ABSTRACT Average utilitarianism and several related axiologies, when paired with the standard expectational theory of decision-making under risk and with reasonable empirical credences, can find their practical prescriptions overwhelmingly determined by the minuscule probability that the agent assigns to solipsism—that is, to the hypothesis that there is only one welfare subject in the world, namely, herself. This either (i) constitutes a reductio of these axiologies, (ii) suggests that they require bespoke decision theories, or (iii) furnishes an unexpected argument for ethical (...) egoism. (shrink)
In his 1972 paper “A Short Refutation Ethical Egoism,” Richmond Campbell purports to refute ethical egoism via a simple reductio. Although his argument has received critical attention, it has not been satisfactorily answered. In this paper I answer it, for reasons that go well beyond my immediate topic. Campbell’s argument calls for an answer partly because, as I show, if it succeeds against ethical egoism, then variations of it refute many other normative ethical theories, such as act utilitarianism.
A familiar question is whether psychological egoism (suitably supplemented with plausible further premises) entails ethical egoism. This paper considers this question, treating it much more thoroughly than do any previous treatments. For instance, it discusses all of the most common understandings of ethical and psychological egoism. It further discusses many strategies and arguments relevant to the question addressed. Although this procedure creates complexity, it has value. It forestalls the suspicion, aroused by so many treatments of this subject, that the results (...) stem largely from leaving stones unturned – for instance, from ignoring many natural argumentative strategies and many familiar understandings of the views discussed. The paper’s conclusion is that psychological egoism (suitably supplemented …) does not entail ethical egoism. (shrink)
Should harms to different individuals be aggregated? Moderate views answer yes and no. Aggregation is appropriate in some but not all cases. Such views need to determine a threshold at which aggregation switches from appropriate to inappropriate. Alex Voorhoeve proposes a method for determining this threshold which links other-regarding and self-regarding ethics. This proposal, however, implies a spurious correlation between favoring aggregation and egoism.
[If you find this article interesting, let me mention another of my articles, “On Deducing Ethical Egoism from Psychological Egoism” (Theoria, 2023), which in many ways is a more thorough treatment of the topic. But it’s not an expanded version of this one. For instance, each article addresses arguments not addressed in the other.] Philosophers generally reject the view that psychological egoism (suitably supplemented with further premises) entails ethical egoism. Their rejections are generally unsatisfying. Some are too brief to win (...) confidence; others employ an uncharitable statement of psychological egoism. This is unfortunate, for the view that psychological egoism entails ethical egoism is philosophically significant (and not without proponents). Although it ultimately deserves rejection, it warrants better treatment than it typically receives. I thus examine it in some detail. Among other things, I carefully consider some original, sophisticated attempts to establish it, having first taken care to produce proper formulations of ethical and psychological egoism. (shrink)
Egoism can be a descriptive or a normative position. Psychological egoism, the most famous descriptive position, claims that each person has but one ultimate aim: her own welfare. Normative forms of egoism make claims about what one ought to do, rather than describe what one does do. Ethical egoism claims that it is necessary and sufficient for an action to be morally right that it maximize one's self-interest. Rational egoism claims that it is necessary and sufficient for an action to (...) be rational that it maximize one's self-interest. (shrink)
This paper considers the following claim: In order to live well, your first concern must be with yourself. I show how the truth in this claim can be captured by a eudaimonist framework. I distinguish two sorts of self-concern: self-care and self-responsibility. I examine each of these notions. I also consider different senses in which either sort of self-concern might be one’s first concern. I identify the place of each of these ideas in a properly developed eudaimonism. As part of (...) my discussion, I respond to the egoism challenge to eudaimonism, and I outline a thoroughly non-egoistic form of eudaimonism. (shrink)
This book provides a systematic defense of moral contractarianism as a distinct approach to the social contract. It elucidates, in comparison to moral conventionalism and moral contractualism, the distinct features of moral contractarianism, its scope, and conceptual and practical challenges that concern the relationship between morality and self-interest, the problems of assurance and compliance, rule-following, counterfactualism, and the nexus between morals and politics. It argues that, if appropriately conceived, moral contractarianism is conceptually coherent, empirically sound, and practically relevant, and has (...) much to offer to contemporary moral philosophy. (shrink)
Selfishness is often considered a vice and selfish actions are often judged to be wrong. But sometimes we ought to do what’s best for ourselves: in a sense, we sometimes should be selfish. -/- The ethical theory known as ethical egoism states that we are always morally required to do what’s in our own self-interest. The view isn’t that we are selfish—this is psychological egoism—but that we ought to be. -/- This essay explores ethical egoism and the main arguments for (...) and against it. -/- [Note: there are links for two versions below; a 1000 Word Philosophy version and a longer version in "Introduction to Ethics: An Open Educational Resource"]. (shrink)
Because Mencius’s condemnation is equivalent to condemnation of ethical egoism, Mencius’s condemnation of Yang Zhu has something to say about the fight against COVID-19. There are measures, imposed by government, to fight the virus and defiance against these measures is condemned as selfish. In other words, Mencius’s condemnation of Yang Zhu could be said to be saying that the defiance is to be condemned as selfish.
