two people are walking down a hallway and see a third person drop their book bag, spilling all of their books and papers onto the floor. If one person stops to help the third person pick up their books, but the other person keeps on walking, we somehow feel that the person who stopped to help has acted in a more ethically appropriate way than the person who did not stop, but we cannot say that the person who did not stop was unethical in not stopping. In other words, the person who did not help was in no way obligated (it was not ethically obligatory) to help. But we nevertheless want to ethically praise the person who did stop, so we call his or her actions supererogatory.

3. FRAMEWORKS FOR ETHICAL DECISION-MAKING:

Making good ethical decisions requires a trained sensitivity to ethical issues and a practiced method for exploring the ethical aspects of a decision and weighing the considerations that should impact our choice of a course of action. Having a method for ethical decision making is essential. When practiced regularly, the method becomes so familiar that we work through it automatically without consulting the specific steps. This is one reason why we can sometimes say that we have a moral intuition about a certain situation, even when we have not consciously thought through the issue. We are practiced at making ethical judgments, just as we can be practiced at playing the piano, and can sit and play well without thinking. Nevertheless, it is not always advisable to follow our immediate intuitions, especially in particularly complicated or unfamiliar situations. Here our method for ethical decision making should enable us to recognize these new and unfamiliar situations and to act accordingly.

The more novel and difficult the ethical choice we face, the more we need to rely on discussion and dialogue with others about the dilemma. Only by careful exploration of the problem, aided by the insights and different perspectives of others, can we make good ethical choices in such situations.

Three FrameworksBased upon the three-part division of traditional normative ethical theories discussed above, it makes sense to suggest three broad frameworks to guide ethical decision making: The Consequentialist Framework; The Duty Framework; and the Virtue Framework.

While each of the three frameworks is useful for making ethical decisions, none is perfectotherwise the perfect theory would have driven the other imperfect theories from the field long ago. Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of the frameworks will be helpful in deciding which is most useful in approach the particular situation with which we are presented.

The Consequentialist Framework In the Consequentialist framework, we focus on the future effects of the possible courses of action, considering the people who will be directly or indirectly affected. We ask about what outcomes are desirable in a given situation, and consider ethical conduct to be whatever will achieve the best consequences. The person using the Consequences framework desires to produce the most good.

Among the advantages of this ethical framework is that focusing on the results of an action is a pragmatic approach. It helps in situations involving many people, some of whom may benefit from the action, while others may not. On the other hand, it is not always possible to predict the consequences of an action, so some actions that are expected to produce good consequences might actually end up harming people. Additionally, people sometimes react negatively to the use of compromise which is an inherent part of this approach, and they recoil from the implication that the end justifies the means. It also does not include a pronouncement that certain things are always wrong, as even the most heinous actions may result in a good outcome for some people, and this framework allows for these actions to then be ethical.

The Duty Framework In the Duty framework, we focus on the duties and obligations that we have in a given situation, and consider what ethical obligations we have and what things we should never do. Ethical conduct is defined by doing ones duties and doing the right thing, and the goal is performing the correct action.

This framework has the advantage of creating a system of rules that has consistent expectations of all people; if an action is ethically correct or a duty is required, it would apply to every person in a given situation. This even-handedness encourages treating everyone with equal dignity and respect.

This framework also focuses on following moral rules or duty regardless of outcome, so it allows for the possibility that one might have acted ethically, even if there is a bad result. Therefore, this framework works best in situations where there is a sense of obligation or in those in which we need to consider why duty or obligation mandates or forbids certain courses of action.

However, this framework also has its limitations. First, it can appear cold and impersonal, in that it might require actions which are known to produce harms, even though they are strictly in keeping with a particular moral rule. It also does not provide a way to determine which duty we should follow if we are presented with a situation in which two or more duties conflict. It can also be rigid in applying the notion of duty to everyone regardless of personal situation.

The Virtue Framework In the Virtue framework, we try to identify the character traits (either positive or negative) that might motivate us in a given situation. We are concerned with what kind of person we should be and what our actions indicate about our character. We define ethical behavior as whatever a virtuous person would do in the situation, and we seek to develop similar virtues.

Obviously, this framework is useful in situations that ask what sort of person one should be. As a way of making sense of the world, it allows for a wide range of behaviors to be called ethical, as there might be many different types of good character and many paths to developing it. Consequently, it takes into account all parts of human experience and their role in ethical deliberation, as it believes that all of ones experiences, emotions, and thoughts can influence the development of ones character.

Although this framework takes into account a variety of human experience, it also makes it more difficult to resolve disputes, as there can often be more disagreement about virtuous traits than ethical actions. Also, because the framework looks at character, it is not particularly good at helping someone to decide what actions to take in a given situation or determine the rules that would guide ones actions. Also, because it emphasizes the importance of role models and education to ethical behavior, it can sometimes merely reinforce current cultural norms as the standard of ethical behavior.

Putting the Frameworks TogetherBy framing the situation or choice you are facing in one of the ways presented above, specific features will be brought into focus more clearly. However, it should be noted that each framework has its limits: by focusing our attention on one set of features, other important features may be obscured. Hence it is important to be familiar with all three frameworks and to understand how they relate to each otherwhere they may overlap, and where they may differ.

The chart below is designed to highlight the main contrasts between the three frameworks:

Consequentialist

Duty

Virtue

Deliberative process

What kind of outcomes should I produce (or try to produce)?

What are my obligations in this situation, and what are the things I should never do?

What kind of person should I be (or try to be), and what will my actions show about my character?

Focus

Directs attention to the future effects of an action, for all people who will be directly or indirectly affected by the action.

Directs attention to the duties that exist prior to the situation and determines obligations.

Attempts to discern character traits (virtues and vices) that are, or could be, motivating the people involved in the situation.

Definition of Ethical Conduct

Ethical conduct is the action that will achieve the best consequences.

Ethical conduct involves always doing the right thing: never failing to do one's duty.

Ethical conduct is whatever a fully virtuous person would do in the circumstances.

Motivation

Aim is to produce the most good.

Aim is to perform the right action.

Aim is to develop ones character.

Because the answers to the three main types of ethical questions asked by each framework are not mutually exclusive, each framework can be used to make at least some progress in answering the questions posed by the other two.

In many situations, all three frameworks will result in the sameor at least very similarconclusions about what you should do, although they will typically give different reasons for reaching those conclusions.

However, because they focus on different ethical features, the conclusions reached through one framework will occasionally differ from the conclusions reached through one (or both) of the others.

4. APPLYING THE FRAMEWORKS TO CASES:

When using the frameworks to make ethical judgments about specific cases, it will be useful to follow the process below.

Recognizing an Ethical IssueOne of the most important things to do at the beginning of ethical deliberation is to locate, to the extent possible, the specifically ethical aspects of the issue at hand. Sometimes what appears to be an ethical dispute is really a dispute about facts or concepts. For example, some Utilitarians might argue that the death penalty is ethical because it deters crime and thus produces the greatest amount of good with the least harm. Other Utilitarians, however, might argue that the death penalty does not deter crime, and thus produces more harm than good. The argument here is over which facts argue for the morality of a particular action, not simply over the morality of particular principles. All Utilitarians would abide by the principle of producing the most good with the least harm.

Consider the Parties InvolvedAnother important aspect to reflect upon are the various individuals and groups who may be affected by your decision. Consider who might be harmed or who might benefit.

Gather all of the Relevant InformationBefore taking action, it is a good idea to make sure that you have gathered all of the pertinent information, and that all potential sources of information have been consulted.

