Wednesday September 9
Psychological egoism is assumed to be true in Plato’s Republic. The most common view is
Psychological Hedonism, where pleasure is good and pain is bad. Each person wants only his
Gyges’ Ring-most of us keep our promises to other people because we are afraid that we
couldn’t get away with it, if we had the chance to be in Gyges’ position we would all do things
Psychological Egoism- as a matter of psychological necessity, people desire only their own
good or self-interest, therefore always do what they think will most promote their self-interest.
• by looking at how we act it would be thought that PE is false
• doctrine about the object of desire, what it is that I want.
• challenge to our everyday understanding of morality
• makes a lot of talk about ourselves as a fraud, never the case that you are motivated by
the desire to do what’s right
• biology doesn’t support PE, supports the idea that we have many desires for many
different things, don’t just want pleasure, need to be careful, if we were biologically
determined to desire only those things, then there wouldn’t be room for morality
• morality requires some freedom of choice, we can either pursue this goal or that goal
Ayn Rand-defended PE, says your ultimate aim is always your own life, survival or continuation
Feinberg-sometimes we do things to help one another, psychological egoism doesn’t deny this.
We may do things as a means, but our ends are out of self-interest.
Psychological Egoism challenges our morality in two ways:
1)”ought” implies “can”principle- it can only be true that you ought to do something if you are
able to do it. Ex. You ought to flap your wings and fly around a room
-in PE morality has a very limited role, it can’t instruct us about the goals or best ends to pursue
as we are hard-wired to want only our own pleasure, at best it can tells us the most effective
means to our own hard-wired end of pleasure
2)if Psychological Egoism is true, then our talk about morality is a sham, people who say
they care about doing what’s right because it is right are lying
-people are able to do what is generally considered right ex. Not stealing or killing, but only
because they fear they can’t get away with doing what is considered wrong. -once people can get away with things they would. Morality is a second best. The best is to act
morally and not get caught. We pretend to be motivated by what is right and wrong but all we
are doing is pursuing