Egoism refers to a corruptive attribute of modern societies which makes people to prioritize their own self-interests more than anything else. It can also be defined as the view that human action is guided by individual human needs. A while ago, ethical egoism was considered to be a perspective that was closely related to the ideas of psychological egoism. Distinction between the two is, however, desirable in order to maintain the difference between what people do and what they should do (Maccarelli 1).
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Psychological egoism shows the nature of human motivation. It states that human beings are motivated by selfish interests and that a seemingly selfless act is actually self serving. For example, if Peter buys his girlfriend a new dress, he does so selfishly because he wants to be associated with a girl who wears expensive dresses.
Additionally, if Dan fails to go on a trip with his classmates in order to help a sick friend, he does so selfishly because he this is what he wants to do. He also does so in order to be recognized as a good person. Another reason for being left with his friend could be because he wants to avoid feeling guilty for leaving his sick friend alone (Weber 1). Thus being left with his friend will make him feel better.
Ethical egoism has a normative perspective towards human action and it states that human actions ought to be aimed at the fulfillment of individual wants and desires. This is the case regardless of the morals of the action that is bound to fulfill the wants and desires of the individual.
Thus, if Kennedy wants to lie for his benefit, this is the right action for Kennedy to take regardless of the effects that the lie will have on the other person. Additionally, if Beth wants to gain wealth and then guard her sexual morality, this is the right thing for her to do because it is what she desires. With this argument, ethical egoism promotes unethical behavior (Maccarelli 2 – 3).
Ethical egoism is subjected to a lot of criticism due to its disregard of morals. As discussed, according to ethical egoism, the right thing to do is that which fulfils the desires of the doer. This is utter disregard of what is morally right in the society.
Human wants and desires are normally against the moral expectations of the society and thus ethical egoism can be viewed as a drawback to the upkeep of morals. On the other hand, psychological egoism explains reasons for human actions using motivational reasoning and thus it does not conflict with norms. With this argument, therefore, psychological egoism is better than ethical egoism (Weber 1).
The motivation of a person to act in his/her own self-interest does not mean that what they are motivated to do is what they ought to do. This is a layman explanation of the distinction between psychological and ethical egoism. The distinction makes us realize how difficult it is to do what is right.
It is wrong to reject ethical conduct altogether (Maccarelli 2) due to stipulations of ethical egoism. This is shows the weakness of ethical egoism since it supports wrong action. Ethical behavior entails disregarding self interest and considering the moral rights of others. Therefore, regardless of the stipulations of human psychology, human beings should value the moral significance of others.
Maccarelli, Sarah. “Psychological Egoism Vs. Ethical Egoism.” 2006. Web.
Weber, Elijah. “Ethical Vs. Psychological Egoism: The Difference and Why It
Matters.” 2009. Web.