James Rachels: “A Critique of Ethical Egoism”. Why do we allow people to starve to death when we could save them? Two kinds of explanation: 1. psychological. Self-Driving Cars in Dilemmatic Situations: An Approach Based on the Theory of Justification in Criminal ó Coca-Vila – – Criminal Law and. Ethical egoism is the normative ethical position that moral agents ought to do what is in their In the words of James Rachels, “Ethical egoism endorses selfishness, but it doesn’t endorse foolishness.” Ethical egoism is often used as the.

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I just have a couple questions about the last argument you make here about evaluation.

Ethical egoism – Wikipedia

First, how much knowledge is need to make an evaluative claim of another thing, and does this matter? Perhaps we can make evaluative claims of those close to us of whom we do have information, at least as it is apparent to us through perception rachfls what they tell us of their subjective experience. Perhaps the egoist could argue rachrls that we can in fact make these evaluative claims, and then the question becomes at what point can you no longer make a claim about another, do you need complete knowledge of their life?

The second question is whether the egoist is really saying our subjective experience is superior; the fact that I am Me is an objective fact, not a subjective one I would think. Can I claim that Ethidal am in fact objectively superior due to my me-ness, or would you still argue that this is still just subjectivism?

Not necessarily refutations, but im curious as to how you would answer these. Larry, Great points raised! These were some things I was thinking about after I published the earlier blog post. Specifically, I saw you raising some questions about premise 1: You raise a good question regarding how much knowledge we require in order to make evaluative claims. We do certainly need knowledge about a thing in order to somehow enumerate or compare it with another thing.

The question you now raise is completely relevant and should be investigated. I—as someone with limited background in formal epistemology and who is just as confused as the next philosophy student about where the boundaries separating knowledge from belief lie—would suggest that using the word knowledge in this sense could be used to describe level of experience.

When we evaluate rocks for their color, all we need is a glimpse a momentary sense perception and we can be said to have sufficient experience of each object to make a comparison of their colors. However, a life described by our internalized experience is obviously not a material entity.


This would clash with my premise 2: We only have sufficient experience of our own subjective experience i. However, I would still maintain that anyone making this counter-argument is describing experience of another life that seems to be second-hand experience, and not the essential, primary experience being had by the other person. What we know of another life—and we can come to know a lot and empathize with many conditions and understand motivations for action, etc.

From another angle, there is a pretty plain biochemical account of life that makes it plain to see that no one has an identical neurochemical experience which silently and mysteriously achieves a higher order subjective experience. Without the fine-grained, personal understanding of another life experience, how can we possibly compare our life to another with the intent of assigning superiority?

These are just a couple of things I would say in response to the first question you raised. I find your second question to be a great one as ehical.

So I guess we could say it is objectively true, in a logical sense. It seems this would play out in an argument such as the following: Monday, March 11, Rachels and Ethical Egoism.

Ethical egoism

James Rachels describes the ethical theory of selfishness, Ethical Egoism, in his jamse titled Ethical Egoism. The heart of the ethical egoist doctrine alleges that we ought to behave in a manner which pursues our own self interest—an end which should be sought in all circumstances regardless of the means used to achieve said goal.

Rachels notes that given the central egoist tenet, it does not necessarily follow that one ought to avoid actions which promote the interests of others, nor does it claim that one should always do what one desires; on the contrary, one should resist acting upon a desire if the action does not benefit an individual in the long run. One ought to act in self-interest; that is the simple, parsimonious rule.

Although Rachelss ferries his audience through several arguments which support Ethical Egoism, he concludes his essay with three arguments that refute the cogency of egoism, hence destabilizing its validity as a moral system that we should adopt. My objective is to discuss the final argument which Rachels believes is the strongest refutation of Ethical Egoism. In the prior arguments supporting and refuting Ethical EgoismI feel that Rachels does a wonderful job of presenting the argument and describing the counter arguments which might follow close behind.

However, the closing argument is taken to be true without any consideration for a refutation.

Rachels Psychological and Ethical Egoism

The argument that Rachels pieces together is as follows: But there is no general difference between oneself and others, to which each person can appeal, that justifies this difference in treatment. While I personally agree with the jamew, I think it is important to explore potential pitfalls or problems associated with it.


I think the staunch supporter of Ethical Egoism might respond to this argument with a rebuttal that targets premise 2. However, this seems almost instantly open to further refutation. How rahels one decide what is supremely important? So, the claim to self-supremacy is anchored in an intuition and a vaguely defined argument of the following sort: This argument seems valid granted this is what Rand was attempting to explicatehowever it can hardly be called sound. Suppose we have a dog, and our neighbor walks by and says his dog is superior because he owns it, we would shake our heads and—with clear rational minds—tell him that he is being sentimental and biased.

They are both dogs after all. It involves the same underlying necessary components: Though the subjective experience of life might differ among humans, or even outside of the Homo sapien specieswe still say things are alive—thus, having life—in the same manner of speaking. Since there are certain fundamental similarities which we use to assess life, every life is identical in racyels fundamental ways, and thus premise i cannot be true, since it would be a absurd to assert that something is better than racels identical thing.

The ethical egoist might argue that our subjective experience trumps all, and yet this seems an impossible claim to make, given our subjective position from which we have to make such an evaluation. The following argument seems appropriate to prove this point: If this argument is sound which it may very well not bethen the ethical egoist seems to have less justification for not supporting the original premise 2.

While the ethical egoist is claiming self-supremacy from their own subjective experience—in an irrational manner—the only way to make an evaluative claim is from some type of veil of objectivity. Maybe ethifal is too hypothetical, but I like it, and I think this is what Rachels is after at the end of the day. While Rachels used the moral system of racism to exemplify his argument against Ethical Egoism, perhaps these supportive arguments could buttress his position against further egoist rebuttals that he does not entertain in his essay.

Specifically, are there other ways to respond to the ethical egoist who tries to argue against premise 2? Are there other points of contention that I may be missing in that final argument?

Posted by Jesse Steinberg at 7: March 13, at March 18, at Newer Post Older Post Home.