Ethical egoism

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Ethical egoism is the consequentialist philosophy which states that morality should be based on self-interest. It is the philosophical basis for many libertarians and (so they claim) Randroids but also got support from Thomas Hobbes.[1]. Some egoists that do not believe in the existence of ethics call themselves rational egoists, because they want to be selfish, but do not want to support metaphysical ideas like ethics and morals.


[edit] Key ideas

Ethical egoism is based on three arguments:

  1. That morality is subjective and that it is different for every unique individual.
  2. That self interest is the origin of all morality.
  3. That one ought to further one's self interest and that acting against it is immoral.

It is the polar opposite of ethical altruism, the belief that one ought to live for others, and is contrasted with utilitarianism, which is objective. Egoism is subjective, meaning that its implications and conclusions change from person to person and nothing is objectively ethical. This is interesting considering that some of the most vocal proponents of ethical egoism are so-called Objectivists.[2]

Egoism is very appealing to some because it philosophically justifies selfishness, even at the expense of others, and therefore reduces feelings of guilt after acting like a heartless jerk. Also, being a jerk is their moral equivalent of being nice and vice versa.

[edit] Criticism

Ethical egoism is seen as arbitrary because it values the selfish individual more than other people and there are no objective grounds for this. Similarly racism values one race more than others arbitrarily.[1]

Contrary to many strawmen arguments, egoism does not mean that you should never act in the interest of another, even if it does not benefit you. Instead, it is acting to benefit yourself, regardless of whether it harms or benefits another. Another way of saying this is that intentions are always selfish. Results may vary, whether they are good for others or not. This is because those who selfishly refuse to help others later find others will not return favours since they received none. If some misfortune arises and the egoist now needs the unselfish help of another, and if everyone is a consistent egoist, the egoist may or may not get the help he needs, . So in the interests of self-interest, an egoist must act altruistically, at least sometimes, even if intentions are only about personal gain, thus why it is a relativistic philosophy. There are three types of egoism: universal (everybody should act for their own self-benefit), personal (the egoist is an egoist, but other people can be altruistic or utilitarian), and individual (everybody acts for one individual's self-benefit, which is completely unrealistic). Alternatively, many egoists are also Individualists, like Stirner and Nietzsche, who would say that those that require the help of other do not deserve the help of others.[3] Incidentally normal people who are not sociopaths would likely lose self respect and become less happy if they only helped others at such times.[citation needed]

Ethical egoism, like all exclusively subjective philosophies, is prone to constant self-contradiction because it supports all individuals' self interests. It also can lead to conclusions such as choosing not to intervene in a crime against another. Egoists have difficulty caring about anything that does not deal with themselves, which is one reason why ethical egoism is so impractical for people who are very aware of the world. The very legitimacy of the theory is often called into question because it prevents its own adherents from taking reasonable stances on major political and social issues and cannot in itself solve these issues, without resorting to popular choice.[3]

[edit] See also

[edit] Footnotes

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