Psychological Egoism Is it possible to be unselfish?
Psychological Egoism – all actions are selfish in nature Altruism is a myth It is not possible to act unselfishly All examples of altruism have a deeper meaning eg David gives money to charity to go to heaven All action is ultimately ‘self centered’ All actions have selfish motivations/intentions Watch video – psychological egoism 2 (1min) Discuss
Thomas Hobbes All human behaviour is motivated by 2 impulses “seek pleasure and avoid pain’ He gave two examples 1. Charity - Whoever is giving to charity is ultimately showing off their superiority 2. Pity – Far from being able to empathise with other people’s sufferings, Hobbes believed it was a way of reminding ourselves that the same thing could happen to us.
Epicurus Go online and find out about Epicurus’ view of human behaviour – 20 minutes Read info in booklet – watch 10 minutes from video Brainstorm
Nietzsche Go online and find out about Nietzsches view of human behaviour – 20 minutes Read info in booklet – Or use the wiki Notes on 1. The Genealogy of morals 2. Beyond good and evil Brainstorm
Two arguments in favour of psychological egoism 1. All actions whether selfish or unselfish amounts to the person doing what they most want to do – Action is based on desire 2. Acting unselfishly produces a sense of self satisfaction in the person who does them Watch video – psychological egoism 1 (1.45)
James Rachels James Rachels argues against psychological egoism He uses the following points to attempt to show how humans are capable of altruistic behaviour
The arguments against psychological egoism – 1. Acting against desire We sometimes act against our wishes and desires – Eg World War 1 trenches There are times when we act against our desires We act because we ‘ought’ to Eg Carrying out a promise to do something even when we don’t want to do it
2. Helping others is what makes us unselfish – selfishness is defined by the object of our desire Argument for Psychological Egoism - All actions whether selfish or unselfish amounts to the person doing what they most want to do – action is based on desire However, Rachels argues … Selfishness is defined by object of desire If Jones wants to sacrifice going to the cinema to donate $10 to help children in the Congo that is precisely what makes him unselfish Selfishness is defined by the object of a want/desire If I want to help others and act on that want, then I am not selfish
3. Helping others is precisely what makes us unselfish Argument for psychological egoism - Acting unselfishly produces a sense of self satisfaction in the person who does them However, Rachels argues ….. 3. Unselfish people derive satisfaction out of helping others Isn’t the unselfish person precisely the one who does derive happiness from helping others – Selfish people do not If I get satisfaction from helping starving people – This just shows that I am ‘good hearted’
In short Ultimately Rachel’s argues People act from a great variety of motives – greed, anger, lust, love, hate etc Human actions are multi-layered in different colours of grey and not just black and white
Written work – Questions Outline the theory of psychological egoism – Include Hobbes and Epicurus in your answer Examine James Rachel’s arguments in opposition to this theory Complete for homework
Discuss – video clip – with reference to psychological egoism