Formulate Actions and Consider AlternativesEvaluate your decision-making options by asking the following questions:

Which action will produce the most good and do the least harm? (The Utilitarian Approach)

Which action respects the rights of all who have a stake in the decision? (The Rights Approach)

Which action treats people equally or proportionately? (The Justice Approach)

Which action serves the community as a whole, not just some members? (The Common Good Approach)

Which action leads me to act as the sort of person I should be? (The Virtue Approach)

Make a Decision and Consider ItAfter examining all of the potential actions, which best addresses the situation? How do I feel about my choice?

Act Many ethical situations are uncomfortable because we can never have all of the information. Even so, we must often take action.

Reflect on the OutcomeWhat were the results of my decision? What were the intended and unintended consequences? Would I change anything now that I have seen the consequences?

5. CONCLUSIONS:

Making ethical decisions requires sensitivity to the ethical implications of problems and situations. It also requires practice. Having a framework for ethical decision making is essential. We hope that the information above is helpful in developing your own experience in making choices.

Acknowledgements:

This framework for thinking ethically is the product of dialogue and debate in the seminar Making Choices: Ethical Decisions at the Frontier of Global Science held at Brown University in the spring semester 2011. It relies on the Ethical Framework developed at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara Universityand the Ethical Framework developed by the Center for Ethical Deliberation at the University of Northern Coloradoas well as the Ethical Frameworks for Academic Decision-Making on the Faculty Focus websitewhich in turn relies upon Understanding Ethical Frameworks for E-Learning Decision-Making, December 1, 2008, Distance Education Report (find url)

Primary contributors include Sheila Bonde and Paul Firenze, with critical input from James Green, Margot Grinberg, Josephine Korijn, Emily Levoy, Alysha Naik, Laura Ucik and Liza Weisberg. It was last revised in May, 2013.

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Psychological Egoism vs Ethical Egoism | Flow Psychology

It is said that selfishness is a human nature. Consequently, selfishness is something that relates to egoism. Selfishness is in many forms, which will be discussed later on. Both of these subjects have been a center of discussion for years now. Among the subjects that have been part of it is the topic about psychological egoism vs. ethical egoism.

As for the psychological egoism vs. ethical egoism, the latter is described as the belief in which it states that humans are usually always selfish. Humans are always acting out of their own self-interest, which leads to happiness. The former, however, is the belief that humans are supposed to act only concerning their own interest.

Based on the beliefs itself and how each was defined, the kinds of egoisms that people practice are now differentiated. One type of egoism tells about acting based on or with the presence of a motive and the other acting on something based purely for the persons benefit.

In psychological egoism, it is explained that individuals only do good things because it is in their own interest to do so. As an example, a person decided and chose not to steal for the fact that he or she is afraid to feel the guilt or afraid to go to prison. As for ethical egoism, it is explained that it is just right for individuals to act based on their own self-interest. It means a person acts out for his or her benefit only.

In general, it is described as the empirical doctrine in which the motive for which a person makes a voluntary action is one that falls for that same individuals benefit. In a wider scope, in every action that a person does, even though it is seen as something that is for the benefit of others, there is still a hidden motive that serves for the self-interest of the person.

There are two arguments under this. One, this egoism is considered as a descriptive theory that resulted from the observations made on human behavior. Thus, it can only become a real empirical theory once there are no present exceptions. Second, there is no claim as to how a person should act. Thus, it is a fact that all individuals are seeking their self-interest in the theory. For psychological egoist, they view this as a verifiable and non-moral.

It is described as that doctrine that is prescriptive or normative. It means a person is supposed to seek something only for his own welfare. The primary idea in this belief is that only the persons own welfare is the one valuable for that same individual. There are also two arguments here. One, not all people are naturally seeking just their self-interest. It only claims that people should seek ones self-interest even if not everyone will do the same thing. The second, if it is to be regarded as one theory, then it must be applicable to all persons.

In the end, there is only one thing that can be concluded about the subject psychological egoism vs. ethical egoism. It is that even with the stated theories on egoism, people are not always motivated to act based on selfishness. At times, people just act based on pure kindness in mind.

Dec 20, 2013-Flow Psychology Editor

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Dr. Charles Kay Egoism

Egoism is a teleological theory of ethics that sets as its goal the benefit, pleasure, or greatest good of the oneself alone. It is contrasted with altruism, which is not strictly self-interested, but includes in its goal the interests of others as well. There are at least three different ways in which the theory of egoism can be presented:

This is the claim that humans by nature are motivated only by self-interest . Any act, no matter how altruistic it might seem, is actually motivated by some selfish desire of the agent (e.g., desire for reward, avoidance of guilt, personal happiness). This is a descriptive claim about human nature. Since the claim is universalall acts are motivated by self interestit could be proven false by a single counterexample.

It will be difficult to find an action that the psychological egoist will acknowledge as purely altruistic, however. There is almost always some benefit to ourselves in any action we choose. For example, if I helped my friend out of trouble, I may feel happy afterwards. But is that happiness the motive for my action or just a result of my action? The psychological egoist must demonstrate that the beneficial consequences of an action are actually the motivation of of all of our actions. (Why would it make me happy to see my friend out of trouble if I didnt already care about my friends best interest? Wouldnt that be altruism?)

This is the claim that individuals should always act in their own best interest. It is a normative claim. If ethical egoism is true, that appears to imply that psychological egoism is false: there would be no point to arguing that we ought to do what we must do by nature.

But if altruism is possible, why should it be avoided? Some writers suggest we all should focus our resources on satisfying our own interests, rather than those of others. Society will then be more efficient and this will better serve the interests of all. By referring to the interests of all, however, this approach reveals itself to be a version of utilitarianism, and not genuine egoism. It is merely a theory about how best to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number.

An alternative formulation of ethical egoism states that I ought always to act in my own self-interesteven if this conflicts with the values and interests of otherssimply because that is what I desire most. It is not clear how an altruist could find common ground to argue with such an individualistic ethical egoist, but it is also not clear why such an egoist would ever want to argue against the altruist: Since the individualistic egoist believes that whatever serves his own interests is (morally) right, he will want everyone else to be altruistic. Otherwise they would not serve the egoists own interests! It seems that anyone who truly believed in individualistic ethical egoism could not publicly promote the theory without such inconsistency. Indeed, the self-interest of the egoist is best served by publicly claiming to be an altruist and thereby keeping everyones good favor.

When working with certain economic or sociological models, we may frequently assume that people will act in such a way as to promote their own interests. This is not a normative claim and usually not even a descriptive claim. Instead it is a minimalist assumption used for certain calculations. If we assume only self-interest on the part of all agents, we can determine certain extreme-case (e.g., maximin) outcomes for the model. Implicit in this assumption, although not always stated, is the idea that altruistic behavior on the part of the agents, although not presupposed, would yield outcomes at least as good and probably better.

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Consequentialist Theories: Ethical Egoism & Utilitarianism …

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Comparing Psychological & Ethical Egoism – Study.com

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Ethical egoism – Wikipedia

For other forms of egoism, see Egoism.

Ethical egoism is the normative ethical position that moral agents ought to do what is in their own self-interest. It differs from psychological egoism, which claims that people can only act in their self-interest. Ethical egoism also differs from rational egoism, which holds that it is rational to act in one's self-interest.[1]Ethical egoism holds, therefore, that actions whose consequences will benefit the doer can be considered ethical in this sense.