Do people only act out of self-interest? Or is there a less pessimistic explanation for human behaviour? Maurer delves into early-Enlightenment debates on self-love from both famous and lesser known authors, including Lord Shaftesbury, Bernard Mandeville, Francis Hutcheson, Joseph Butler, Archibald Campbell, David Hume and Adam Smith.
Thanks to Michel Foucault, one might say it has become possible to conceive that the political relevance of humanity in modern thought does not have to do with its “philosophical essence” but rather with its “nonessence.” Yet this very idea surfaced earlier in Western thought, at the time of the revolutionary turn towards a politicized humanitarianism, and helped to shape some crucial political strategies making up modern liberal democracy. Its potential eluded even Foucault. I contend that tracing the contours of (...) this classical, if long unthinkable idea, can inform our response to the other of social critique. (shrink)
This essay is a response to Yong Huang's Why Be Moral? I raise three concerns about Huang's answer to the very question "Why Be Moral?" which is the subject of the first chapter of the book. First, I suggest that the justificatory interpretation of the question is as important as the motivational one, in general and for the Cheng brothers, and that it shouldn't be dismissed as quickly as Huang dismisses it. Second, I argue that joy cannot be the direct (...) motive for being moral, but propose that it could be (and probably is) an indirect motive, and speculate about the particular kind of indirect motive it might be. Finally, I ask whether Huang's appeal to "being human" as a motive is better understood in the Millian way or the Aristotelian way, and suggest that Mill's approach is a better fit for the Cheng brothers. (shrink)
The claim of this paper is to present Spinoza’s view on self-esteem and positive reciprocity, which replaces the human being in a monistic psycho-dynamical affective framework, instead of a dualistic pedestal above nature. Without naturalising the human being in an eliminative materialistic view as many recent neuro-scientific conceptions of the mind do, Spinoza finds an important entry point in a panpsychist and holistic perspective, presenting the complexity of the human being, which is not reducible to the psycho-physiological conditions of life. (...) From a panpsychist point of view, qualities and values emerge from the world, in a situation similar to what could be seen in animism, or early childhood psychology, where the original distance between the mind and the exterior thing is reduced ad minima, and both can even interrelate in a confusing manner. Human reality is nevertheless a social reality, it supposes a basis for shared competencies, that we will present as grounded on the one hand of the sustaining character of the essence of the animal-man as will-to-power. Negatively speaking we all share same asocial tendencies and affects. This aspect is not only negative but it is also a will to develop and master the environment, because values have an onto-metaphysical immanent dimension in nature, not because there is an individual bottom-up will to survive, but rather a will to live in harmony with the surrounding world. On the other hand, we shall see that Spinoza understood and described perfectly the power of the mind over the power of the affects, as a co-constituting dimension, which is alienating natural dependencies, leaving an inner space for the objectification of ethical values, not related to mere compensation mechanisms. (shrink)
This book provides an entry-level introduction to philosophical ethics, theories of moral reasoning, and selected issues in applied ethics. Chapter 1 describes the importance of philosophical approaches to ethical issues, the general dialectical form of moral reasoning, and the broad landscape of moral philosophy. Chapter 2 presents egoism and relativism as challenges to the presumed objectivity and unconditionality of morality. Chapters 3, 4 and 5 discuss utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethics, respectively. Each chapter begins with a general overview of the (...) characteristic theory of value and moral reasoning and proceeds to present a more refined account based on a prominent historical source (Mill, Kant, and Aristotle, respectively). It then discusses strengths and weaknesses of the theory from a contemporary perspective, including more recent developments, defenses, and critiques. Each chapter includes an appendix in which secondary, less prominent, or more complex issues are discussed. Chapters 6-9 address in detail a prominent area of applied ethics: 6. abortion, 7. assisted dying, 8. Biotechnology, 9. Animals and eating. Each of these chapters presents an introduction to the topic, including definitions, historical and contemporary developments and contexts, etc.; the various questions and issues involved; and an application of each theory from multiple points of view. Each chapter also includes a set of primary readings along with an extensive bibliography. Chapter 10 discusses four more areas of applied ethics: War, Torture, and Terrorism; Capital Punishment; Environmental Ethics; and Same-Sex Marriage. The treatment of these topics focuses mainly on the introductory material. While there is some discussion of the various ethical arguments, it is less comprehensive or detailed compared to other chapters. However, several primary resources are listed to supplement the discussion in the textbook. (shrink)
