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Egoism is the theory that shows that one’s self should be the motivation and goal of one’s own action. This theory implies that people are motivated by their own desires and self-interests.
In Ethical egoism, it is believed that it is moral for one to promote one own good. Therefore people should do what interests them. In the pursuit of their interest, they should not mind the consequences of their actions to the lives of other people. Ethical egoism can be grouped into three groups;
- Individual ethical egoist.
- Personal ethical egoists.
- Universal ethical egoist.
In individual ethical egoists, the theory shows that everybody should do whatever benefits him/her. In personal ethical egoists, the belief is that one should pursue his or her own interest without telling other people what they are ought to do. In this process, one should follow his/her own interests, desires, and goals without involving other people in his/her business. In universal egoists, all people should pursue their own interests.
In the rule egoism, people are driven to do things not by their interest or desires but by some rules that guide everybody to do things in a certain manner for a common interest for all people. This process helps to bring harmony among different people with dissimilar and conflicting interests.
Even though it is believed in ethical egoism that it is moral for one to promote one good it cannot apply all the time. This is because people live in a society that comprises people that holds different beliefs, interests, desires, and goals. Therefore it is not possible for all these people to act in their own interest and live together at peace. This is because these people will be in constant conflict now and then in their day-to-day activities as everyone tries to do what pleases him/her. To help in overcoming this problem, in every society there are some rules and regulations that have been laid down to guide all the people on how certain things should be done.
This ensures there is harmony in the society.. Through this process, everybody in that community is made to act in a certain manner whether it is in his or her own interest or not for the benefit of all the people in the society. Otherwise, if there was no rule egoism in the society people should be at war always due to their conflicting interests. This is because our actions can have a positive, neutral, or negative effect on other people. Therefore the rules laid down to govern people help to safeguard all people from some negative effects that can results as some people pursue their own interests.
It’s not clear how an ethical egoist would act as a moral judgment in cases where the egoist’s happiness is involved. Suppose I am an ethical egoist, so I believe that everyone ought to act for his/her own benefit. Say Terry wants to have sex with you, and you’re thinking about it, but you’re not really sure it’s a good idea, so you and Terry discuss it. Suppose Terry knows it would be better for you if you didn’t sleep with Terry; but Terry also thinks it would be in Terry’s interest if you did. Now you ask Terry what you should do. What answer does Terry give, supposing Terry is an ethical egoist? Remember Terry’s view is that everyone ought to act to benefit him/herself. Does Terry give you the advice that benefits you or the advice that benefits Terry?. Therefore ethical egoism cannot hold at all times.
From this discussion, we can conclude by saying that people should follow their own desires and interests. This is because in this way many people will be able to achieve their goals in life through the intrinsic motivation associated with one’s interests. On the other hand, people should be conscious as they pursue their own interests not to affect the lives of other people negatively through their actions. To ensure peaceful society rule egoism should be put into place to regulate the ethical egoists as they act in their own interests.
Rachel. S. (1995) Elements of moral philosophy. McGraw Hill: London.
Ruth B. The Challenge of Cultural Relativism. Oxford University Press: London.