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“Eight Theories of Ethics: Egoism” by Graham Essay

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Updated: Sep 19th, 2022

In Chapter 2 of his book Eight Theories of Ethics, Graham explores the concept of egoism as an idea of desiring the best of life for oneself. The idea has been traced back to ancient philosophy and history which spurred the differentiation between the values that are subjective by nature and the attribution of value to the desire of an individual.

Thus, egoism is concerned with the claims that something becomes valuable for a person if he or she truly desires it. For example, when faced with the dilemma of advancing one’s career through dishonesty or remaining honest without advancing, the question why honesty should be the preferred solution appears. Thus, the conflict in a dilemma is not between the objective and subjective interpretations of what is honest. Instead, it is the conflict between obligations to others, altruism, and self-interest, egoism.

The author makes a point to distinguish between egoism and selfishness, which is not always easy to grasp. Selfishness is the tendency to look for personal comfort and satisfaction before anybody else’s (Graham, 2004). Therefore, those who are selfish always try to get the best things for themselves. Egoism, however, is the belief of having a reason to do what benefits to a person, and this means that other people such as partners or children matter too.

The distinction between egoism and altruism is what helps understand the psychological underpinnings of the former. All human actions are ultimately explained in relation to the desires of the people who commit them. Egoism, therefore, should be viewed from the lens of people doing what they want to by following their intentions and interests, and not necessarily at the expense of others.

Reference

Graham, G. (2004). Eight theories of ethics. Routledge.

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