I argue, contrary to the consensus of most contemporary work in ethics, that there are no (fundamentally, distinctively) prudential reasons for action. That is to say: there is no class of reasons for action that is distinctively and fundamentally about the promotion of the agent’s own well-being. Considerations to do with the agent’s well-being can supply the agent with reasons only in virtue of her well-being mattering morally or in virtue of her caring about her own well-being. In both of (...) these cases, the way that such prudential considerations supply reasons for action is a way that the well-being of others can supply reasons for action too. (shrink)
Assessing the implementation of various instruments and solutions in a healthcare system, we cannot limit ourselves to examining their impact on the fulfillment of the criteria of justice and equity alone. Another important social objective is to maximize social welfare under the conditions of the scarcity of resources. The aim of the article is to analyze the impact on social welfare of the implementation of private insurance into the existing system of public security, with a view to the following factors: (...) the reasons for restrictions in the public system, the assumed forms of the aggregation of individual utilities into the social welfare function, and the assumed image of society. (shrink)
This book critiques Ayn Rand’s secular philosophy of religion while simultaneously highlighting the fundamental contradiction of the Tea Party movement’s dual basis, that is, Randian economics and conservative Christianity.
Though utilitarianism is far from being universally accepted in the philosophical community, it is taken seriously and treated respectfully. Its critics do not dismiss it out of hand; they do not misrepresent it; they do not belittle or disparage its proponents. They allow the theory to be articulated, developed, and defended from criticism, even if they go on to reject the modified versions. Ethical egoism, a longstanding rival of utilitarianism, is treated very differently. It is said to be “refuted” by (...) arguments of a sort that apply equally well to utilitarianism. It is said to be “unprovable,” when many of the greatest utilitarians themselves, such as Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832), John Stuart Mill (1806–1873), and Henry Sidgwick (1838–1900), admitted that no normative ethical theory, including their own, is provable. Critics of ethical egoism seldom discuss the various theoretical moves that utilitarians are routinely allowed to make, such as (1) fighting the facts, (2) transforming the theory from “act utilitarianism” to “rule utilitarianism,” and (3) biting the bullet. This essay argues that every defensive move made by utilitarians can be made, with equal vigor (if not also plausibility), by ethical egoists. The conclusion is that ethical egoism deserves to be taken more seriously than it is. (shrink)
Analyzes the intellectual roots and philosophy of Ayn Rand. Second edition adds a new preface and an analysis of transcripts documenting Rand's education at Petrograd State University"--Provided by publisher.
There has been a long tradition of interpreting Plato as a rational egoist. Over the past few decades, however, some scholars have challenged this reading. While Rational Egoism appeals to many ordinary folk, in sophisticated philosophical circles it has fallen out of favor as a general and complete account of the nature of reasons for action. I argue that while the theory of practical rationality that is often equated with rational egoism—a view that I call ‘Simple-Minded Rational Egoism'—is neither plausible (...) nor endorsed by Plato in his Republic, there is a more complex version of Rational Egoism to which Plato is indeed committed. Moreover, such a conception of practical rationality is not vulnerable to the standard set of objections that contemporary philosophers have made against Rational Egoism. (shrink)
Selon une psychologie empiriste, aucune vie mentale inconsciente n'existe ; la conscience devrait être vue comme intérieure au sujet. Au contraire, la psychologie idéaliste soutient une philosophie de l'inconscient (et non pas de l'inconscience). La multiplicité et la finalité ne sont pas représentables comme des produits de l'évolution ou du destin des individus ; notre image du monde est conscience du monde. Nietzsche (1874), le premier, réagit contre cette thèse ; il y voit un tourbillon de consciences étroites : "l'homme (...) historique qui se laisse transformer en miroir historique." La psychologie idéaliste tendrait-elle vers une idolâtrie de l'histoire ? Il nous semble qu'une éthique et une philosophie sociale idéalistes, bâties sur les principes du droit, aident à former des hypothèses plausibles, notamment celle d'une solidarité inconsciente. L'expérience moniste d'unité entre notre représentation et notre volonté peut plaider pour une compréhension du monde sur le terrain de valeurs axiologiques, sans maladie historique. Elle explique une soif universelle de culture et de religion. Réexaminons l'utilité et l'inconvénient d'élargir la reconnaissance réciproque des sujets, vers un don de soi au monde. (shrink)
This paper will provide Murray N. Rothbard's "ethics of liberty" with a greater theoretical cogency and ultimately validateits natural law underpinnings. This can be achieved via a mediation of Hans-Herrmann Hoppe 's praxeological argumentation ethics and Ayn Rand 's Objectivist teleologjcal/Objectivist theory of ethics. Synthesizing these two disparate schools of epistemology provides a metaethic or praxeological/Objectivist epistemology that considerably strengthens and ultimately validates the central axioms of the Rothbardian natural law project on both rational and moral grounds.
