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Support for Egoism

Support for Egoism

Author: Glenn Kuehn

Identify common arguments in support of egoism

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Hello. I'm Glenn. And this ethics tutorial is on the support for egoism. Let's look at the content of the tutorial and keep in mind the definition of egoism that we will be exploring.

In this tutorial, we're going to see how there is clear support for egoism as the basis for ethics. We'll see how it's a natural way of thinking. And we'll also see how sometimes focusing on the best thing for a group instead of the individual can sometimes get in the way of progress. And then we'll also see how I tend to feel better about acting out of rules that I determine for myself rather than being told what to do by someone else.

When it comes to egoism, it doesn't take a lot of work and a lot of research to find support for this particular position. It comes naturally. I am my favorite topic.

And sometimes we hear the line, well, enough about me. What do you think of me? We are naturally self-centered. We are naturally somewhat selfish.

And we are self-interested. And although this can sometimes lead to difficulties, which we may explore later, it is naturally a very basic position that we all have. So as a basis for ethics it doesn't require a lot of research and discipline to figure out what a basis for self-interest would provide.

Some natural examples of goods that result as being self-interested are that I want to get a good job so I can live a good life. My motivation also is to be liked.

I want to earn a substantial amount of money so that I can live adequately. I want to avoid pain. All of these things are beneficial to me, and all of them are primarily motivated out of self-interest. So on a very basic level, egoism does provide a solid foundation for a great many of our actions and a great many of those actions which lead to good.

Another support for egoism is that we can see that sometimes people who pursue their self-interest end up benefiting society greatly and promoting progress of a culture. And contrary to that, when we encourage the group-- the benefit of the group or the well-being of the group-- and place that interest at the forefront, sometimes that can cause stagnation of progress in a society. This is a difference in focus instead of-- you can focus on my good, or we could focus on the good of the group.

Here's a couple of examples. Individuals who seek high levels of knowledge for their own good and their own interests often end up discovering and creating things that are of great benefit to society and great fuel for progress and a culture. Technologies are primary on this. People come up with iPods and smartphones and all of that. And these things were created by individuals who sought their own interests and then ended up benefiting society.

Contrary to that, we can see how sometimes promoting the benefit of the group, the good of the group, can impede progress. One of the things that a group would be interested in is maintaining peace and serenity and calmness and avoiding conflict and drama and all that sort of stuff. Well, when we seek that as a group, sometimes we get in the way of progress such as the passing of civil rights. It took protests. It took civil disobedience.

It took a drama in order to get those laws passed. It took drama and social unrest to pass child labor laws because the good of the group was being based on the benefit of society as a result of the high production and low cost of labor that we got from children. So promoting the good of the group, which might be focused on calmness and keeping things as they are, could impede progress.

And then third, it's clear from experience that for most of us acting out of an ethic that is self-determined, that is I figure something out for myself and I act upon it because I want to, provides a much greater motivation for action than other determined ethic. That is someone else telling me what to do and I follow their directions. Very few of us simply like to be told what to do. We'd like to figure things out for ourselves. This is a natural stance.

And so me deciding that I shouldn't steal because I think stealing is wrong, I'm much more likely to abide by that, and I'm much less likely to steal because I've figured this out and I feel good about that. In fact, probably for many of us, the counter of this being told what to do is actually counterproductive because, if someone else tells me not to do something, I might get this seed of a motivation to do it. Glenn don't steal that stuff.

Well, why not? Because, well, if you just told me not to do it, maybe I don't think that's a great reason. And if I don't think that's a great reason, then maybe I'll go do it anyway. So clearly, a natural motivation for abiding by an ethic is that we are self-determined.

In this tutorial, we have seen that there is clear support for egoism as an ethic. It is a natural stance that we have from the way that we value our own interests. We can see that sometimes focusing on the good of the group could impede social progress, while focusing on the good of the individual acting out of self-interest might actually promote cultural progress. And I do tend to feel better about acting upon rules that are self-determined that I give to myself rather than simply being told what to do.