Ethical egoism contrasts with ethical altruism, which holds that moral agents have an obligation to help others. Egoism and altruism both contrast with ethical utilitarianism, which holds that a moral agent should treat one's self (also known as the subject) with no higher regard than one has for others (as egoism does, by elevating self-interests and "the self" to a status not granted to others). But it also holds that one should not (as altruism does) sacrifice one's own interests to help others' interests, so long as one's own interests (i.e. one's own desires or well-being) are substantially equivalent to the others' interests and well-being. Egoism, utilitarianism, and altruism are all forms of consequentialism, but egoism and altruism contrast with utilitarianism, in that egoism and altruism are both agent-focused forms of consequentialism (i.e. subject-focused or subjective). However, utilitarianism is held to be agent-neutral (i.e. objective and impartial): it does not treat the subject's (i.e. the self's, i.e. the moral "agent's") own interests as being more or less important than the interests, desires, or well-being of others.

Ethical egoism does not, however, require moral agents to harm the interests and well-being of others when making moral deliberation; e.g. what is in an agent's self-interest may be incidentally detrimental, beneficial, or neutral in its effect on others. Individualism allows for others' interest and well-being to be disregarded or not, as long as what is chosen is efficacious in satisfying the self-interest of the agent. Nor does ethical egoism necessarily entail that, in pursuing self-interest, one ought always to do what one wants to do; e.g. in the long term, the fulfillment of short-term desires may prove detrimental to the self. Fleeting pleasure, then, takes a back seat to protracted eudaimonia. In the words of James Rachels, "Ethical egoism ... endorses selfishness, but it doesn't endorse foolishness."[2]

Ethical egoism is often used as the philosophical basis for support of right-libertarianism and individualist anarchism.[3] These are political positions based partly on a belief that individuals should not coercively prevent others from exercising freedom of action.

Ethical egoism can be broadly divided into three categories: individual, personal, and universal. An individual ethical egoist would hold that all people should do whatever benefits "my" (the individual) self-interest; a personal ethical egoist would hold that he or she should act in his or her self-interest, but would make no claims about what anyone else ought to do; a universal ethical egoist would argue that everyone should act in ways that are in their self-interest.[4][5]

Ethical egoism was introduced by the philosopher Henry Sidgwick in his book The Methods of Ethics, written in 1874. Sidgwick compared egoism to the philosophy of utilitarianism, writing that whereas utilitarianism sought to maximize overall pleasure, egoism focused only on maximizing individual pleasure.[6]

Philosophers before Sidgwick have also retroactively been identified as ethical egoists. One ancient example is the philosophy of Yang Zhu (4th century BC), Yangism, who views wei wo, or "everything for myself", as the only virtue necessary for self-cultivation.[7] Ancient Greek philosophers like Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics were exponents of virtue ethics, and "did not accept the formal principle that whatever the good is, we should seek only our own good, or prefer it to the good of others."[6] However, the beliefs of the Cyrenaics have been referred to as a "form of egoistic hedonism",[8] and while some refer to Epicurus' hedonism as a form of virtue ethics, others argue his ethics are more properly described as ethical egoism.[9]

Philosopher James Rachels, in an essay that takes as its title the theory's name, outlines the three arguments most commonly touted in its favor:[10]

It has been argued that extreme ethical egoism is self-defeating. Faced with a situation of limited resources, egoists would consume as much of the resource as they could, making the overall situation worse for everybody. Egoists may respond that if the situation becomes worse for everybody, that would include the egoist, so it is not, in fact, in his or her rational self-interest to take things to such extremes.[16] However, the (unregulated) tragedy of the commons and the (one off) prisoner's dilemma are cases in which, on the one hand, it is rational for an individual to seek to take as much as possible even though that makes things worse for everybody, and on the other hand, those cases are not self-refuting since that behaviour remains rational even though it is ultimately self-defeating, i.e. self-defeating does not imply self-refuting. A tragedy of the commons, however, assumes some degree of public land. That is, a commons forbidding homesteading requires regulation. Thus, an argument against the tragedy of the commons is fundamentally an argument for private property rights and the system that recognizes both property rights and rational self-interestcapitalism.[17] More generally, an increasing respect for individual rights uniquely allows for increasing wealth creation and increasing usable resources despite a fixed amount of raw materials (e.g. the West pre-1776 versus post-1776, East versus West Germany, Hong Kong versus mainland China, North versus South Korea, etc.).[18]

It is not clear how to apply a private ownership model to many examples of "Commons", however. Examples include large fisheries, the atmosphere and the ocean.[19][20]

The term ethical egoism has been applied retroactively to philosophers such as Bernard de Mandeville and to many other materialists of his generation, although none of them declared themselves to be egoists. Note that materialism does not necessarily imply egoism, as indicated by Karl Marx, and the many other materialists who espoused forms of collectivism. It has been argued that ethical egoism can lend itself to individualist anarchism such as that of Benjamin Tucker, or the combined anarcho-communism and egoism of Emma Goldman, both of whom were proponents of many egoist ideas put forward by Max Stirner. In this context, egoism is another way of describing the sense that the common good should be enjoyed by all. However, most notable anarchists in history have been less radical, retaining altruism and a sense of the importance of the individual that is appreciable but does not go as far as egoism. Recent trends to greater appreciation of egoism within anarchism tend to come from less classical directions such as post-left anarchy or Situationism (e.g. Raoul Vaneigem). Egoism has also been referenced by anarcho-capitalists, such as Murray Rothbard.

Philosopher Max Stirner, in his book The Ego and Its Own, was the first philosopher to call himself an egoist, though his writing makes clear that he desired not a new idea of morality (ethical egoism), but rather a rejection of morality (amoralism), as a nonexistent and limiting "spook"; for this, Stirner has been described as the first individualist anarchist. Other philosophers, such as Thomas Hobbes and David Gauthier, have argued that the conflicts which arise when people each pursue their own ends can be resolved for the best of each individual only if they all voluntarily forgo some of their aimsthat is, one's self-interest is often best pursued by allowing others to pursue their self-interest as well so that liberty is equal among individuals. Sacrificing one's short-term self-interest to maximize one's long-term self-interest is one form of "rational self-interest" which is the idea behind most philosophers' advocacy of ethical egoism. Egoists have also argued that one's actual interests are not immediately obvious, and that the pursuit of self-interest involves more than merely the acquisition of some good, but the maximizing of one's chances of survival and/or happiness.

Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche suggested that egoistic or "life-affirming" behavior stimulates jealousy or "ressentiment" in others, and that this is the psychological motive for the altruism in Christianity. Sociologist Helmut Schoeck similarly considered envy the motive of collective efforts by society to reduce the disproportionate gains of successful individuals through moral or legal constraints, with altruism being primary among these.[21] In addition, Nietzsche (in Beyond Good and Evil) and Alasdair MacIntyre (in After Virtue) have pointed out that the ancient Greeks did not associate morality with altruism in the way that post-Christian Western civilization has done.Aristotle's view is that we have duties to ourselves as well as to other people (e.g. friends) and to the polis as a whole. The same is true for Thomas Aquinas, Christian Wolff and Immanuel Kant, who claim that there are duties to ourselves as Aristotle did, although it has been argued that, for Aristotle, the duty to one's self is primary.[22]

Ayn Rand argued that there is a positive harmony of interests among free, rational humans, such that no moral agent can rationally coerce another person consistently with his own long-term self-interest. Rand argued that other people are an enormous value to an individual's well-being (through education, trade and affection), but also that this value could be fully realized only under conditions of political and economic freedom. According to Rand, voluntary trade alone can assure that human interaction is mutually beneficial.[23] Rand's student, Leonard Peikoff has argued that the identification of one's interests itself is impossible absent the use of principles, and that self-interest cannot be consistently pursued absent a consistent adherence to certain ethical principles.[24] Recently, Rand's position has also been defended by such writers as Tara Smith, Tibor Machan, Allan Gotthelf, David Kelley, Douglas Rasmussen, Nathaniel Branden, Harry Binswanger, Andrew Bernstein, and Craig Biddle.

