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Chapter 2

PHIL 1100H Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Kurt Baier, Ethical Egoism, Egotism

Course Code
PHIL 1100H
Norlock Kathryn

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PHIL 1100
Week 2
Wednesday, January 18th, 2017
Reading: ‘Ethical Egoism, from The Elements of Ethics’ by James Rachels
We as first world citizens often would rather spend our money on luxuries than donate to
eliminate hunger
We have natural duties to others simply because they are people who could be helped or harmed
by our actions
Ethical Egoism
The idea that each person ought to pursue their own self-interest exclusively
A theory about how we OUGHT to behave, and not how we DO behave
Says we have no moral duty except to do what is best for ourselves
Psychological Egoism
Says that people do in fact always pursue their own interests
Ethical Egoism does NOT say…
Does not say one should promote one’s own self-interests as well as the interests of
o Instead it is the view that one’s only duty is to promote one’s interests
Does not say you should avoid actions that help others
o Aiding others may be an effective means for creating some benefit for yourself
Does not imply that in pursuing your interests you must always do what you want to do
o Ex./ you may want to smoke, though it has negative consequences, so don’t
Ethical egoism insists that benefiting others is not what makes the act right.
What makes the act right is the fact that it is to one’s own advantage.
Three Arguments in Favour of Ethical Egoism
1. [several variations same meaning]
a. Each of us is intimately familiar with our own individual wants and needs
i. We know other people’s needs imperfectly
b. ‘Looking out for others’ is an offensive intrusion into other’s privacy
c. Making other people the object of one’s ‘charity’ is degrading to them
The argument says:
o We are to do whatever will promote the best interests of everyone alike
o The interests of everyone will best be promoted if each of us adopts the policy of
pursuing our own interests exclusively
o Therefore, each of us should adopt the policy of pursuing our own interests
If we accept this reasoning, we are not ethical egoists, we are acting like egoists.
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