James Rachels describes, ethical egoism as being a normative theory with the idea that each person, pursues or, “is ought to pursue their own self-interests exclusively” (Rachels 1986:560). Rachels explains that we have no moral duty, but to only focus on ourselves.
Rachels takes note of that given the central egoist belief, it doesn’t really take after that one should maintain a distance from activities which advance the interests of others, nor does it guarantee that one ought to dependably do what one wants; on the contrary, one should oppose acting up on a desire if the activity does not benefit a person over the long haul. This does not assert that it is our duty to seek after others interests and in addition our own, however the more radical claim that it is our duty to seek after our own interests. Rachels presents three arguments in support for ethical egoism.
The first argument Rachels presents that it is better if every individual takes care of their own self-interests. In other words, each person is a better judge of their own self-interests one can not determine the better interests of another person. “Looking out” for the interests of others is “self-defeating” (Rachels 1986:561).
By helping others, we make them less ready to help themselves, and in this manner actually cause more harm to them. This contends against ethical egoism. It says that we shouldn’t act in certain ways (ways we think will encourage individuals) since acting this way causes them harm—i.e., it implies we have an obligation to help (or if nothing else not to hurt) others, which is exactly what ethical egoism denies.
The second argument is that altruism (acting for the advantage of others at a cost to oneself) requires one to sacrifice one’s individual objectives. Yet, the individual is the only thing that has value. In this way, sacrificing for the benefit of other people does not “respect the
integrity of the individual human life” (Rachels 1986:562).
Altruism basically does not require denying one’s own principle(s)—it doesn’t require such a large sacrifice. The third argument proposes that in the long run, helping others is to our greatest advantage. In instances, such as these, we do have a duty to help others, but only simply because by doing so benefits our own interests. Regardless of whether this is valid much of the time, it isn’t valid in all cases. Once in awhile doing what (our intuitions tells us) is the “right” thing which requires genuine sacrifice.
In these cases, ethical egoism does not capture our intuitions. Rachels preferred argument basically states that there is no way to distinguish another group to be more important than another without there being factual evidence that would justify in differential treatment. Racism would be an arbitrary doctrine suggest Rachels, because there is no evidence or facts to justify why a group gets treated different just solely based off of their race.
More importantly there is the idea that we should care about others interests as much as we care about our own interests (Rachels 1986:566). The same example that is used in the beginning is brought back again: starving people. There are people who are very well fed, and there are others who starve everyday.
But at the end of the day others should not have to experience hunger. We as humans always place our interests before others, naturally, but to think of others interests and well-being is always good. Arguments supporting ethical egoism, particularly Rand’s, have a tendency to depend on a false dilemma.
Altruism is viewed as the main elective view to ethical egoism, and once it is dismissed, ethical egoism is embraced. Setting up that extreme altruism is an unwanted ethical theory does not give an adequate premise to supporting ethical egoism over every other option. Another unmistakable issue is that ethical egoism offers no methods for settling rreconcilable situations.
In the event that ethical egoism were all the more generally took after, at some point or another, somebody’s advantages would conflict with another’s interests. In such a position, it would be incomprehensible for both to seek after their own particular interests all the while, however how can one choose whose interests take priority? Ethical egoism does not give an answer.
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