Bulisik

James Rachels: Egoism and Moral Skepticism

Posted on: March 12, 2009

Chapter: 1- James Rachels: Egoism and Moral Skepticism

Book: Contemporary Moral Problems

Author: James E. White

Amazon:http://www.amazon.com/Contemporary-Moral-Problems-James

White/dp/0495553204/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1234122156&sr=1-1

Quote: “The majority of mankind is grossly deceived about what is, or ought to be, the case, where morals are concerned.”

What I expect to learn:

The learning expectation for this chapter review would be I would learn more about egoism. What is it all about and why is it important.

Chapter Review:

For me, this chapter is all about teaching what selfishness and what unselfishness is. In this chapter, it discusses The Legend of Gyges is all about a shepherd who found a ring in a fissure cause by an earthquake, which the ring can make the wearer invisible and enable him to go anywhere and do anything undetected. Gyges use the power of the ring to gain entry to the Royal Palace where he seduced the Queen and murdered the King and subsequently seized the throne. In this case, it simply describes men are selfish because of their self-interests and selfishness is an egoism. Egoism has two views, the psychological egoism and ethical egoism. Psychological Egoism is the view that all men are selfish in everything that they do, that is, that the only motive from which anyone ever acts is self-interest. Ethical Egoism is, by contrast, a normative view about how men ought to act. It is the view that, regardless of how men do in fact behave, they have no obligation to do anything except what it is in their own interests.

This chapter explains that it is up to the person whether he would do something just for his self-interest or for the benefit of the majority or the many.

What I’ve learned:

What have I learned is that why people are sometimes selfish and what forces people such selfishness.

Integrative Questions:

1. What is egoism?

2. What is psychological egoism?

3. What is ethical egoism?

4. Who are the egoists?

5. What is ethical altruism?

Review Questions:

1. Explain the legend of Gyges. What questions about morality are raised by the story?

The Legend of Gyses is all about a shepherd who found a ring in a fissure cause by an earthquake, which the ring can make the wearer invisible and enable him to go anywhere and do anything undetected. Gyges use the power of the ring to gain entry to the Royal Palace where he seduced the Queen and murdered the King and subsequently seized the throne.

The questions about morality that are raised in the story are: How will the so-called virtuous man behave? Why shouldn’t a man simply do what he pleases or what he thinks is best for himself? What reason is there for him to continue being “moral” when it is clearly not to his own advantage to do so?

2. Distinguish between psychological and ethical egoism.

Psychological Egoism is the view that all men are selfish in everything that they do, that is, that the only motive from which anyone ever acts is self-interest.

Ethical Egoism is, by contrast, a normative view about how men ought to act. It is the view that, regardless of how men do in fact behave, they have no obligation to do anything except what it is in their own interests.

3. Rachels discusses two arguments for psychological egoism. What are these arguments and how does he reply to them?

The two arguments for psychological egoism are: The first argument is, if we describe one person’s action is selfish, and another person’s actions as unselfish, we are overlooking the crucial fact that in both cases, assuming that the action is done voluntarily, the agent is merely doing what he most wants to do. Rachels reaction to this is that the argument is so bad that it would not deserve to be taken seriously except for the fact that so many otherwise intelligent people have been taken in by it.

The second argument is, since so-called unselfish actions always produce a sense of self-satisfaction in the agent and since this sense of satisfaction is a pleasant state of consciousness, it follows that the point of action is really to achieve a pleasant state of consciousness, rather than to bring about any good for others. Therefore, the action is “unselfish” only at a superficial level of analysis. Rachels reaction to this is that this argument suffers from defects similar to the previous one. Why should we think that merely because someone derives satisfaction from helping others this makes him selfish? Isn’t the unselfish man precisely the one who does derive satisfaction from helping others, while the selfish man does not?

4. What three commonplace confusions does Rachels detects in the thesis of psychological egoism?

The three commonplace confusions that Rachels detects in the thesis of psychological egoism are: The confusion of selfishness with self-interest, The assumption that every action is done either from self-interest or from other-regarding motives, The common but false assumption that a concern for one’s own welfare is incompatible with any genuine concern for the welfare of others.

5. State the arguments for saying that ethical egoism is inconsistent. Why doesn’t Rachels accept the argument?

The arguments for saying that ethical egoism is inconsistent are: To say that any action or policy of action is right entails that it is right for anyone in the same sort of circumstances. I cannot, for example, say that it is right for me to lie to you, and yet object when you lie to me. I cannot hold that it is all right for me to drink your beer and then complain when you drink mine.

Rachels doesn’t accept the argument for the reason that he thinks that would be unwarranted; for he thinks that we can show, contrary to this argument, how ethical egoism can be maintained consistently.

6. According to Rachels, why shouldn’t we hurt others, and why should we help others?

According to Rachels, we shouldn’t hurt others for the reason that other people would be hurt and we should help others for the reason that other people would be benefited.

7. How can the egoist reply?

The egoist, no doubt, will not be happy with this.

Discussion Questions:

1. Has Rachels answered the question raised by Glaucon, namely, “Why be moral?” If so, what exactly is his answer?

Yes, because he explains why shouldn’t we hurt others and why should we help others.

2. Are genuine egoists rare, as Rachels claims? Is it a fact that most people care about others, even people they don’t know?

Genuine egoists are not rare according to Rachels because he explains that most of the people are doing anything to help others and not just for self-interest and it is a fact.

3. Suppose we define ethical altruism as the view the one should always act for the benefit of others and never in one’s own self-interest. Is such a view immoral or not?

For me, it is not immoral, if you believe that what you are doing are for others then do it. Don’t think of your self-interest, think of how others can benefit.

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