Psychological vs Ethical Egoism Essay

1167 Words Sep 12th, 2013 5 Pages
Psychological Egoism and Ethical Egoism: A Comparison

Abstract

There is a certain innate desire to help others, just as others will feel that same fulfillment for returning that aid. At the same time, however, there is also an inherent yearning to seek out one’s own best interest. This brings about a discussion regarding the difference between psychological egoism and ethical egoism. To understand the similarities and differences, one must first understand the two concepts including their natures, as well as their doctrines of motivation.

Psychological Egoism and Ethical Egoism: A Comparison

Human beings place great value on the interests of both themselves and others. There is a certain innate desire to
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70) . Behind every action that a person makes is an underlying question about what that person will get out of the action. According to Rachels, however, this remains an issue of human psychology as opposed to being one of ethics. That being said, psychological egoism does have serious costs for human morality. Should psychological egoism actually be correct, then it would mean that all of society is composed of selfish individuals who care only for their own gain; it would therefore be fruitless to discuss what people should be doing. On the other hand, ethical egoism is a theory that prescribes moral obligation, where all people should be motivated out of self interest (Rachels, 2003, p. 70). This means that every person ought to act in a way that is best for him/herself. Ethical egoism claims that it is moral for all of an individual’s actions to be based on self-interest, without concerning him/herself with the interests of others. In fact, this thought may be continued by stating that altruism is, therefore, personally hindering and even demeaning (Brink, 1997, p. 122). Hence, ethical egoism must consequently mean that actions taken in an individual’s self-interest are moral actions, and actions taken that are not self-beneficial to an individual are immoral and should, as a result, be avoided. Ethical egoism is typically broken down into two categories: strong and weak. The strong version of ethical egoism centers on the idea that it