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James Rachels Essay

James Rachels argues against theories of selfishness that the psychological egoists maintain. He challenges the view that everyone always does what he or she wants by showing that we often dounpleasant tasks for the future pleasures or from obligation. Altruism is recognized as not acting in self interest. He also clears up the confusions that selfishness and self interest share the same meaning. *Psychological egoists argue that we always do what we want to do. Rachel says that is questionable and there are two classes of actions that are exceptions to the generalization. One is a set of actions we do not want to do but we do as a means toan end we want to achieve. For example, going to the dentist to fix a toothache or going to work everyday to get paid at the end of the month. The other set of actions are those which we do, not because we want to or because there is an end to achieve but because we feel obligation to do them. Rachel states for example, someone may do something because he or she has promised to do it and thus feels obligated, even though he or she does not want to do it.

The second statement psychological egoists argue is that, to do what one wants to do is acting selfishly, therefore we always act selfishly. Rachels states this example, Smith wants to do something that will help his friend even if it means putting on hold his own enjoyments, and Rachel says that is what makes Smith unselfish. Rachel says the mere fact that I am acting on my wants does not mean I am acting selfishly; that depends on what it is that I want. If I want only my own good, and care nothing for others, then I am selfish; but if I also want to help other people, and if I act on that desire, then m y actions are not selfish.*The psychological egoism stance can ask then why Smith gets satisfaction from helping hisfriend and the answer is because he is selfish. But actually if we have a positive attitude towards reaching a goal, we get satisfaction from reaching the goal. If someone desires happiness and well being of another person, he will derive satisfaction from that, but that does not mean that this satisfaction is the object of his desire or that he is now selfish.*Psychological egoism has a tendency to identify the meaning of selfish and self interest as coinciding with one another. Rachel gives an example; you see a physician when you are not feeling well, and act upon your own interest but no one would can that selfish.

Those self interest actions do not have negative effects on others; they are not selfish. If the self interest actions have negative effects on others; they are selfish. You would not call someone selfish for eating a dinner meal in normal circumstances even though it is in his or her own self interest, but you would call someone selfish for hoarding food while others are starving. The second assumption made is that everything we do is either in self interest or has altruistic motives. Someone that smokes cigarettes, even though they know the risks of cancer from smoking, are not acting in self interest or altruistically. He is smoking for the pleasure of it.*Ethical egoism states that everything one does ought to be selfish. Rachels argues that if everyone behaved selfishly, that would collapse the entire fabric of society.

Rachels believes that ethical egoism cannot be proven completely false but he says it is frightening to think that people do not care about the negative effects of actions.Then these people are monsters- they are not human. *I support Rachels view that humans are not always selfish. Although sometimes we act upon our own interests they are not always selfish. We nurture and protect our children in our own self interest because we love them and desire to protect them. That action is not selfish and the self interest has positive effects. If our motive is to do good and help others, the act is unselfish. How is it possible for humans to have the view that a person merely desiring satisfaction from helping others makes this person selfish? I do not believe all humans could possibly not care about the negative effects of actions because they are selfish enough to want to attain a goal.

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