Ayn Rand most certainly favored liberty, although she renounced the "libertarian" appellation. Yet, in her continuous, contemptuous and shrill attacks on religion, she was denigrating an institution that has made great contributions to freedom. The present essay is an attempt to right the balance; to demonstrate that religion and liberty are not the enemies supposed by Rand.
One principal challenge to the rationalist thesis that the demands of morality are requirements of rationality has been that posed by the "rational egoist." In attempting to answer's the egoist's challenge, some rationalists have supposed that an adequate reply must take the form of a deductive argument that "converts" the egoist by showing that her position is contradictory, arbitrary, or violates some precept that defines practical rationality as such. Here I argue (a) that such rationalist replies will fail to persuade (...) the egoist to adopt a recognizably moral way of life; (b) that this failure can be traced to epistemic assumptions that underlie typical rationalist replies; (c) that egoist conversion can better be understood by rejecting these assumptions and seeing egoist conversion as akin to a paradigm shift in the sciences; and (d) that conceptualizing egoist conversion as a paradigm shift accords with empirical psychological evidence regarding the acquisition and modification of individuals' moral attitudes and beliefs. (shrink)
This article examines changes in the conception of morality and egoism in early modern Europe. It explains that the postulate that human beings were fractious, covetous, and endowed with a strong drive towards self-aggrandizement was associated with Thomas Hobbes, and his writings produced a strong counterflow in the form of assertions and demonstrations of altruism and benevolence as natural endowments of human beings. It suggests that the modern ethical thought has defined itself by its concern with a specific ethical conception (...) whose distinctness from eudaimonist prudential concerns is part of its very idea. (shrink)
100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Kandis an enjoyable compendium of mostly favorable interviews of those who knew or met Ayn Rand. While it contains many valuable insights about Rand and her life, it fails to achieve its objective in providing a good selection of interviews of those who knew Rand in various "contexts" and "relationships," contrary to what editor Scott McConnell claims. Those who are interested in the movement side of Objectivism, which developed in the 1950s and 1960s, (...) will be disappointed in the lack of attention paid to this part of her life. (shrink)
Most work in neo-Aristotelian virtue ethics begins by supposing that the virtues are the traits of character that make us good people. Secondary questions, then, include whether, why, and in what ways the virtues are good for the people who have them. This essay is an argument that the neo-Aristotelian approach is upside down. If, instead, we begin by asking what collection of character traits are good for us---that is, what collection of traits are most likely to promote our own (...) well-being---we find a collection of traits a lot like the traditional slate of virtues. This suggests an egoistic theory of the virtues: the virtues just are those traits of character that reliably promote the well-being of their possessor. In addition to making the positive case for character egoism, I defend it from anticipated objections. I argue that character egoism doesn't inherit the problems of ethical egoism, and conclude by offering character-egoist accounts of two virtues traditionally thought to be fundamentally other-regarding: honesty and justice. (shrink)
This paper is devoted to explicating Dai Zhen’s defense of self-interested desires, over and against a tradition that sets strict limits to their range and function in moral agency. I begin by setting the terms of the debate between Dai and his opponents, noting that the dispute turns largely on the moral status of directly self-interested desires, or desires for one’s own good as such. I then consider three of Dai’s arguments against views that miscategorize or undervalue directly self-interested desires. (...) I begin with the most widely recognized line of defense, which holds that the suppression of such desires makes those in positions of authority less sensitive to the mistreatment of those with whose interests they are entrusted. I call this the “Pity for the Powerless” argument. I then explore an argument that Dai offers in the form of a multi-faceted metaphor, which likens the suppression of desires to attempts to block or dam natural waterways. I call this is the “Damming the Desires” argument. I conclude with a brief summary of a third and fundamental defense implied by structural features of ethics as Dai understands them. On my reading, Dai thinks ethics is concerned first and foremost with the character traits and resultant behavior that allow us to participate in relationships, and the relationships in question are mutually beneficial, not one-sided or reciprocal. I call this the “Argument from Mutual Fulfillment.” On the view spelled out here, directly self-interested desires are not just morally tolerable, nor is the possession of them merely a necessary condition for the possession of moral virtue; instead, moral virtue is constituted in part by self-interested desires. This is the strong position that Dai endorses when he characterizes the Confucian path as the “way of mutual fulfillment.”. (shrink)
