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Ethical and Psychological Egoism

Essay by review  •  November 27, 2010  •  Essay  •  1,381 Words (6 Pages)  •  1,544 Views

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Egoism is the general concept of extreme preoccupation with one's self interests. Characterized by an emphasis self importance and a lack of altruistic ideas, egoism is said to be the basic reasoning for almost every action taken by humans or other organisms. Philosophers studying this eventually realized the need for separate sub categories within egoism that could describe how different people's beliefs shaped their understanding of the overall idea of egoism. Ethical and psychological are two types of egoism that group the majority of people interested in this concept. Ethical egoism is the basic thought that people shou23ld morally be self-concerned with actions that benefit themselves. The strongest forms of this theory challenge every altruistic action and illustrate how it involves even the smallest amount of self interest. Based on the idea of ethical egoism, psychological egoism is the belief that people actually do everything for their self benefit. This concept seems to be the more practical of the two when it comes to real world application. However both must be understood to fully comprehend the idea of egoism.

Ethical egoism, as previously stated, deals with the thought that one morally should do everything in his self interest and sometimes not worry at all about the interests of others. In fact, many ethical egoists believe in this idea because they find altruism to be personally demeaning and hindering. Though, these people would be followers of a stronger form of ethical egoism. This idea, in its strongest nature, basically states that all actions that are in ones self interest are moral and those actions that are not self beneficial are immoral and should be avoided. On the other hand, there is also a weaker brand of this concept. This more liberal style states that people should be concerned with self interest but it is not necessarily immoral to not benefit themselves through every action. This type of ethical egoism seems to be more popular than the stricter form claiming the immorality of anything altruistic. Those two styles of ethical egoism show the extent to which they can govern ones life but they do not show how each person views the outside population in relation to the concept of egoism. There are three main versions of how ethical egoists expect the outside population to act: personal, individual, and universal. Personal ethical egoism states that people should act in their own interest while the rest of the world can do whatever they want. Individual ethical egoism says one person, along with the rest of the world, should act in his or her self interest. This thought seems to be the most beneficial to the individual; however it is also most unhelpful to other people, thus making it the least used in the modern world. Universal ethical egoism is the idea that everybody should act for their personal self benefit. This concept, along with personal ethical egoism, seems most fitting for today's society. While some merely do not care about the actions of the outside world, others believe everyone is shooting for a similar goal: self-improvement. However, these systems are not ideal and lead to conflicts and other problems between people. The first, and probably most obvious, problem with ethical egoism is that of conflicting self interest between two people. When it is in the self interest of someone to obtain an object that someone else's self interest is locked onto then a complicated situation arises. According to the stricter form of ethical egoism neither person should back down because they are both seeking total satisfaction for their interests. Often times violent disputes result from situations like this involving strong ethical egoism. Alternatively, the weaker system offers a more peaceful process that potentially results in the satisfaction of both persons' interests. For example, they could share the object, fulfilling their need to have it if only for a moment. So the main conflict with this overall system is that ethical egoists pursuing their self interest disregard those of others. Another problem with this egoist theory is the situations where it cannot be applied. There are times where people must perform actions that are not necessarily in their self interest, and therefore are not moral according to ethical egoism. For example, when one person fills the duties of their position in office it does not always involve actions that are considered beneficial to that person. A third main problem with this concept is that in order for people to be strong ethical egoists, they would do everything in their own self interest and want everyone else to be altruistic. It is obvious that things do not work this way. In fact, as stated previously, the world seems to operate in the universal version of ethical egoism. This is the thought that people try to be completely self beneficial but, at the same time, they want everyone else to be fighting for the same goal.

Psychological egoism, the concept that people indeed do things for their personal benefit, branches off the more general

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