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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.

See the original post:

Psychological egoism – Wikipedia

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.

Read more here:

Dr. Charles Kay Egoism

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

See the original post:

Psychological Egoism vs Ethical Egoism | Flow Psychology

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.

See more here:

Dr. Charles Kay Egoism

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

Read the rest here:

Psychological Egoism vs Ethical Egoism | Flow Psychology

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 – 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

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 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

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

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.

Read the original here:

Dr. Charles Kay Egoism

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 – Wikipedia

For other forms of egoism, see Egoism.

Psychological egoism is the view that humans are always motivated by self-interest, 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

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 rejoin 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

Quick Answer

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.

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What Are Examples of Ethical Egoism? | Reference.com

Comparing Psychological & Ethical Egoism – Study.com

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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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Dr. Charles Kay Egoism

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

Egoism | philosophy | Britannica.com

Egoism, (from Latin ego, I), in philosophy, an ethical theory holding that the good is based on the pursuit of self-interest. The word is sometimes misused for egotism, the overstressing of ones own worth.

Egoist doctrines are less concerned with the philosophic problem of what is the self than with the common notions of a person and his concerns. They see perfection sought through the furthering of a mans own welfare and profitallowing, however, that sometimes he may not know where these lie and must be brought to recognize them.

Many ethical theories have an egoist bias. The hedonism of the ancient Greeks bids each man to seek his own greatest happiness; in the 17th century, Thomas Hobbes, a Materialist, and Benedict de Spinoza, a Rationalist, held in different ways that self-preservation is the good; and those who stress the tending of ones own conscience and moral growth are likewise egoists in this sense. In contrast with such views is an ethics that is governed more by mans social aspects, which stresses the importance of the community rather than that of the individual. Under this head come such theories as Stoic cosmopolitanism, tribal solidarity, and utilitarianism, which are all forms of what the positivist Auguste Comte called altruism. The distinction, however, cannot always be neatly drawn.

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Egoism | philosophy | Britannica.com

Egoism | philosophy | Britannica.com

Egoism, (from Latin ego, I), in philosophy, an ethical theory holding that the good is based on the pursuit of self-interest. The word is sometimes misused for egotism, the overstressing of ones own worth.

Egoist doctrines are less concerned with the philosophic problem of what is the self than with the common notions of a person and his concerns. They see perfection sought through the furthering of a mans own welfare and profitallowing, however, that sometimes he may not know where these lie and must be brought to recognize them.

Many ethical theories have an egoist bias. The hedonism of the ancient Greeks bids each man to seek his own greatest happiness; in the 17th century, Thomas Hobbes, a Materialist, and Benedict de Spinoza, a Rationalist, held in different ways that self-preservation is the good; and those who stress the tending of ones own conscience and moral growth are likewise egoists in this sense. In contrast with such views is an ethics that is governed more by mans social aspects, which stresses the importance of the community rather than that of the individual. Under this head come such theories as Stoic cosmopolitanism, tribal solidarity, and utilitarianism, which are all forms of what the positivist Auguste Comte called altruism. The distinction, however, cannot always be neatly drawn.

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Egoism | philosophy | Britannica.com


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