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Altruism as an alternative to ethical egoism

Treefalls New Music Series Varieties of Egoism Egoism is a teleological theory of ethics that sets as its goal the benefit, pleasure, or greatest good of the oneself alone.

Varieties of Egoism

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: Psychological Egoism— 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. This is a descriptive claim about human nature.

Since the claim is universal—all acts are motivated by self interest—it 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.

Varieties of Egoism

But is that happiness the motive for my action or just a result of my action? Ethical Egoism— 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: 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.

Altruism as an alternative to ethical egoism

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 utilitarianismand 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-interest—even if this conflicts with the values and interests of others—simply 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.

It seems that anyone who truly believed in individualistic ethical egoism could not publicly promote the theory without such inconsistency. Minimalist Egoism— 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.

  • 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;
  • Interest in virtue theory continued through the middle ages and declined in the 19 th century with the rise of alternative ethical egoism;
  • Ethical egoism holds that actions whose consequences will benefit the doer can be considered ethical 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;
  • Some writers suggest we all should focus our resources on satisfying our own interests, rather than those of others;
  • This argument would be an argument for altruism some disagree with it, namely ethical egoists according to ethical egoism.

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. 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.