Altruism as an alternative to ethical egoism

The weak impartialist says that in certain situations we are to be moved by the good of others, but that is only because there is a moral rule, striking a reasonable balance between oneself and others, that requires one to do so. It could be combined with meta-ethical sentimentalism, but need not be.

Parental care might be explained on egoistic grounds: It often requires fewer resources for me to benefit myself than to benefit others. By contrast, we treat someone as a means to an end whenever we treat that person as a tool to achieve something else. Perhaps as infants we have only self-regarding desires; we come to desire other things, such as doing our duty, by learning that these other things satisfy our self-regarding desires; in time, we pursue the other things for their own sakes.

Varieties of Egoism

One way to see that this would be unfair is to recognize how important it is to Aristotle that we love others for their sake. The problem is that, as the discussion of the cooperation argument shows, it also fails to fit some of the confident moral judgments we make.

If so, I do have reason to care specially about all of the future selves I am continuous with, and do not have this reason to care specially about others with whom I am not continuous.

The second premise is implausible, as we have just seen; and, since both premises must be true for the argument to reach its conclusion, the argument can be rejected. There are possibilities other than maximization. Some of the facts may also not give the sharp distinction Sidgwick wants.

It would make no sense, therefore, to suggest that I do not want them to be prosperous for their sake, but only as a means to the achievement of some goal of my own. The first two principles, personal benefit and social benefit, are consequentialist since they appeal to the consequences of an action as it affects the individual or society.

After we have answered that question, we need to address the further question of how best to obtain those constituents.


Given this, and given the historical popularity of rational egoism, one might conclude that it must be taken seriously.

In short, what makes me so special.

Ethical Egoism versus Ethical Altruism

This conflict with the instrumental theory is a major problem for rational egoism. That is, he might believe that i the subjects studied by psychologists in carefully conducted experiments have been shown to be not purely altruistic, or more strongly that these subjects ultimately care only about their own good; and ii that we can infer from these experiments that all human beings are motivated in the same way.

According to the weaker interpretation of impartiality described above, moral rules reflect this division of labor. Again B and C will have my memories, traits, and goals. History has many examples. As Aristotle observes at the beginning of the Nicomachean Ethics, whenever we act, we aim at some good—but goods are not all at the same level.

That is, it is not enough that I act as if others have weight; I must really give them weight. There is a common assumption that you are either selfish in your actions, or selfless.

Egoism and Altruism

Perhaps I cannot get the benefits of cooperation without converting to some non-egoist moral theory. A revised version of utilitarianism called rule-utilitarianism addresses these problems. This kind of distinction is familiar, and is applicable in all sorts of cases.

Toward a Social-Psychological Answer. The only way to address these questions is one in which we reason our way towards a general policy—a rule, however simple or complex, that governs the use of torture. Unless I can explain why blue-eyed people are to be preferred, my claim looks arbitrary, in the sense that I have given no reason for the different treatments.

Many people would criticize him for being insufficiently altruistic. For further discussion of Batson, see May a and Slote But B and C cannot be identical to me, since they are not identical to one another they go on to live different lives.

It seeks a certain kind of consciousness in oneself. One might object that moralists care much more about getting true moral conclusions than about arriving at them on their own.

The metaphysical component of metaethics involves discovering specifically whether moral values are eternal truths that exist in a spirit-like realm, or simply human conventions.

Now say half of my brain will go in B and half in C. It allows for weakness of will, since in weakness of will cases I am still aiming at my own welfare; I am weak in that I do not act as I aim. But a neater reply is to move to rational egoism, which makes claims about what one has reason to do, ignoring the topic of what is morally right.

This resolution incorporates the conclusions of the first two resolutions by stating that there is an ethical framework that can logically be extrapolated from ethical egoism.

Ethical Egoism does not deny the possibility of altruism: Ethical Egoists would admit that it is perfectly possible to care about other people. However, according to the Ethical Egoist you ought not to care about the needs or welfare of others, you should only care about and act on your own needs and interests.

This alternative conceptual framework will draw heavily on the work of the French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, whose ethical phenomenology provides a sophisticated counter to the psychological egoism assumed in so much of contemporary psychological theory and research on altruism.

Ethical Egoism (EGO): An action X is morally right iff X promotes my (the speaker's) best interests at least as well as any alternative to X.

It is important to appreciate that. But ethical egoism can be seen as making categorical ought-claims. And the historical popularity of ethical egoism, which Prichard so often notes, indicates that self-interest is not obviously irrelevant to what one ought to do (in a not specifically moral sense).

In her attempt to defend Ethical Egoism, Rand presents us with a false dichotomy; namely, that either ethical egoism or ethical altruism is true.

Difference Between Egoism and Altruism

There are other options she has not refuted. we must know the value of consequences of the alternative actions; C) we must know that justice was not violated; D) A) and B); E) all of the above. Altruism is considered the only alternative view to ethical egoism, and once it is dismissed, ethical egoism is endorsed.

This analysis is insufficient because it omits discussion and refutation of a .

Altruism as an alternative to ethical egoism
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Ethical Egoism | Philosophy