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[Serious] An Argument For Ethical Egoism
#1
An Argument For Ethical Egoism
Here's an argument for the truth of ethical egoism:

Premise 1: Moral realism is true in some form. There are objective moral values and there must be some things that are objectively right and wrong to do.

Premise 2: Psychological egoism is true. We are ultimately only capable of acting within our own self-interest because even, what on the surface appears to be, selfless acts ultimately benefit the self in some way.

Premise 3: Ought implies can. It makes no sense to say that we ought to do or avoid doing something that we can't.

Conclusion: Ethical Egoism is true.

On the surface, the conclusion may appear to be a non-sequitur. But the idea is that because some moral values are objectively true (moral realism is true) then this implies that we ought to do or avoid doing at least some things. And because we only ought to do or avoid doing what we can do and because we can only do things that are in our self-interest (according to these premises) ... then all of this, taken together, implies the truth of ethical egoism.

Thoughts?

My personal response is that the argument may fail because perhaps Premise 2 is false. I accept premise 1 and 3 but I'm unsure about 2. Part of me thinks that we are genetically programmed to care about our genes but this includes our genes in our offspring so genuine self-sacrifice is possible. Plus, it may be possible to genuinely selflessly care for those who don't share out genes because such selfless actions are a 'misfiring' (evolutionary misfiring, not morally misfiring) byproduct of our caring about our genes.

But part of me thinks that the very mechanism for caring about our own genes within others can still be explained within the framework of ultimately only caring about ourselves. So I am in two minds about premise two which is why I don't adopt ethical egoism. I'd only adopt it if I was sure that premise 2 was true ... but I'm not. But it may be true.

Again, I have no problem with premise 1 and 3. What do you think?
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#2
RE: An Argument For Ethical Egoism
I don't think psychological egoism is sensibly debatable.  People who act against their own self-interest (real or perceived) are an aberration and need not be considered.  There can simply no such thing as a completely selfless act, therefore ethical egoism is probably valid.

Boru
'A man is accepted into a church for what he believes.  He is turned out for what he knows.' - Mark Twain
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#3
RE: An Argument For Ethical Egoism
I suppose it would depend on whether we were going for a descriptive theory, and also our own peculiar views on the character of humanity.  Human beings are a remarkably social species.  We can contextualize that as a contract for utilitarian benefit or as the weight of eons of adaptation and learned behaviors.  Or, we can leave room for this being the impetus of what are otherwise selfless acts.  I think that it's at least possible for a human being to engage in a selfless act (though, human social structures being what they are, we tend to think that such acts deserve reward, lol - we just love to muddy the water). I don't believe that all human acts can be reduced to some concern over maximizing self interest.

If, however, we reduce all of human compulsion and ability down to seeking to maximize self interest, we don't need an argument linking (and limiting) obligation to ability, or for moral realism to be true, to reach our conclusion.  Since that assertion -is- our conclusion. If psychological egoism is true, then that's just what we do, whether we could do otherwise or not, and regardless of whether our moral propositions are objectively true in any sense (even in the sense of whether or not x actually maximizes our own self interest).

We also have our intuition to contend with, in that we commonly believe that doing the right thing when that thing is plainly against one's own self interest is one of (if not the) most strenuous tests of moral character. It's an open question as to why we would think that if it's not something that we've ever observed to occur.
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for a battle to commence then KPLOW, I hit em with the illness of my quill, Im endowed..with certain unalienable skills....  

-ERB


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#4
RE: An Argument For Ethical Egoism
I remember reading something that argued against psychological egoism. The author said that psychological egoism was more of a "conviction" than a coherent theory. His beef was that ANY action taken by anyone in any circumstances could be said to be "self-interested" and so the term, "self-interested" (if this is going to be its context) was rendered meaningless.

Take an example of a drug addict who continues to use drugs. According to the psychological egoist, he does so out of self-interest. But what if he decides to quit using drugs and spend more time with his family? That's self-interest, too. (Investing more time with his loved ones benefits him in the long run by strengthening bonds. Quitting drugs contributes to his physical and mental health etc.) Therefore, one of the problems with psychological egoism is that it stretches the term "self-interested" beyond its typical usage and (by the time we are concluding things like "the only ethical action is a self-interested one) we are equivocating.

Anyway, I'm not all convinced that psychological egoism is true, so I am therefore inclined to dismiss ethical egoism as a monistic theory.

Let me dig up the book I was speaking of. I will be happy to defend the position that psychological egoism is false.
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#5
RE: An Argument For Ethical Egoism
Just because all actions rest within the framework of affecting us in someway does not negate that some actions maximize value for self and some can lessen self. I would not agree that no action can be selfless as is commonly defined. I would agree that all actions affect self in some way, but selflessness is a direction of focus on what is benefited more.
"There ought to be a term that would designate those who actually follow the teachings of Jesus, since the word 'Christian' has been largely divorced from those teachings, and so polluted by fundamentalists that it has come to connote their polar opposite: intolerance, vindictive hatred, and bigotry." -- Philip Stater, Huffington Post

always working on cleaning my windows- me regarding Johari
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#6
RE: An Argument For Ethical Egoism
(June 16, 2019 at 1:58 pm)Gae Bolga Wrote: If, however, we reduce all of human compulsion and ability down to seeking to maximize self interest, we don't need an argument linking (and limiting) obligation to ability, or for moral realism to be true, to reach our conclusion.