Philosopher David L. Norton identified himself an "ethical individualist", and, like Rand, saw a harmony between an individual's fidelity to his own self-actualization, or "personal destiny", and the achievement of society's well being.[25]

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Ethics: Ethical Egoism and Utilitarianism – Bartleby.com

550 Words Jan 28th, 2018 2 Pages

Normative egoism has the individual making claims about what should be done to do the "right" thing, rather than what one does Ethical egoism requires that for an action to be moral it must maximize one's own self interest Rational actions are moral actionsEthical egoism puts the self in front of all others in finding moralityEssentially, the argument follows that each of us is most familiar with our own wants and needs. We do not know the wants and needs of others in the same way, nor are we equipped to always follow in others' best interests. It is then more efficient and logical to pursue our own needs and look out for ourselves so that others do not have to. This view also assumes that the individual is more able to provide for their own needs and also has that responsibility. Therefore, because the onus is on the self, society can be free to work for the betterment of larger projects that benefit everyone as opposed to taking care of individuals (Feinberg, 2008, pp. 520-3).At times, ethical egoism can benefit the larger group, as in a doctor in a rural town with free rent and a captive audience. The city provides the rent, the doctor the care, but all benefit.UtilitarianismAct Utilitarianism is the view that the

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Psychological egoism – Wikipedia

For other forms of egoism, see Egoism.

Psychological egoism is the view that humans are always motivated by self-interest and selfishness, even in what seem to be acts of altruism. It claims that, when people choose to help others, they do so ultimately because of the personal benefits that they themselves expect to obtain, directly or indirectly, from doing so. This is a descriptive rather than normative view, since it only makes claims about how things are, not how they ought to be. It is, however, related to several other normative forms of egoism, such as ethical egoism and rational egoism.

A specific form of psychological egoism is psychological hedonism, the view that the ultimate motive for all voluntary human action is the desire to experience pleasure or to avoid pain. Many discussions of psychological egoism focus on this type, but the two are not the same: theorists have explained behavior motivated by self-interest without using pleasure and pain as the final causes of behavior.[1] Psychological hedonism argues actions are caused by both a need for pleasure immediately and in the future. However, immediate gratification can be sacrificed for a chance of greater, future pleasure.[2] Further, humans are not motivated to strictly avoid pain and only pursue pleasure, but, instead, humans will endure pain to achieve the greatest net pleasure. Accordingly, all actions are tools for increasing pleasure or decreasing pain, even those defined as altruistic and those that do not cause an immediate change in satisfaction levels.

Beginning with ancient philosophy, Epicureanism claims humans live to maximize pleasure.[3] Epicurus argued the theory of human behavior being motivated by pleasure alone is evidenced from infancy to adulthood. Humanity performs altruistic, honorable, and virtuous acts not for the sake of another or because of a moral code but rather to increase the well being of the self.

In modern philosophy, Jeremy Bentham asserted, like Epicurus, that human behavior is governed by a need to increase pleasure and decrease pain.[4] Bentham explicitly described what types and qualities of pain and pleasure exist, and how human motives are singularly explained using psychological hedonism. Bentham attempted to quantify psychological hedonism. Bentham endeavored to find the ideal human behavior based on hedonic calculus or the measurement of relative gains and losses in pain and pleasure to determine the most pleasurable action a human could choose in a situation.

From an evolutionary perspective, Herbert Spencer, a psychological egoist, argued that all animals primarily seek to survive and protect their lineage. Essentially, the need for the individual and for the individual's immediate family to live supersedes the others' need to live.[5] All species attempt to maximize their own chances of survival and, therefore, well being. Spencer asserted the best adapted creatures will have their pleasure levels outweigh their pain levels in their environments. Thus, pleasure meant an animal was fulfilling its egoist goal of self survival, and pleasure would always be pursued because species constantly strive for survival.

Whether or not Sigmund Freud was a psychological egoist, his concept of the pleasure principle borrowed much from psychological egoism and psychological hedonism in particular.[6] The pleasure principle rules the behavior of the Id which is an unconscious force driving humans to release tension from unfulfilled desires. When Freud introduced Thanatos and its opposing force, Eros, the pleasure principle emanating from psychological hedonism became aligned with the Eros, which drives a person to satiate sexual and reproductive desires.[7] Alternatively, Thanatos seeks the cessation of pain through death and the end of the pursuit of pleasure: thus a hedonism rules Thanatos, but it centers on the complete avoidance of pain rather than psychological hedonist function which pursues pleasure and avoids pain. Therefore, Freud believed in qualitatively different hedonisms where the total avoidance of pain hedonism and the achievement of the greatest net pleasure hedonism are separate and associated with distinct functions and drives of the human psyche.[8] Although Eros and Thanatos are ruled by qualitatively different types of hedonism, Eros remains under the rule of Jeremy Bentham's quantitative psychological hedonism because Eros seeks the greatest net pleasure.

Traditional behaviorism dictates all human behavior is explained by classical conditioning and operant conditioning. Operant conditioning works through reinforcement and punishment which adds or removes pleasure and pain to manipulate behavior. Using pleasure and pain to control behavior means behaviorists assumed the principles of psychological hedonism could be applied to predicting human behavior. For example, Thorndike's law of effect states that behaviors associated with pleasantness will be learned and those associated with pain will be extinguished.[9] Often, behaviorist experiments using humans and animals are built around the assumption that subjects will pursue pleasure and avoid pain.[10] Although psychological hedonism is incorporated into the fundamental principles and experimental designs of behaviorism, behaviorism itself explains and interprets only observable behavior and therefore does not theorize about the ultimate cause of human behavior. Thus, behaviorism uses but does not strictly support psychological hedonism over other understandings of the ultimate drive of human behavior.

Psychological egoism is controversial. Proponents cite evidence from introspection: reflection on one's own actions may reveal their motives and intended results to be based on self-interest. Psychological egoists and hedonists have found through numerous observations of natural human behavior that behavior can be manipulated through reward and punishment both of which have direct effects of pain and pleasure.[11] Also, the work of some social scientists has empirically supported this theory.[12] Further, they claim psychological egoism posits a theory that is a more parsimonious explanation than competing theories.[13]

Opponents have argued that psychological egoism is not more parsimonious than other theories. For example, a theory that claims altruism occurs for the sake of altruism explains altruism with less complexity than the egoistic approach. The psychological egoist asserts humans act altruistically for selfish reasons even when cost of the altruistic action is far outweighed by the reward of acting selfishly because altruism is performed to fulfill the desire of a person to act altruistically.[13] Other critics argue that it is false either because it is an over-simplified interpretation of behavior[14][15][16] or that there exists empirical evidence of altruistic behaviour.[17] Recently, some have argued that evolutionary theory provides evidence against it.[18]

Critics have stated that proponents of psychological egoism often confuse the satisfaction of their own desires with the satisfaction of their own self-regarding desires. Even though it is true that every human being seeks his own satisfaction, this sometimes may only be achieved via the well-being of his neighbor. An example of this situation could be phoning for an ambulance when a car accident has happened. In this case, the caller desires the well-being of the victim, even though the desire itself is the caller's own.[19]

