Universal Ethical Egoism Essays

Ethical Egoism Essay

“People act for many reasons; but for whom, or what, do or should they act—for themselves, for God, or for the good of the planet?” (Moseley) An egoist would argue that one acts for one’s own self. More specifically, an ethical egoist is one who thrives to improve ones own self being, with much respect to morality. Ethical Egoism is the theory that one should pursue his or her own interest above all the rest. It is the idea that all persons should act from their own self interest in relation to morality.
There are many different types of ethical egoism: Personal ethical egoism, Individual ethical egoism, Universal ethical egoism, Categorical egoism, and Hypothetical egoism. Personal ethical egoism is the belief that one should act for ones’ self without concern to the actions of others. Though this is not completely a theory on its own, because it is not generalized, doing so would be going against ones own self interest. For example, if one believes that personal ethical egoism should be recommended to others, then that person would not exactly be promoting their own self interest because that person would also be looking out for the self interest of others. Individual ethical egoism is the belief that all persons should act towards my self interest. For example, a man says that he is doing something for his own beneficiary, and his friend should do it as well to help him, instead of the friend looking out for his own self. If the individual egoist cannot broaden his policy, than he has no policy at all. This idea is not generalized, since each person demands the needs of his or her own. Universal ethical egoism states that all persons should follow their own benefits selectively, but in doing so, humans might not know what is or what is not in our best interest. Categorical egoism is the thought that we must follow our own interests because of the main reason that it is what we must do. That is their essential ethical principle. Finally, there is the hypothetical egoist, who argues that all individuals ought to pursue their own interests if they are looking for coming to a specific end. In a way, that type of egoist is not an actual egoist; he is rather a utilitarian who believes that happiness for all can be enhanced if each person looks out after his own self.
A true ethical egoist would argue against the hypothetical egoist. He would not look to increase the happiness of others, only that of himself. A true ethical egoist must not become a hypothetical egoist, because then he is no longer an egoist. Nor should he become an individual egoist, because it would not be ethical. In addition, the truest ethical egoist must not publicize, or even try to persuade, others of his own policy. When an individual advocates his own doctrine upon others, he is then persuading them to do the same. Hence, each person would begin to pursue his or her own interest and thus it would not be to the persuader’s advantage, for it will harm his own interest....

Loading: Checking Spelling


Read more

Moral Philosophies Essay

1161 words - 5 pages Ethical dilemmas challenge business because there are different moral philosophies held by each individual and subjective to each situation. Companies have different moral philosophies that shape the ethical climate. Two moral philosophies that effect how a company handles ethics are Utilitarianism and Ethical Egoism. “The utilitarian seeks the greatest good for the greatest number of people” while doing the least harm (Ferrell, Fraedrich, &...

Ethics and Emotions Essay

511 words - 2 pages I think the question "who is more morally upstanding?" will never have a right answer because no matter what the intention was, they both put out their hearts to help other people. The text mentions that our feelings are too inconsistent for us to depend on as a moral guide, and I truly agree with it. Through the Huck Finn example, Huck is using his affection with Jim as a guide to his act, and at the end his feeling has turned him into a...

Psychological Egoism in Plato's Republic and Other Literature

1823 words - 7 pages In Plato’s Republic and in Rachels' Egoism and Moral Scepticism, the authors attempt to combat psychological egoism, which is the ethical theory which asserts that all human motivation is ultimately self-interested. Each author rejects the possibility of this being a valid conclusion of philosophical ethics, and each instead offers an alternate solution to the origin of human motivation. Whether we are capable of acting out of non...

The Ethical Egoist in Plato's Republic

1140 words - 5 pages The ethical egoist is one who believes that it is morally right to act strictly in one's own self-interest. Understandably, this belief poses a threat to social cooperation and, therefore, clearly introduces a significant political problem. I believe that the best example of ethical egoism is displayed in Book I of Plato's The Republic. In this Book, Plato introduces the idea of ethical egoism, explains the political problem posed by it, and...

Views of American Culture

2188 words - 9 pages “Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. You don't fail overnight. Instead, failure is a few errors in judgement, repeated every day” (Rohn1). Viewing pop culture it is common to see people who are being judged. These people are judged and put down in harsh ways, most frequently these stars are doing simple things that the average person would do.Is it so abnormal for a young woman in her twenties to drink? The legal drinking age is...

