ETHICAL egoism is the view that each person ought, all things considered, to do that action which is most in his over-all self-interest. Kurt Baier ar- gues against. Rational egoism (also called rational selfishness) is the principle that an action is rational if and . Baier, Kurt (). “Egoism” in A Companion to Ethics. Peter Singer (ed.), Blackwell: Oxford. Brink, D. , “Sidgwick and the Rationale for Rational Egoism,” in. Ethical egoism is the normative ethical position that moral agents ought to do what is in their .. Baier, Kurt, , “Egoism” in A Companion to Ethics, Peter Singer (ed.), Blackwell: Oxford. ISBN ; Biddle, Craig, Loving Life.

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There are several theories about the principle of the GOOD that would serve human decision making in reaching a conclusion as to what is the morally correct thing to do. One approach or group of theories is known as being Teleological. In fgoism approach to ethics it is the consequence of the act that is the basis for determining its worth.

One of the most basic of consequences is the impact on people and one of the most basic of all values for determining whether something is good or not is the pleasure that it brings to someone.

There are two popular theories of the GOOD based on pleasure.

Philosophical Disquisitions: Egoism by Kurt Baier (Part 2)

One is based on pleasure to one self. The other is based on the pleasure that results for all humans in the world.

Thus, ethical egoism is incompatible eboism ethical conflict-regulation. A famous Egoist was Thomas Hobbes. Literature on Egoism-links to sites http: An action is morally right if and only if it is to the advantage of the person doing baeir.

An altruistic moral theory that demands total self-sacrifice is degrading to the moral agent. This is a false dilemma: Everyone is better off if each pursues his or her self-interest.


Provides no moral basis for solving conflicts between people. Obligates each person to prevent others from doing the right thing.

Has the same logical basis as racism. The egoist cannot advise others to be egoists because it works against the first egoists interest.

Ethical egoism

So although we all know people who attempt to live their lives as egoists, they are not generally well liked. Being so totally focused on the self is not likely to make someone many friends. Egoists can but friends but most people avoid egoists as they are thought to be untrustworthy.

According to this view, egoism is a vice. Psychological Egoism Argument For: Human agents always, at least on a deep-down level, are all egoists insofar as our behavior, explainable in terms of our beliefs and desires, is always aimed at what we believe is our greatest good Baier,p.

The psychological egoist confuses egoistic desires with motivation. An agent may act contrary to his desires and what is in his own best interest. People often act in ways that they know are detrimental to their well being. Moreover, what one most wants may not be in their own self-interest e. MacKinnon adds that, “Even if it were shown that we often act for the sake of our own interest, this is not enough to prove that psychological egoism is true.

Philosophical Disquisitions: Egoism by Kurt Baier (Part 1)

According to this theory, we must show that people always act to promote their own interests” p. If we can find only one counterexample to psychological egoism, then it is not true. According to the economist, Adam Smith, when entrepreneurs are unimpeded by legal or self-imposed moral constraint to protect the good of others, they are able to promote their own good and, as a egois, provide the most efficient means of promoting the good of others Baier,p.


Such a view leads to the doctrine that, “if each pursues her own interest as she conceives of it, then the interest of everyone is promoted” Baier,p.

Apart from positing an “invisible hand” guiding the market processes, the common-good egoist makes the fallacy, ascribed to J. Then the interest of one is the detriment of the other” Baier,p. Rational egoism is concerned with reasonable action. When doing something does not prima facie appear to be in our interest, our doing said act requires that we justify our baierr by showing that it is in our interest, baaier justifying our action.

Such an approach to justifying actions in our own interest may be abused if we do not have criteria established to determine what the interests of agents amount to. If such criteria are established, such actions may be reasonable so long as they do not result in conflicts between agents.

In such cases, creative middle bairr are called for. If we accept rational egoism, and if we accept ethical rationalism, then we must accept ethical egoism.

Rational egoism

Ethical egoism is incompatible with ethical conflict-regulation. Consider the following example from Bwier Baier, regarding the problem over whether it would be morally wrong for me to kill my grandfather so that he will be unable to change his will and disinherit mep.

There are other options. These are class notes, intended to comment on readings and amplify class discussion. They should be read as such. They are not intended for publication or general distribution.