Psychological Egoism Essay

769 Words Sep 8th, 2013 4 Pages
Chelsea Gee
Philosophy
September 11, 2013
Psychological Egoism
Psychological Egoism is the position that the ultimate motive of all actions is selfish. It is not the position that everyone should be motivated by selfish desires, but rather that they are motivated by selfish desires. This is supposed to be a psychological fact of human motivations. Joel Feinberg presents a multitude of arguments against psychological egoistic hedonism.
There are four “arguments” which support psychological egoism: (a) “Every action of mine is prompted by motives or desires or impulses which are my motives and not somebody else’s.” (b) “When a person gets what she or he wants, she or he feels pleasure.” (c) “We often deceive ourselves about our
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The object of Lincoln’s desire was not pleasure; rather pleasure was the consequence of his preexisting desire for something else” (p 430).
In statement (c), the egoists argue that often we deceive ourselves into thinking we desire something fine or noble when what we really want is to be thought well by others or to be able to congratulate ourselves. Feinberg disagrees with this. He states that “no one but the agent himself can ever be certain what conscious motives really prompted his action, and where motives are disreputable” (p 431). He also states that philanthropic acts are really motivated by the desire to feel self-esteem. The egoist are making a “sweeping generalization” on that theory and in order for it to be disproven it would require empirical evidence.
In statement (d), Feinberg also finds this argument to be fallacious. He raises an interesting question: “If a child comes to believe that the sole reasons for being moral are that he will escape the pain of punishment and/or that he will gain the pleasure of a good reputation, then what is to prevent him from doing the immoral thing whenever he is sure that he will not be found out?” (p.432). The main point is that if a person acts moral only for those reasons then he or she isn’t really concerned with morality at all.
Feinberg also points out that psychological egoists confuse two senses of ‘pleasure’: Pleasure1—pleasant sensation. And Pleasure2—satisfaction.

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