Relativism, Subjectivism, Egoism

1227 words - 5 pages In Panama City, Florida, a fifteen year old and her father were trying to sell the young girl's yet unborn child for $500 and a ten year old car. Although it is against the law to sell babies, they believed that they had a moral right to do so because, as the girl argued, "the baby belongs to me."In all aspects of one’s daily life, there are numerous decisions to undertake. All acts that an individual decides to do are geared towards a...

Ethical Philosophy

1349 words - 5 pages Ethical PAGE \* MERGEFORMAT 1 Ethical PhilosophyIn philosophy, moral relativism is the position that moral or ethical propositions do not reflect absolute or universal truths but instead are relative to social, cultural, historical or personal references, and that there is no single standard by which to assess an ethical proposition's truth....

James Rachels

748 words - 3 pages James Rachels argues against theories of selfishness that the psychological egoists maintain. He challenges the view that everyone always does what he or she wants by showing that we often dounpleasant tasks for the future pleasures or from obligation. Altruism is recognized as not acting in self interest. He also clears up the confusions that selfishness and self...

Morality and Sociological views of philosophy

1402 words - 6 pages Mr. Ralph KamPHL/215 - Methods and ApplicationsJuly 21, 2003Morality and Sociological views of philosophyMoral and social philosophy, also known as the field of ethics, involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behavior. Philosophers today frequently divide ethical theories into three general subject areas:...

Irish Airline: Ryanair

1645 words - 7 pages Ryanair an Irish airline founded in 1985 has seen huge growth with workforce of just 25 to now over 9000 skilled professionals, branding themselves as Europe’s only ultra-low cost airline they are always looking for new ways too save on costs and increase on profits. This essay will draw upon, at what point they become ‘un-ethical’ i.e. the extra charges they add to the total bill e.g. a £160 charge for a name change in high season (Ryanair.com...

Psychological Egoism

1980 words - 8 pages Psychological Egoism: Every person is oriented towards his (or her) own welfare, and the object of every one of his voluntary actions is some good to himself.Psychological egoism is a reflex that every person has to orient themselves toward their own welfare. Through this, it follows that every one of his (or her) voluntary actions is some good...

Philosophy 302: Ethics
Ethical Egoism 

Abstract:  The various forms of ethical egoism are defined. Standard objections to ethical egoism are evaluated, and the conclusion is drawn that ethical egoism is incomplete.

I. Ethical egoism is the prescriptive doctrine that all persons ought to act from their own self-interest.

  1. Personal ethical egoism is the belief that only I should act from the motive of self-interest, nothing is stated about what motives others should act from.

    1. Personal ethical egoism is not a theory because it is not generalized to others.
    2. I cannot recommend personal ethical egoism to others because such a recommendation would be against my own self-interest.

  2. Individual ethical egoism is the prescriptive doctrine that all persons should serve my self-interest (i.e.,egotism)

    1. Individual ethical egoism is a belief that can't be consistent unless it applies to just one person. In other words, this belief is not universalizable.

    2. Practically speaking, the doctrine is similar to solipsism—there's no way to justify the belief since it applies to just one person.
  3. Universal ethical egoism is the universal doctrine that all persons should pursue their own interests exclusively.

    1. One problem is without knowledge of the world, how can we truly know what's in our best interest? (c.f. the Socratic Paradox).

    2. Another problem is trying to figure out what "their own interests" means. Does this phrase mean short-term or long-term benefit, pleasure, happiness, preference, or something else? What gives you pleasure might not be a benefit or in your interest.

A theory of ethics should

  1. set forth systematically the first principles of morality
  2. show how to justify these principles, and, as a result,
  3. elucidate a conception of a life of excellence for people.

Therefore, the theory should be both consistent and complete.

  1. Consistency:  there should be no contradictions or incompatible statements.

    e.g., the injunctions from folklore morals, "Haste makes waste" and "Look before you leap" would be inconsistent with "A stitch in time saves nine," or "The race is to the swift."

  2. Completeness: there should be no moral truth which is not provable from the basic moral principles of the theory.

    e.g., In Christian ethics, the principle "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's" (Matthew 22:21) is meant to distinguish between secular and religious situations in order to avoid political difficulty for religious belief and so would be an incomplete theory of action in the secular realm.

