Philosophy - Psychological Egoism

Topics: Social contract, Morality, Ethics Pages: 4 (1630 words) Published: September 13, 2012
Question 2: Psychological Egoism
As human beings it is in our nature to be driven by self-interest. This is where the view of psychological egoism derives from. Even though it may seem like we are taking part in an unselfish act, in different ways it can also be considered selfish. It is because of this view that morality is needed in society in order for us to live in harmony with one another. In this essay I will discuss how it is possible to reconcile egoism with morality and why we should be moral due to our psychological egoism. These discussion points include; the social contract, importance of morals not governed and the prisoner’s dilemma theory. Throughout my argument I will refer to Thomas Hobbes’ idea of social contract theory explained in depth in James Rachels’ book The Elements of Moral Philosophy as it is an important concept in understanding the view of psychological egoism. Additionally, I will also discuss Peter Singer’s view point on acting morally from his book Practical Ethics.

Having morals in society is very important to our well-being and harmony due to our psychological egoism. In order to understand this fully we need to consider how our society would be like without morals. Without having a government enforcing rules and laws on us we would all live freely and selfishly to please ourselves and not think about others. Thomas Hobbes called this the state of nature. (Rachels, 1999: 144). If we think about how society would function under these circumstances it wouldn’t be a very nice place to live in. This is mainly due to everybody striving to have the same needs – needs which cannot be sort out equally to one another. This is where our society begins to get very tricky. We all need food, clothes and shelter – however, there is no unlimited supply of these things for us. This is where it is in our nature to act in our own self-interest. There begins to be a competition for these needs and very rarely can we depend on others to help...

Bibliography: 1. Rachels, James (1999), ‘The Idea of a Social Contract’, The Elements of Moral Philosophy. 3rd Edition. ed. (Boston: McGraw Hill).
2. Singer, Peter (1979), ‘Why Act Morally?’, Practical Ethics. 1st. ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
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