We do. All three premises are required. Otherwise, all you have is psychological egoism and psychological egoism alone is not the same thing as ethical egoism.

Rather than supplying you with a counterargument ... I'll just contradict you. Why? Because you've repeatedly demonstrated that you can't cope with decent counterarguments ... and because I've already given my argument in the OP.

(June 16, 2019 at 2:26 pm)vulcanlogician Wrote: I remember reading something that argued against psychological egoism. The author said that psychological egoism was more of a "conviction" than a coherent theory. His beef was that ANY action taken by anyone in any circumstances could be said to be "self-interested" and so the term, "self-interested" (if this is going to be its context) was rendered meaningless.

This is a thoughtful response. If selfishness is so loosely defined that literally the most courageously self-sacrificing acts can be deemed to be selfish ... then should that really fall under the umbrella of egoism?

(June 16, 2019 at 2:26 pm)vulcanlogician Wrote: Anyway, I'm not all convinced that psychological egoism is true, so I am therefore inclined to dismiss ethical egoism as a monistic theory.

Would you agree that the psychological egoism premise is definitely the most questionable?

Would you also agree that the other two premises are very sound?
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#7
RE: An Argument For Ethical Egoism
Premise 3 is setting off my bullshit alarms like a five-alarm fire.

"Ought implies can. It makes no sense to say that we ought to do or avoid doing something that we can't."

As someone who's read Hume, this looks like someone doesn't know about the is-ought problem:

David Hume Wrote:In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary way of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when of a sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is, however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, 'tis necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time that a reason should be given, for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it. But as authors do not commonly use this precaution, I shall presume to recommend it to the readers; and am persuaded, that this small attention would subvert all the vulgar systems of morality, and let us see, that the distinction of vice and virtue is not founded merely on the relations of objects, nor is perceived by reason.

It might seem intuitively true that "ought implies can," but does it really? If you're a runner, and you've pushed yourself to your limits to be as fast as you can be, at peak physical fitness, surely you can argue that you ought to be able to reach first place. But if you're running against Usain Bolt, who you can see setting the world record for human running speed here:



All the oughts in the world don't mean a damn thing. A competitive runner ought to win, but if, even after pushing himself to his limits, the other guy is still better, he can't.
I was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world is mad.

[Image: 161109-WlllQ6UaSpqY.png]

Trump 2017: We're all nihilists now.
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#8
RE: An Argument For Ethical Egoism
(June 16, 2019 at 3:48 pm)SenseMaker007 Wrote: Would you agree that the psychological egoism premise is definitely the most questionable?

Yes.

Quote:Would you also agree that the other two premises are very sound?

1 is tenable. 3 is very sound.

(June 16, 2019 at 4:46 pm)Rev. Rye Wrote: All the oughts in the world don't mean a damn thing. A competitive runner ought to win, but if, even after pushing himself to his limits, the other guy is still better, he can't.

But I think you are speaking to the point of premise 3. It is unrealistic for someone to say that I ought to win a race against Usain Bolt. Therefore ought implies can.
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#9
RE: An Argument For Ethical Egoism
If it's unrealistic, then one shouldn't run competitively against him. If you do, you're setting yourself up for failure, since you can't win, which, if I recall correctly, is the entire point of competitive running in the first place.

" It makes no sense to say that we ought to do or avoid doing something that we can't."

And yet here all these runners are doing exactly that.
I was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world is mad.

[Image: 161109-WlllQ6UaSpqY.png]

Trump 2017: We're all nihilists now.
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#10
RE: An Argument For Ethical Egoism
(June 16, 2019 at 4:46 pm)Rev. Rye Wrote: Premise 3 is setting off my bullshit alarms like a five-alarm fire.

"Ought implies can. It makes no sense to say that we ought to do or avoid doing something that we can't."

As someone who's read Hume, this looks like someone doesn't know about the is-ought problem:

David Hume Wrote:In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary way of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when of a sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is, however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, 'tis necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time that a reason should be given, for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it. But as authors do not commonly use this precaution, I shall presume to recommend it to the readers; and am persuaded, that this small attention would subvert all the vulgar systems of morality, and let us see, that the distinction of vice and virtue is not founded merely on the relations of objects, nor is perceived by reason.

It might seem intuitively true that "ought implies can," but does it really? If you're a runner, and you've pushed yourself to your limits to be as fast as you can be, at peak physical fitness, surely you can argue that you ought to be able to reach first place. But if you're running against Usain Bolt, who you can see setting the world record for human running speed here:



All the oughts in the world don't mean a damn thing. A competitive runner ought to win, but if, even after pushing himself to his limits, the other guy is still better, he can't.

Ought implies can doesn't go against Hume's is-ought gap in any way.

They're two separate ideas.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ought_implies_can

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Is%E2%80%93ought_problem

(June 16, 2019 at 5:34 pm)Rev. Rye Wrote: If it's unrealistic, then one shouldn't run competitively against him. If you do, you're setting yourself up for failure, since you can't win, which, if I recall correctly, is the entire point of competitive running in the first place.

" It makes no sense to say that we ought to do or avoid doing something that we can't."

And yet here all these runners are doing exactly that.

No rational person thinks that they are morally obligated to do something that is impossible for them to do.
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