Philosophy: Psychological Egoism Essay

Submitted By emaloney
Words: 758
Pages: 4

Emily Maloney
1st Paper Assignment
2/21/14

While I Don’t Want to be Writing This Essay Right Now I am Because it Will Benefit my Grade in the Long-Run

It’s indisputable that all actions have consequences. So it can also be logical to assume that an individual acts upon possible personal repercussions: this is the basic idea of Psychological Egoism. James Rachels disputes Psychological Egoism with the basic notions that some actions are subconscious, our desires are ultimately good and satisfaction is just a result, we don’t always do what we want, or it depends on the desire. However, all actions are motivated by a value of self-interest; regardless if the interest is based upon physical or psychological satisfaction.
Psychological Egoism is theory of human psychology that states that each person pursues his or her own interest alone. Ethical Egoism on the other hand, while often times confused with Psychological Egoism, is the idea that each person ought to pursue his or her own interests exclusively and is in fact a theory of ethics. Rachels explores two main philosophical claims supporting the idea of psychological egoism: “the argument that we always do what we want to do” (65) and “the argument that we do what always makes us feel good” (66). Beginning with the argument that we always do what makes us feel good; Rachels’s first argument is that not all actions are done purely for the benefit of peace of mind, some are natural reactions to a situation. To prove this point Rachel uses the example of a child drowning and the initial motive would be “my desire to help the child” (68) as opposed to “desire to avoid a guilty conscience” (68). While initial decision of saving the child isn’t necessarily self-interested, the reasoning behind the action is. No matter the initial reaction to the situation it all comes down to why someone does something and the answer is either because they want to or that they feel they ought to. This is where the two arguments for Psychological Egoism begin to coincide: even if the consequence of a guilty conscience for not saving the child is not an initial thought for motivating the action, the fact of the matter is that you still did because you want to. Rachels’s second reasoning against this claim is that our desires are ultimately altruistic and that our psychological satisfaction is “merely a by-product” (68). Rachels is accurate in stating that a consequence of said “good deeds” are good feelings, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t contributing factors as well. This outlook has the proposal that all self-interested actions will have negative effects on all others. This is not the case. Yes, someone who wants to rob a bank is acting based upon the theory of Psychological Egoism but so is someone who donates to charity in order to help starving Ethiopians; this proves that Rachels statement is indeed reversed, our desires are fueled by self-interest…