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Psychological egoism is the doctrine that the only thing anyone is capable of desiring or pursuing ultimately is. a. entirely selfish goals. b. his or her own. Psychological egoism is the thesis that we are always deep down motivated by . does not concern oneself, but it is hardly altruistic (Feinberg /, §9, p. Psychological egoism is a universal claim: it is a claim about all human actions; the .. Feinberg doesn’t just critique this argument for hedonistic psychological.

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Mirror Sites View this site from another server: Feinberg, Reason and Responsibilityseventh edition, Belmont: It is also hard to think of a plausible argument which has kin altruism as a premiss and rational egoism as the conclusion, so doubts about kin altruism do not seem to undercut arguments for rational egoism. Obviously, much here depends on the claim about the aim of moralists. Although actions may vary in content, the ultimate source is self-interest: A discussion of egoism and altruism as related both to ethical theory and moral psychology.

Psychological egoism

An example of this situation could rgoism phoning for an ambulance when a car accident has happened. If one unpacks the notion of happiness to include getting satisfaction from relationships with others, getting a sense of self-worth from achievements at work,getting a feeling of support and belonging by having close relationships with family members, feeling pride from having and being a good friend, etc.

He found that the altruistic hypothesis always made superior predictions. If my possession of x is good, then I must hold that others ought to maximize my possession of it.

Another analogy is that of friendship. This allows for action that fails to maximize perceived self-interest, but rules out the sort of behavior psychological egoists like to target — such as altruistic behavior or motivation by thoughts of duty alone.

Joel Feinberg

Sidgwick might instead be claiming that attacks on rational egoism from certain views of personal identity as in Parfit, discussed below fail because they rest on a false view of personal identity. Self-Other Merging Another argument for psychological egoism relies on the idea that we often blur our conception of ourselves and others when we are benevolent.


So, even if the premises are true, it does not follow that egoism is false. Enhanced bibliography for this entry at PhilPaperswith links to its database. But psychological egoism is a descriptive thesis. Against the punishment by others hypothesis, Batson found that letting high-empathy subjects believe that their behaviour would be secret did not reduce helping. Oxford University Press, pp. On the other hand, such empirical results do not necessarily show that the ultimate motivation behind such action is altruistic.

Supplement on Feinberg’s “Psychological Egoism”

Even if nothing is good or bad, believing that pain is bad might increase my motivation to avoid pain and so lead me to survive longer. If, for example, a utilitarian claims that I have most reason to give to charity, since that maximizes the general happiness, I could object that giving osychological charity cannot be rational given my particular preferences, which are for things psycholoyical than the general happiness.

Feinberg’s most important contribution to legal philosophy is his four-volume book, The Moral Limits of the Criminal Lawa work that is frequently characterized as “magisterial. And I do have reason to care specially about other people who bear these connections to me now.

But rational egoism and kin altruism do make opposed recommendations. Finally, if I do not believe that some action is ultimately in my self-interest, it follows from psychological egoism that I cannot aim to do it. But there are differences. The hedonistic mechanism always begins with the ultimate desire psychloogical pleasure and the avoidance of pain. March 19, at Each dgoism needs the cooperation of egoisn to obtain goods such as defense or friendship. This, of course is perverse—a psychological theory stands or falls on the basis of the empirical evidence that is mustered for it!

Feinberg was internationally distinguished for his research in moralsocial and legal philosophy. Parfit’s view is that psychological connection and continuity both ground special care, if special care is grounded at all.

Yet this prediction has been repeatedly disconfirmed Batsonch. Unless I can explain why I should be preferred, my claim looks equally arbitrary. For other forms of egoism, see Egoism. The duties to others found in standard moral theories are not conditional in this way. Posted by Jesse Steinberg at A host of experiments have similarly disconfirmed a range of egoistic hypotheses. Predominant egoism is not troubled by the soldier counter-example, since it allows exceptions; it is not trivial; and it seems empirically plausible.


Rational egoism claims that it is necessary and sufficient for an action to be rational that it maximize one’s self-interest. Psychological egoism is an empirical claim; however, considerations from biology provide only one route to addressing the egoism-altruism debate empirically. A widely celebrated and influential book by a philosopher and biologist containing a sustained examination of the biological, psychological, and philosophical arguments for and against psychological egoism.

Simplicity and Parsimony A major theoretical attraction of psychological egoism is parsimony. Joel Feinberg presents a multitude of arguments against psychological egoistic hedonism. If self-interest is identified with the satisfaction of all of one’s preferences, then all intentional action is self-interested at least if intentional actions are always explained by citing preferences, as most believe.

Academic Tools How to cite this entry. One might reply with de Lazari-Radek and Singer that there are other ways of arriving at the conclusion that I have reason to care about the well-being of everyone.

That, according to Slote, is what the behavioristic learning theory maintains. This line of reasoning is rather difficult to evaluate given that it rests on an empirical claim about moral development and learning.

He uses William James ‘s analogy to illustrate this fallacy: He also analyzes with great subtlety and skill concepts such as “harm,” “offense,” “wrong,” “autonomy,” “responsibility,” “paternalism,” “coercion,” and “exploitation.

The most credible reading of the proposal is that we conceptually blur the distinction between ourselves and others in the relevant cases. This would not content defenders of psychological egoism, however. De Lazari-Radek and Singer reply that the recommendations of rational egoism are very close to those of kin altruism, and much closer to those of kin altruism than are the recommendations of utilitarianism