To counter this critique, psychological egoism asserts that all such desires for the well being of others are ultimately derived from self-interest. For example, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche was a psychological egoist for some of his career, though he is said to have repudiated that later in his campaign against morality. He argues in 133 of The Dawn, that in such cases compassionate impulses arise out of the projection of our identity unto the object of our feeling. He gives some hypothetical examples as illustrations to his thesis: that of a person, feeling horrified after witnessing a personal feud, coughing blood, or that of the impulse felt to save a person who is drowning in the water. In such cases, according to Nietzsche, there comes into play unconscious fears regarding our own safety. The suffering of another person is felt as a threat to our own happiness and sense of safety, because it reveals our own vulnerability to misfortunes, and thus, by relieving it, one could also ameliorate those personal sentiments. Essentially, proponents argue that altruism is rooted in self-interest whereas opponents claim altruism occurs for altruism's sake or is caused by a non-selfish reason.[20]

David Hume once wrote, "What interest can a fond mother have in view, who loses her health by assiduous attendance on her sick child, and afterwards languishes and dies of grief, when freed, by its death [the child's], from the slavery of that attendance?".[15] It seems incorrect to describe such a mother's goal as self-interested.

Psychological egoists, however, respond that helping others in such ways is ultimately motivated by some form of self-interest, such as non-sensory satisfaction, the expectation of reciprocation, the desire to gain respect or reputation, or by the expectation of a reward in a putative afterlife. The helpful action is merely instrumental to these ultimately selfish goals.

In the ninth century, Mohammed Ibn Al-Jahm Al-Barmaki ( ) has been quoted saying:

"No one deserves thanks from another about something he has done for him or goodness he has done, he is either willing to get a reward from God, therefore he wanted to serve himself, or he wanted to get a reward from people, therefore, he has done that to get profit for himself, or to be mentioned and praised by people, therefore, to it is also for himself, or due to his mercy and tenderheartedness, so he has simply done that goodness to pacify these feelings and treat himself."[21]

This sort of explanation appears to be close to the view of La Rochefoucauld[22] (and perhaps Hobbes[23]).

According to psychological hedonism, the ultimate egoistic motive is to gain good feelings of pleasure and avoid bad feelings of pain. Other, less restricted forms of psychological egoism may allow the ultimate goal of a person to include such things as avoiding punishments from oneself or others (such as guilt or shame) and attaining rewards (such as pride, self-worth, power or reciprocal beneficial action).

Some psychologists explain empathy in terms of psychological hedonism. According to the "merge with others hypothesis", empathy increases the more an individual feels like they are one with another person, and decreases as the oneness decreases.[24] Therefore, altruistic actions emanating from empathy and empathy itself are caused by making others' interests our own, and the satisfaction of their desires becomes our own, not just theirs. Both cognitive studies and neuropsychological experiments have provided evidence for this theory: as humans increase our oneness with others our empathy increases, and as empathy increases our inclination to act altruistically increases.[25] Neuropsychological studies have linked mirror neurons to humans experiencing empathy. Mirror neurons are activated both when a human (or animal) performs an action and when they observe another human (or animal) performs the same action. Researchers have found that the more these mirror neurons fire the more human subjects report empathy. From a neurological perspective, scientists argue that when a human empathizes with another, the brain operates as if the human is actually participating in the actions of the other person. Thus, when performing altruistic actions motivated by empathy, humans experience someone else's pleasure of being helped. Therefore, in performing acts of altruism, people act in their own self interests even at a neurological level.

Even accepting the theory of universal positivity, it is difficult to explain, for example, the actions of a soldier who sacrifices his life by jumping on a grenade in order to save his comrades. In this case, there is simply no time to experience positivity toward one's actions, although a psychological egoist may argue that the soldier experiences moral positivity in knowing that he is sacrificing his life to ensure the survival of his comrades, or that he is avoiding negativity associated with the thought of all his comrades dying.[26] Psychological egoists argue that although some actions may not clearly cause physical nor social positivity, nor avoid negativity, one's current contemplation or reactionary mental expectation of these is the main factor of the decision. When a dog is first taught to sit, it is given a biscuit. This is repeated until, finally, the dog sits without requiring a biscuit. Psychological egoists could claim that such actions which do not 'directly' result in positivity, or reward, are not dissimilar from the actions of the dog. In this case, the action (sitting on command) will have become a force of habit, and breaking such a habit would result in mental discomfort. This basic theory of conditioning behavior, applied to other seemingly ineffective positive actions, can be used to explain moral responses that are instantaneous and instinctive such as the soldier jumping on the grenade.

Psychological egoism has been accused of being circular: "If a person willingly performs an act, that means he derives personal enjoyment from it; therefore, people only perform acts that give them personal enjoyment." In particular, seemingly altruistic acts must be performed because people derive enjoyment from them and are therefore, in reality, egoistic. This statement is circular because its conclusion is identical to its hypothesis: it assumes that people only perform acts that give them personal enjoyment, and concludes that people only perform acts that give them personal enjoyment. This objection was tendered by William Hazlitt[27] and Thomas Macaulay[28] in the 19th century, and has been restated many times since. An earlier version of the same objection was made by Joseph Butler in 1726.

Joel Feinberg, in his 1958 paper "Psychological Egoism", embraces a similar critique by drawing attention to the infinite regress of psychological egoism. He expounds it in the following cross-examination:

In their 1998 book, Unto Others, Sober and Wilson detailed an evolutionary argument based on the likelihood for egoism to evolve under the pressures of natural selection.[18] Specifically, they focus on the human behavior of parental care. To set up their argument, they propose two potential psychological mechanisms for this. The hedonistic mechanism is based on a parent's ultimate desire for pleasure or the avoidance of pain and a belief that caring for its offspring will be instrumental to that. The altruistic mechanism is based on an altruistic ultimate desire to care for its offspring.

Sober and Wilson argue that when evaluating the likelihood of a given trait to evolve, three factors must be considered: availability, reliability and energetic efficiency. The genes for a given trait must first be available in the gene pool for selection. The trait must then reliably produce an increase in fitness for the organism. The trait must also operate with energetic efficiency to not limit the fitness of the organism. Sober and Wilson argue that there is neither reason to suppose that an altruistic mechanism should be any less available than a hedonistic one nor reason to suppose that the content of thoughts and desires (hedonistic vs. altruistic) should impact energetic efficiency. As availability and energetic efficiency are taken to be equivalent for both mechanisms it follows that the more reliable mechanism will then be the more likely mechanism.

For the hedonistic mechanism to produce the behavior of caring for offspring, the parent must believe that the caring behavior will produce pleasure or avoidance of pain for the parent. Sober and Wilson argue that the belief also must be true and constantly reinforced, or it would not be likely enough to persist. If the belief fails then the behavior is not produced. The altruistic mechanism does not rely on belief; therefore, they argue that it would be less likely to fail than the alternative, i.e. more reliable.

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Psychological egoism - Wikipedia

Psychological Egoism vs Ethical Egoism | Flow Psychology

It is said that selfishness is a human nature. Consequently, selfishness is something that relates to egoism. Selfishness is in many forms, which will be discussed later on. Both of these subjects have been a center of discussion for years now. Among the subjects that have been part of it is the topic about psychological egoism vs. ethical egoism.

As for the psychological egoism vs. ethical egoism, the latter is described as the belief in which it states that humans are usually always selfish. Humans are always acting out of their own self-interest, which leads to happiness. The former, however, is the belief that humans are supposed to act only concerning their own interest.

