Modern Ethical Theories
Psychological Egoism vs. Ethical Egoism
When we discuss modern ethics there are two theories that emerge above all others and although both are supported they are often controversial in nature. Ethical Egoism states that we should put ourselves and our interests before those of others leading to the conclusion that if we do things that are only in our own self interest then we have achieved morality. Psychological Egoism presumes that we always put ourselves and our interests before others and that every act is motivated only by our own self interest. Even when an act appears on the surface to be totally unselfish it is in all reality a selfish act. Simply feeling good about doing an “unselfish act” makes it selfish. Ethical and Psychological Egoism may seem similar at first glance but they are actually quite different. We will discuss these two theories and their differences, compare the doctrines of motivation for both and discuss selfishness and self interest. Let’s first take a look at the fallacy of Psychological Egoism. The fallacy of Psychological Egoism is the belief that people are only motivated by self interest but as we all know there are many things that can motivate people to do things. Take for instance the seven deadly sins; sloth, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, and pride. Any one of these can be a motivating factor. So it is easy to see that the fallacy of Psychological Egoism is the erroneous belief that the only motivating factor is self interest. Furthermore you can never know without doubt that you are acting in your definitive self interest because your actions could have undesired results in the future. Psychological Egoism fails without the ‘method of reinterpreting motives’ (Rachels, 1995). Now that we know the shortcomings of Psychological Egoism let’s discuss the versions of Ethical Egoism. Ethical Egoism has a strong version and a weak version. Simply put the strong version states that it is always moral...
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