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


Janan Savage
Ethics
Due 4/7/97

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 to himself. If someone gives away
the last piece of bread to someone else, it is because they want to look like a
better person. Due to the fact that they would give away the last piece of bread.

Human nature is completely and exclusively egoistic. People are entirely
selfish and devoid of any genuine feelings of sympathy, benevolence, or
sociability. They are always thinking of themselves in everything they do.

Each individual is preoccupied exclusively with the gratification of
personal desires (felicity or happiness).Ones success in maintaining a
continuous flow of gratification is the means of ones happiness.

The object of the voluntary acts of every man is some good to himself.
Whenever man renounces his right it is either in consideration for some right
reciprocally transferred to himself, or for some other good he hopes for from
the outcome. This presents us with the old saying: "Do unto others as you would
want them to do unto you."

Social organization originates out of self interest. All society is for
gain, or for glory. It is not like we think it is—for love of our fellows.
Instead it is for self preservation. It is a sort of social contract. In a state
of nature we are at war with each other and life is solitary, poor, nasty,
brutish, and short. In a natural state individuals are in equal powers.
Voluntary collective organization is the most effective way for individuals to
utilize their powers.

Man should be allowed the right to use all means or actions to preserve
himself. For every man is desirous of what is good to him, and shuns what is
evil, but chiefly the chiefest of natural evil, which is death. The right to
bear arms.

In conclusion, I would like to say that?


Psychological Egoism-- This is the claim that humans by nature are
motivated only by self-interest . Any act, no matter how altruistic it might
seem, is actually motivated by some selfish desire of the agent (e.g., desire
for reward, avoidance of guilt, personal happiness). This is a descriptive claim
about human nature. Since the claim is universal--all acts are motivated by self
interest--it could be proven false by a single counterexample (Weston, rule #11).


It will be difficult to find an action that the psychological egoist
will acknowledge as purely altruistic, however. There is almost always some
benefit to ourselves in any action we choose. For example, if I helped my friend
out of trouble, I may feel happy afterwards. But is that happiness the motive
for my action or just a result of it? Perhaps the psychological egoist fails to
distinguish the beneficial consequences of an action from the self-interested
motivation. After all, why would it make me happy to see my friend out of
trouble if I didn\'t already have some prior concern for my friend\'s best
interest? Wouldn\'t that be altruism?

Egoism versus altruism

The second issue I want to explore is egoism versus altruism.

Altruism holds \'\'each man as his brother\'s keeper;\'\' in other words, we
are each responsible for the health and well-being of others. Clearly, this is a
simple statement of the \'\'safety-net\'\' theory from above. This is incompatible
with individualism, yet many people who are basically individualists uphold
altruism as the standard of morality. What\'s going on?

The problem is wide-spread confusion over the meanings of \'\'altruism\'\'
and \'\'egoism.\'\'

The first confusion is to confound altruism with kindness, generosity,
and helping other people. Altruism demands more than kindness: it demands
sacrifice. The billionaire who contributes $50,000 to a scholarship fund is not
acting altruistically; altruism goes beyond simple charity. Altruism is the
grocery bagger who contributes $50,000 to the fund, foregoing his own college
education so that others may go. Parents who spend a fortune to save their dying
child are helping another person, but true altruism would demand that the
parents spend their money to save ten other children, sacrificing their own
child so that others may live.

The second confusion is to confound selfishness with brutality. The
common image of selfishness is the person who runs slip-shod over people in
order to achieve arbitrary desires. We are taught that \'\'selfishness\'\' consists
of dishonesty, theft, even bloodshed, usually for