Based on the beliefs itself and how each was defined, the kinds of egoisms that people practice are now differentiated. One type of egoism tells about acting based on or with the presence of a motive and the other acting on something based purely for the persons benefit.

In psychological egoism, it is explained that individuals only do good things because it is in their own interest to do so. As an example, a person decided and chose not to steal for the fact that he or she is afraid to feel the guilt or afraid to go to prison. As for ethical egoism, it is explained that it is just right for individuals to act based on their own self-interest. It means a person acts out for his or her benefit only.

In general, it is described as the empirical doctrine in which the motive for which a person makes a voluntary action is one that falls for that same individuals benefit. In a wider scope, in every action that a person does, even though it is seen as something that is for the benefit of others, there is still a hidden motive that serves for the self-interest of the person.

There are two arguments under this. One, this egoism is considered as a descriptive theory that resulted from the observations made on human behavior. Thus, it can only become a real empirical theory once there are no present exceptions. Second, there is no claim as to how a person should act. Thus, it is a fact that all individuals are seeking their self-interest in the theory. For psychological egoist, they view this as a verifiable and non-moral.

It is described as that doctrine that is prescriptive or normative. It means a person is supposed to seek something only for his own welfare. The primary idea in this belief is that only the persons own welfare is the one valuable for that same individual. There are also two arguments here. One, not all people are naturally seeking just their self-interest. It only claims that people should seek ones self-interest even if not everyone will do the same thing. The second, if it is to be regarded as one theory, then it must be applicable to all persons.

In the end, there is only one thing that can be concluded about the subject psychological egoism vs. ethical egoism. It is that even with the stated theories on egoism, people are not always motivated to act based on selfishness. At times, people just act based on pure kindness in mind.

Dec 20, 2013-Flow Psychology Editor

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Psychological Egoism vs Ethical Egoism | Flow Psychology

Ethical egoism – Wikipedia

For other forms of egoism, see Egoism.

Ethical egoism is the normative ethical position that moral agents ought to do what is in their own self-interest. It differs from psychological egoism, which claims that people can only act in their self-interest. Ethical egoism also differs from rational egoism, which holds that it is rational to act in one's self-interest.[1]Ethical egoism holds, therefore, that actions whose consequences will benefit the doer can be considered ethical in this sense.

Ethical egoism contrasts with ethical altruism, which holds that moral agents have an obligation to help others. Egoism and altruism both contrast with ethical utilitarianism, which holds that a moral agent should treat one's self (also known as the subject) with no higher regard than one has for others (as egoism does, by elevating self-interests and "the self" to a status not granted to others). But it also holds that one should not (as altruism does) sacrifice one's own interests to help others' interests, so long as one's own interests (i.e. one's own desires or well-being) are substantially equivalent to the others' interests and well-being. Egoism, utilitarianism, and altruism are all forms of consequentialism, but egoism and altruism contrast with utilitarianism, in that egoism and altruism are both agent-focused forms of consequentialism (i.e. subject-focused or subjective). However, utilitarianism is held to be agent-neutral (i.e. objective and impartial): it does not treat the subject's (i.e. the self's, i.e. the moral "agent's") own interests as being more or less important than the interests, desires, or well-being of others.

Ethical egoism does not, however, require moral agents to harm the interests and well-being of others when making moral deliberation; e.g. what is in an agent's self-interest may be incidentally detrimental, beneficial, or neutral in its effect on others. Individualism allows for others' interest and well-being to be disregarded or not, as long as what is chosen is efficacious in satisfying the self-interest of the agent. Nor does ethical egoism necessarily entail that, in pursuing self-interest, one ought always to do what one wants to do; e.g. in the long term, the fulfillment of short-term desires may prove detrimental to the self. Fleeting pleasure, then, takes a back seat to protracted eudaimonia. In the words of James Rachels, "Ethical egoism ... endorses selfishness, but it doesn't endorse foolishness."[2]

Ethical egoism is often used as the philosophical basis for support of right-libertarianism and individualist anarchism.[3] These are political positions based partly on a belief that individuals should not coercively prevent others from exercising freedom of action.

Ethical egoism can be broadly divided into three categories: individual, personal, and universal. An individual ethical egoist would hold that all people should do whatever benefits "my" (the individual) self-interest; a personal ethical egoist would hold that he or she should act in his or her self-interest, but would make no claims about what anyone else ought to do; a universal ethical egoist would argue that everyone should act in ways that are in their self-interest.[4][5]

Ethical egoism was introduced by the philosopher Henry Sidgwick in his book The Methods of Ethics, written in 1874. Sidgwick compared egoism to the philosophy of utilitarianism, writing that whereas utilitarianism sought to maximize overall pleasure, egoism focused only on maximizing individual pleasure.[6]

Philosophers before Sidgwick have also retroactively been identified as ethical egoists. One ancient example is the philosophy of Yang Zhu (4th century BC), Yangism, who views wei wo, or "everything for myself", as the only virtue necessary for self-cultivation.[7] Ancient Greek philosophers like Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics were exponents of virtue ethics, and "did not accept the formal principle that whatever the good is, we should seek only our own good, or prefer it to the good of others."[6] However, the beliefs of the Cyrenaics have been referred to as a "form of egoistic hedonism",[8] and while some refer to Epicurus' hedonism as a form of virtue ethics, others argue his ethics are more properly described as ethical egoism.[9]

Philosopher James Rachels, in an essay that takes as its title the theory's name, outlines the three arguments most commonly touted in its favor:[10]

It has been argued that extreme ethical egoism is self-defeating. Faced with a situation of limited resources, egoists would consume as much of the resource as they could, making the overall situation worse for everybody. Egoists may respond that if the situation becomes worse for everybody, that would include the egoist, so it is not, in fact, in his or her rational self-interest to take things to such extremes.[16] However, the (unregulated) tragedy of the commons and the (one off) prisoner's dilemma are cases in which, on the one hand, it is rational for an individual to seek to take as much as possible even though that makes things worse for everybody, and on the other hand, those cases are not self-refuting since that behaviour remains rational even though it is ultimately self-defeating, i.e. self-defeating does not imply self-refuting. A tragedy of the commons, however, assumes some degree of public land. That is, a commons forbidding homesteading requires regulation. Thus, an argument against the tragedy of the commons is fundamentally an argument for private property rights and the system that recognizes both property rights and rational self-interestcapitalism.[17] More generally, an increasing respect for individual rights uniquely allows for increasing wealth creation and increasing usable resources despite a fixed amount of raw materials (e.g. the West pre-1776 versus post-1776, East versus West Germany, Hong Kong versus mainland China, North versus South Korea, etc.).[18]

It is not clear how to apply a private ownership model to many examples of "Commons", however. Examples include large fisheries, the atmosphere and the ocean.[19][20]

The term ethical egoism has been applied retroactively to philosophers such as Bernard de Mandeville and to many other materialists of his generation, although none of them declared themselves to be egoists. Note that materialism does not necessarily imply egoism, as indicated by Karl Marx, and the many other materialists who espoused forms of collectivism. It has been argued that ethical egoism can lend itself to individualist anarchism such as that of Benjamin Tucker, or the combined anarcho-communism and egoism of Emma Goldman, both of whom were proponents of many egoist ideas put forward by Max Stirner. In this context, egoism is another way of describing the sense that the common good should be enjoyed by all. However, most notable anarchists in history have been less radical, retaining altruism and a sense of the importance of the individual that is appreciable but does not go as far as egoism. Recent trends to greater appreciation of egoism within anarchism tend to come from less classical directions such as post-left anarchy or Situationism (e.g. Raoul Vaneigem). Egoism has also been referenced by anarcho-capitalists, such as Murray Rothbard.

