Egoism is the theory suggesting that the motivation and goal of a particular action is the self. Egoism in a general context has two variants, normative and descriptive. The concept of the descriptive variant suggests that egoism as a factual description of human affairs and cannot be described any other way (Moseley, 2006). The normative side gives a conception that individuals should be motivated, without consideration to their current state of motivation (Moseley, 2006). The two variants conflict in principle alone which insinuates a debate on the rightness or wrongness of particular human acts throughout history.
Ethical Egoism Ethical Egoism is a normative ethical standpoint which implies moral people should act in accordance to their self-interest. Ethical egoism has three formulations; personal, individual and universal (Waller, 2005). Individual ethical egoism stresses that a person should do what is most beneficial to them (Waller, 2005). Personal ethical egoism suggests that actions should be grounded on a person’s own self-interest without concern to what others around him should do, while the concept of universal ethical egoism holds that everyone should act in the basis of their own interests (Waller, 2005).
All in all, virtues that suffice an individual’s self-interest is egoistic, otherwise it is non-egoistic (Waller, 2005). The strong version of Ethical egoism suggests that the promotion of an individual’s own good is moral, not promoting one’s own good is deemed as immoral (Moseley, 2006). The weak version still holds that morality is the promotion of one’s own good, however, it does not necessarily mean that it is immoral (Moseley, 2006). There are just implications of conditions that the evasion of personal interest has a possibility to be moral (Moseley, 2006).
Psychological Egoism Psychological Egoism, on-the-other-hand, posits that every human action has an underlying selfishness, and even altruistic acts have inner selfish motivations (Hazlitt & Cook, 1991). Psychological Egoism is a form of egoism under the descriptive variant, suggesting how people should go about themselves. The principles of psychological egoism and its assumtive nature are acquainted to several criticisms that are very crucial (Moseley, 2006).
The fallacy of Psychological Egoism The detractors of Psychological Egoism ground its fallacy on the rejection of the notion that the theory is flawless, that it is structured in such a way that it cannot be approved or disapproved (Hazlitt & Cook, 1991). It is evident on the Psychological egoists’ advocacy that altruism is a mere act of acquiring a good feeling for doing altruistic actions. In a broader scenario, the person doing an act, either selfish or unselfish, is doing what interests him or her which makes the act ultimately selfish (Moseley, 2006).
In another note, the fallacy of psychological egoism lies in the suggestion that people only do what makes them feel good. In this context, the description of a Psychological Egoist may project an unselfish person (Moseley, 2006). Furthermore, there is confusion in the concept of psychological egoism found in the object of desire and the subsequent results of the fulfillment of that desire (Moseley, 2006). The Difference between Psychological and Ethical Egoism It is of vital importance to distinguish the two from one another since the two forms of egoism conflict in advocacy, motivation and goal.
Ethical Egoism per se, postulates that the promotion of an individual’s own good conforms to the standards of morality (Waller, 2005). In contrast to the Psychological Egoist claim that focuses on how people act, not on how they ought to act. The doctrine of motivation for Ethical Egoism lies within self-interest, while Psychological Egoists are motivated by the rational self-interest, even in an act that tends to be altruistic in nature. Self-Interest and Selfishness Self-interest is defined as an agent that stimulates an individual’s concern over a particular issue or matter.
Self-interest is the element that governs human action. Selfishness, meanwhile is the devotion to satisfy one’s own end and interest. It is simply an individual’s concern for personal welfare. Philosophically, the two terms may be synonimous to each other as the two terms may refer to the placement of personal needs above others, however, self-interest and selfishness can be deemed independently as self-interest is a subjective element in a person’s perspective which can be directed to the self or for others.