Philosopher-novelist Ayn Rand is a cultural phenomenon. Her books have sold more than 25 million copies, and countless individuals speak of her writings as having significantly influenced their lives. In spite of the popular interest in her ideas, or perhaps because of it, Rand’s work has until recently received little serious attention from academics. Though best known among philosophers for her strong support of egoism in ethics and capitalism in politics, there is an increasingly widespread awareness of both the range (...) and the systematic character of Rand’s philosophic thought. This new series, developed in conjunction with the Ayn Rand Society, an affiliated group of the American Philosophical Association, Eastern Division, seeks a fuller scholarly understanding of this highly original and influential thinker. The first volume starts not with the metaphysical and epistemological fundamentals of Rand’s thought, but with central aspects of her ethical theory. Though her endorsement of ethical egoism is well-known—one of her most familiar essay collections is _The Virtue of Selfishness—_the character of her egoism is not. The chapters in this volume address the basis of her egoism in a virtue-centered normative ethics; her account of how moral norms in general are themselves based on a fundamental choice by an agent to value his own life; and how her own approach to the foundations of ethics is to be compared and contrasted with familiar approaches in the analytic ethical tradition. Philosophers interested in the objectivity of value, in the way ethical theory is virtue-based, and in acquiring a serious understanding of an egoistic moral theory worthy of attention will find much to consider in this volume, which includes critical responses to several of its main essays. (shrink)
The Beloved Self is about the holy grail of moral philosophy, an argument against egoism that proves that we all have reasons to be moral. Part One introduces three different versions of egoism. Part Two looks at attempts to prove that egoism is false, and shows that even the more modest arguments that do not try to answer the egoist in her own terms seem to fail. But in part Three, Hills defends morality and develops a new problem for egoism, (...) an epistemological problem. She shows that it is not epistemically rational to believe the most plausible versions of egoism. The first part of the book will be most relevant to those interested in moral theory, as it contains detailed discussions of recent interpretations of virtue ethics and especially of Kant's moral theory. The second and third part of the book turn to epistemology, particularly moral epistemology, and include an account of the relationship between knowledge and action, a new theory of moral understanding, and a discussion of the epistemically rational response to various kinds of disagreement. Hills also defends a new account of virtue and of morally worthy action. (shrink)
The financial crisis of 2008–2009 presents us with the opportunity to not only understand what has happened in the markets but also to reflect on the purpose of the marketplace. Drawing from expert economic analyses, we first assess the central lesson of the crisis—the failure of self-regulation by rational self-interest to moderate externalized risk in financial markets. Second, we ask the philosophical question occasioned by the crisis concerning the moral meaning of economic activity: Is market exchange solely for the sake (...) of self-interest? Reflecting on the poetry of Kahlil Gibran and engaging with the recent encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, we turn our attention from political economy to moral economy: the relationships among market exchange, self-interest, and the common good—and, in particular, the prior conditions of market exchange and their moral significance for the present crisis. (shrink)
Virtue ethics is often alleged to be egoistic, based upon its linking of virtue and happiness. Virtue ethicists often respond that their approach to the moral life is only “formally egoistic” and therefore not objectionable. This paper develops a clear, non-arbitrary definition of egoism (often lacking in these exchanges) as systematic pursuit of one’s own welfare, and then catalogues four broad egoistic strategies for achieving it. I identify “formal foundational egoism” as the one mostplausibly attributed to virtue ethics (its subtlety (...) allows it to account for many features of the moral life, seemingly justifying Aristotelians in their admission that their theory is egoistic in this way). I show instead that any moral theory whose first principle is that each should pursue her own welfare is indeed objectionable. I conclude by showing how virtue ethics can avoid all forms of egoism by counseling the pursuit of perfection rather than welfare alone. (shrink)
Philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche and Ayn Rand are often identified as strong critics of altruism and arch advocates of egoism. In this essay, Stephen Hicks argues that Nietzsche and Rand have much in common in their critiques of altruism but almost nothing in common in their views on egoism.
If we examine Rand's relation to Nietzsche in terms of the number of issues on which the late Rand agreed with him, the connection between them looks extremely weak. On the other hand, if we look at the relation in terms of Rand's philosophical development, the connection is much more profound. Nietzsche is where Rand began as a thinker, and though she traveled far from this source, her thinking always bore important traces of her beginnings.