Philosopher Max Stirner, in his book The Ego and Its Own, was the first philosopher to call himself an egoist, though his writing makes clear that he desired not a new idea of morality (ethical egoism), but rather a rejection of morality (amoralism), as a nonexistent and limiting "spook"; for this, Stirner has been described as the first individualist anarchist. Other philosophers, such as Thomas Hobbes and David Gauthier, have argued that the conflicts which arise when people each pursue their own ends can be resolved for the best of each individual only if they all voluntarily forgo some of their aimsthat is, one's self-interest is often best pursued by allowing others to pursue their self-interest as well so that liberty is equal among individuals. Sacrificing one's short-term self-interest to maximize one's long-term self-interest is one form of "rational self-interest" which is the idea behind most philosophers' advocacy of ethical egoism. Egoists have also argued that one's actual interests are not immediately obvious, and that the pursuit of self-interest involves more than merely the acquisition of some good, but the maximizing of one's chances of survival and/or happiness.

Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche suggested that egoistic or "life-affirming" behavior stimulates jealousy or "ressentiment" in others, and that this is the psychological motive for the altruism in Christianity. Sociologist Helmut Schoeck similarly considered envy the motive of collective efforts by society to reduce the disproportionate gains of successful individuals through moral or legal constraints, with altruism being primary among these.[21] In addition, Nietzsche (in Beyond Good and Evil) and Alasdair MacIntyre (in After Virtue) have pointed out that the ancient Greeks did not associate morality with altruism in the way that post-Christian Western civilization has done.Aristotle's view is that we have duties to ourselves as well as to other people (e.g. friends) and to the polis as a whole. The same is true for Thomas Aquinas, Christian Wolff and Immanuel Kant, who claim that there are duties to ourselves as Aristotle did, although it has been argued that, for Aristotle, the duty to one's self is primary.[22]

Ayn Rand argued that there is a positive harmony of interests among free, rational humans, such that no moral agent can rationally coerce another person consistently with his own long-term self-interest. Rand argued that other people are an enormous value to an individual's well-being (through education, trade and affection), but also that this value could be fully realized only under conditions of political and economic freedom. According to Rand, voluntary trade alone can assure that human interaction is mutually beneficial.[23] Rand's student, Leonard Peikoff has argued that the identification of one's interests itself is impossible absent the use of principles, and that self-interest cannot be consistently pursued absent a consistent adherence to certain ethical principles.[24] Recently, Rand's position has also been defended by such writers as Tara Smith, Tibor Machan, Allan Gotthelf, David Kelley, Douglas Rasmussen, Nathaniel Branden, Harry Binswanger, Andrew Bernstein, and Craig Biddle.

Philosopher David L. Norton identified himself an "ethical individualist", and, like Rand, saw a harmony between an individual's fidelity to his own self-actualization, or "personal destiny", and the achievement of society's well being.[25]

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Ethical egoism - Wikipedia

What Are Examples of Ethical Egoism? | Reference.com

An example of ethical egoism would be a person who owes money to a friend and decides to pay the friend back not because that person owes money, but because it is in his best interest to pay his friend back so that he does not lose his friend. Another example of ethical egoism would be a person who invites a friend to a movie that she wants to see because she does not want to go alone and is thinking of her own self-interests first.

In ethical egoism, a person focuses on her own self-interests before all others. Ethical egoism proponents believe that focusing on one's own self-interests benefits all of society because society runs more efficiently. Thomas Hobbes was a famous proponent of ethical egoism.

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Ethical egoism – RationalWiki

Ethical egoism is the consequentialist philosophy which states that morality should be based on self-interest. It is the philosophical basis for many libertarians and (so they claim) Randroids but also got support from Thomas Hobbes.[1]. Some egoists that do not believe in the existence of ethics call themselves rational egoists, because they want to be selfish, but do not want to support metaphysical ideas like ethics and morals.

Ethical egoism is based on three arguments:

It is the polar opposite of ethical altruism, the belief that one ought to live for others, and is contrasted with utilitarianism, which is objective. Egoism is subjective, meaning that its implications and conclusions change from person to person and nothing is objectively ethical. This is interesting considering that some of the most vocal proponents of ethical egoism are so-called Objectivists.[2]

Egoism is very appealing to some because it philosophically justifies selfishness, even at the expense of others, and therefore reduces feelings of guilt after acting like a heartless jerk. Also, being a jerk is their moral equivalent of being nice and vice versa.

Ethical egoism is seen as arbitrary because it values the selfish individual more than other people and there are no objective grounds for this. Similarly racism values one race more than others arbitrarily.[1]

Contrary to many strawmen arguments, egoism does not mean that you should never act in the interest of another, even if it does not benefit you. Instead, it is acting to benefit yourself, regardless of whether it harms or benefits another. Another way of saying this is that intentions are always selfish. Results may vary, whether they are good for others or not. This is because those who selfishly refuse to help others later find others will not return favours since they received none. If some misfortune arises and the egoist now needs the unselfish help of another, and if everyone is a consistent egoist, the egoist may or may not get the help he needs. So in the interests of self-interest, an egoist must act altruistically, at least sometimes, even if intentions are only about personal gain, thus why it is a relativistic philosophy. There are three types of egoism: universal (everybody should act for their own self-benefit), personal (the egoist is an egoist, but other people can be altruistic or utilitarian), and individual (everybody acts for one individual's self-benefit, which is completely unrealistic).

Alternatively, many egoists are also Individualists, like Stirner and Nietzsche, who would say that those that require the help of others do not deserve the help of others.[3] Incidentally normal people who are not sociopaths would likely lose self respect and become less happy if they only helped others at such times[4] Ethical egoism, like all exclusively subjective philosophies, is prone to constant self-contradiction because it supports all individuals' self interests. It also can lead to conclusions such as choosing not to intervene in a crime against another. Egoists have difficulty caring about anything that does not deal with themselves, which is one reason why ethical egoism is so impractical for people who are very aware of the world. The very legitimacy of the theory is often called into question because it prevents its own adherents from taking reasonable stances on major political and social issues and cannot in itself solve these issues, without resorting to popular choice.[3]

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Ethical egoism - RationalWiki

Ethical egoism – Wikipedia

For other forms of egoism, see Egoism.

Ethical egoism is the normative ethical position that moral agents ought to do what is in their own self-interest. It differs from psychological egoism, which claims that people can only act in their self-interest. Ethical egoism also differs from rational egoism, which holds that it is rational to act in one's self-interest.[1]Ethical egoism holds, therefore, that actions whose consequences will benefit the doer can be considered ethical in this sense.

Ethical egoism contrasts with ethical altruism, which holds that moral agents have an obligation to help others. Egoism and altruism both contrast with ethical utilitarianism, which holds that a moral agent should treat one's self (also known as the subject) with no higher regard than one has for others (as egoism does, by elevating self-interests and "the self" to a status not granted to others). But it also holds that one should not (as altruism does) sacrifice one's own interests to help others' interests, so long as one's own interests (i.e. one's own desires or well-being) are substantially equivalent to the others' interests and well-being. Egoism, utilitarianism, and altruism are all forms of consequentialism, but egoism and altruism contrast with utilitarianism, in that egoism and altruism are both agent-focused forms of consequentialism (i.e. subject-focused or subjective). However, utilitarianism is held to be agent-neutral (i.e. objective and impartial): it does not treat the subject's (i.e. the self's, i.e. the moral "agent's") own interests as being more or less important than the interests, desires, or well-being of others.