Consequently, the three ways to raise objections to an ethical theory is to show that the theory is 

  1. mistaken in truth or
  2. inconsistent or
  3. incomplete.

I.  Charge: Ethical egoism is contradictory because it allows one and the same act to be evaluated as both right and wrong.  Charge: the theory is mistaken in truth; it is inconsistent.

  1. Example: suppose Jack is competing against Jill for a job. Ethical egoism would say

    1. It's right for Jack to praise Jack's qualities.
    2. It's wrong for Jill to praise Jack's qualities.

      Therefore, praising Jack's qualities is both right and wrong—right for Jack and wrong for Jill.

  2. But this is not to say the same act is both right and wrong—these are two different acts: one is done by Jack and one is done by Jill.

  3. The best that can be said is that there is a conflict of interest which could be settled by contract law. Hence, this is not a good objection.

II. Charge: Ethical egoism is committed to giving inconsistent advice. (The charge is inconsistency.)

  1. Example: Jack and Jill are competing for a job.

    1. We tell Jack to do his best and we tell Jill to do her best, or

    2. Jack tells Jill to be an altruist.

    3. Isn't this inconsistent?

  2. But there is no inconsistency. All statements are consistent with Jack's interest. There is no formal contradiction. In contest in sports we can hope that each team will do its best without contradiction; in fact, we can even hope that each team wins without contradiction..

III. Charge: If the (universal) egoist believes that each person should promote his own interest, then isn't he acting against his own interest to state his theory. (The charge is inconsistency.)

  1. Example: Jack believes that Jill should promote her own interest in accordance with ethical egoism.

    1. Jack might believe this, but he isn't going to tell Jill.

    2. He looks to his own interest first.

  2. Again, there is no inconsistency in not telling Jill.

IV. Charge: There are certain interpersonal decisions that have to be made that transcend the egoist's point of view. (The charge is of incompleteness)

  1. Example: Where the hirer for a particular job has no personal stake, who should he choose for a job when the candidates have equal qualifications:  Jack or Jill?

  2. This objection holds good—there have to be some impartial decisions, and the belief that each person should seek his own interest does not tell how a person should act in this instance.

    1. Hence, the theory of ethical egoism  is incomplete.

    2. When there is a conflict of interests between egoists, egoism provides no way to resolve the conflict.

V. Final Comments on Ethical Egoism:  the egoist is often seen to be egotistical and selfish, rather someone acting under enlightened self-interest.

  • Life is not seen as a contest between people so much as it is a challenge. If someone an egoist, then that person does not necessarily act against my own self-interest.
  • Some observations are in order.

  1. Acting in one's self-interest very often benefits others.

    1. E.g., your going to college is in your self-interest, and it will help keep you off welfare. In pursuing your self-interest, you will get a job which will benefit others.

    2. E.g., you start a business to make money, but you must have satisfied employees and a competitive product thereby helping others.

  2. The egoist is affected by many more events than one would first think. I.e., it is in his interest to think about others.

    1. If the egoist doesn't help others to be happy, they will not return the favor.

    2. Often, it is in our own interest to look to our long-term interests by the effects of our actions on other people as a group. Hence, there is no inconsistency for the egoist to help a group of which he is a part.

      E.g., An ethical egoist can act in self-interest by contributing to the Salvation Army or to the United Fund.

VI. If the egoist is to choose what is in his own interest, then he must have the personal freedom to choose.

  1. Hence, the egoist must allow everyone to pursue his own personal interest (universal ethical egoism).

  2. Consequently, egoism leads into a right-based theory-each individual has certain inalienable rights or

  3. Egoism leads to a rule-based theory that certain rules of conduct are in the interest of everyone to observe. That is we are all better off if everyone obeys the law—we have to give up some good to achieve our maximum possible good.

Recommended Sources

Solipsism: An excellent discussion of the role of solipsism in the history of Western and Eastern philosophy and its role as a limiting case in thought experiments and epistemology from Wikipedia. See also from this source links to various related concepts to egoism including ethical egoism.

Ethical Egoism: A section of the entry "Egoism" discussing arguments for and against by Robert Shaver published in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Ethical Egoism: A section of the entry "Egoism' from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy by Alexander Moseley emphasizing conflict resolution.


Categories: 1

0 Replies to “Universal Ethical Egoism Essays”

Leave a comment

L'indirizzo email non verrà pubblicato. I campi obbligatori sono contrassegnati *