Is it unreasonable to ask people to sacrifice their own pleasures for those in poverty in other areas of the world?
“The achievement of his own happiness is man’s highest moral purpose” – Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand once quoted that “The achievement of his own happiness is man’s highest moral purpose” as an egoistic hedonist we cant help but agree with this quote as we know that one should try to maximize their net pleasure i.e. pleasure minus pain. I believe that the happiness of one’s self should always be above the happiness of others, if it is in our human nature to do so then do so we shall.
Egoistic Hedonism can be judged as an ethical way of life, we know that greater happiness comes to those who pursue it therefore we should all aspire to have the same goal, in doing so the more people who do this the better. This ideal is teleological. A teleological argument is that which states that any decision should be based on results or consequences therefore actions have instrumental value because of what is produced. Since it is a teleological argument we can say that there is a significant exclusion of ‘moral’ actions, these are acceptable as the output of these actions are justified i.e. one’s happiness. For example The Myth of Gyges. Written by Plato in book 2 of Republic this story attempts to justify why a man should live a moral life by being an egoistic hedonist.
In this story we learn that Gyges a shepherd has discovered a powerful ring that allows one to turn invisible. Gyges decides to use his power and become the chosen messenger who was to be sent to the court to deliver a message to the king. Once he arrived he used his power to seduce the queen, in doing so he overthrew the king and claimed the kingdom for himself. An egoistic hedonist can’t help but think that the actions of Gyges were perfectly moral. Though his initial action of killing the king was not considered moral the end product was, whereby he owned the kingdom and satisfied his need for pleasure.
Let us look at a hypothetical situation; John an 18-year-old teenager has just graduated from high school. He wants to experience the world and try new things. He goes to a party and sees his friends drinking and using drugs. His friends tell him that by trying these things he will gain great amounts of pleasure. He decides to experience for himself. One may say that what he did was ethically correct as he brought himself pleasure, ethical egoism would frown at this regardless of the ‘momentary’ pleasure it brings him. Egoistic hedonism believes one ought to do what satisfies their wants over the long run. It endorses selfishness but not sheer foolishness.
Egoistic Hedonism is not an idea that is often embraced by other philosophers. Kurt Baier argues that this theory cannot be correct as the solutions provided result in a conflict of interest. He said that we need moral rules as egoistic hedonism can’t resolve these conflicts but only ignore them. He decides to use an example to ‘prove’ his idea. 2 candidates for a presidential election must secure their place but the only way to do so is to kill the other candidate. Baier believes that morality can help solve a conflict of interest.
The largest flaw with this ideal is that different people have different ideas as to what actions might be considered moral/immoral. To disprove this ideal we must consider that Baier is inexplicitly saying life is majorly composed of conflicts whereby one person is trying to come out on top. Ethical egoism embraces this ideal as it encourages one to put their needs ahead of the others, put simply it encourages people to do their best through any means, to result in a moral action – pleasure.
From this I would like to conclude by saying that Ethical Egoism is an ideal which should be well embraced and a theory that philosophers should never ignore. It can apply so much in the lives of many in today’s competitive environment. As human beings it is in our nature to strive to come out on top through whatever means necessary, if it is in our human nature to embrace this ideal then do so we shall.