Ethical egoism does not, however, require moral agents to harm the interests and well-being of others when making moral deliberation; e.g. what is in an agent's self-interest may be incidentally detrimental, beneficial, or neutral in its effect on others. Individualism allows for others' interest and well-being to be disregarded or not, as long as what is chosen is efficacious in satisfying the self-interest of the agent. Nor does ethical egoism necessarily entail that, in pursuing self-interest, one ought always to do what one wants to do; e.g. in the long term, the fulfillment of short-term desires may prove detrimental to the self. Fleeting pleasure, then, takes a back seat to protracted eudaimonia. In the words of James Rachels, "Ethical egoism ... endorses selfishness, but it doesn't endorse foolishness."[2]

Ethical egoism is often used as the philosophical basis for support of right-libertarianism and individualist anarchism.[3] These are political positions based partly on a belief that individuals should not coercively prevent others from exercising freedom of action.

Ethical egoism can be broadly divided into three categories: individual, personal, and universal. An individual ethical egoist would hold that all people should do whatever benefits "my" (the individual) self-interest; a personal ethical egoist would hold that he or she should act in his or her self-interest, but would make no claims about what anyone else ought to do; a universal ethical egoist would argue that everyone should act in ways that are in their self-interest.[4][5]

Ethical egoism was introduced by the philosopher Henry Sidgwick in his book The Methods of Ethics, written in 1874. Sidgwick compared egoism to the philosophy of utilitarianism, writing that whereas utilitarianism sought to maximize overall pleasure, egoism focused only on maximizing individual pleasure.[6]

Philosophers before Sidgwick have also retroactively been identified as ethical egoists. One ancient example is the philosophy of Yang Zhu (4th century BC), Yangism, who views wei wo, or "everything for myself", as the only virtue necessary for self-cultivation.[7] Ancient Greek philosophers like Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics were exponents of virtue ethics, and "did not accept the formal principle that whatever the good is, we should seek only our own good, or prefer it to the good of others."[6] However, the beliefs of the Cyrenaics have been referred to as a "form of egoistic hedonism",[8] and while some refer to Epicurus' hedonism as a form of virtue ethics, others argue his ethics are more properly described as ethical egoism.[9]

Philosopher James Rachels, in an essay that takes as its title the theory's name, outlines the three arguments most commonly touted in its favor:[10]

It has been argued that extreme ethical egoism is self-defeating. Faced with a situation of limited resources, egoists would consume as much of the resource as they could, making the overall situation worse for everybody. Egoists may respond that if the situation becomes worse for everybody, that would include the egoist, so it is not, in fact, in his or her rational self-interest to take things to such extremes.[16] However, the (unregulated) tragedy of the commons and the (one off) prisoner's dilemma are cases in which, on the one hand, it is rational for an individual to seek to take as much as possible even though that makes things worse for everybody, and on the other hand, those cases are not self-refuting since that behaviour remains rational even though it is ultimately self-defeating, i.e. self-defeating does not imply self-refuting. A tragedy of the commons, however, assumes some degree of public land. That is, a commons forbidding homesteading requires regulation. Thus, an argument against the tragedy of the commons is fundamentally an argument for private property rights and the system that recognizes both property rights and rational self-interestcapitalism.[17] More generally, an increasing respect for individual rights uniquely allows for increasing wealth creation and increasing usable resources despite a fixed amount of raw materials (e.g. the West pre-1776 versus post-1776, East versus West Germany, Hong Kong versus mainland China, North versus South Korea, etc.).[18]

It is not clear how to apply a private ownership model to many examples of "Commons", however. Examples include large fisheries, the atmosphere and the ocean.[19][20]

The term ethical egoism has been applied retroactively to philosophers such as Bernard de Mandeville and to many other materialists of his generation, although none of them declared themselves to be egoists. Note that materialism does not necessarily imply egoism, as indicated by Karl Marx, and the many other materialists who espoused forms of collectivism. It has been argued that ethical egoism can lend itself to individualist anarchism such as that of Benjamin Tucker, or the combined anarcho-communism and egoism of Emma Goldman, both of whom were proponents of many egoist ideas put forward by Max Stirner. In this context, egoism is another way of describing the sense that the common good should be enjoyed by all. However, most notable anarchists in history have been less radical, retaining altruism and a sense of the importance of the individual that is appreciable but does not go as far as egoism. Recent trends to greater appreciation of egoism within anarchism tend to come from less classical directions such as post-left anarchy or Situationism (e.g. Raoul Vaneigem). Egoism has also been referenced by anarcho-capitalists, such as Murray Rothbard.

Philosopher Max Stirner, in his book The Ego and Its Own, was the first philosopher to call himself an egoist, though his writing makes clear that he desired not a new idea of morality (ethical egoism), but rather a rejection of morality (amoralism), as a nonexistent and limiting "spook"; for this, Stirner has been described as the first individualist anarchist. Other philosophers, such as Thomas Hobbes and David Gauthier, have argued that the conflicts which arise when people each pursue their own ends can be resolved for the best of each individual only if they all voluntarily forgo some of their aimsthat is, one's self-interest is often best pursued by allowing others to pursue their self-interest as well so that liberty is equal among individuals. Sacrificing one's short-term self-interest to maximize one's long-term self-interest is one form of "rational self-interest" which is the idea behind most philosophers' advocacy of ethical egoism. Egoists have also argued that one's actual interests are not immediately obvious, and that the pursuit of self-interest involves more than merely the acquisition of some good, but the maximizing of one's chances of survival and/or happiness.

Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche suggested that egoistic or "life-affirming" behavior stimulates jealousy or "ressentiment" in others, and that this is the psychological motive for the altruism in Christianity. Sociologist Helmut Schoeck similarly considered envy the motive of collective efforts by society to reduce the disproportionate gains of successful individuals through moral or legal constraints, with altruism being primary among these.[21] In addition, Nietzsche (in Beyond Good and Evil) and Alasdair MacIntyre (in After Virtue) have pointed out that the ancient Greeks did not associate morality with altruism in the way that post-Christian Western civilization has done.Aristotle's view is that we have duties to ourselves as well as to other people (e.g. friends) and to the polis as a whole. The same is true for Thomas Aquinas, Christian Wolff and Immanuel Kant, who claim that there are duties to ourselves as Aristotle did, although it has been argued that, for Aristotle, the duty to one's self is primary.[22]

Ayn Rand argued that there is a positive harmony of interests among free, rational humans, such that no moral agent can rationally coerce another person consistently with his own long-term self-interest. Rand argued that other people are an enormous value to an individual's well-being (through education, trade and affection), but also that this value could be fully realized only under conditions of political and economic freedom. According to Rand, voluntary trade alone can assure that human interaction is mutually beneficial.[23] Rand's student, Leonard Peikoff has argued that the identification of one's interests itself is impossible absent the use of principles, and that self-interest cannot be consistently pursued absent a consistent adherence to certain ethical principles.[24] Recently, Rand's position has also been defended by such writers as Tara Smith, Tibor Machan, Allan Gotthelf, David Kelley, Douglas Rasmussen, Nathaniel Branden, Harry Binswanger, Andrew Bernstein, and Craig Biddle.

Philosopher David L. Norton identified himself an "ethical individualist", and, like Rand, saw a harmony between an individual's fidelity to his own self-actualization, or "personal destiny", and the achievement of society's well being.[25]

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Ethical egoism - Wikipedia


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