Ethical egoism, in my belief, is not the moral theory that men should follow or live by. Simply put, my belief stems from the multiple inconsistencies and contradictions that are inherent in the said normative system. Self-interest and self-preservation, although very valuable, are not, in my opinion, the primary factors that should drive a man’s life. It is because, I believe, by purely following one’s own interests, man fails to consider the greater picture, that being the peace and harmony in society.
More importantly, I believe that man can be driven by other desires and motives in his moral actions. Hobbes’ assertion is that man should use his power to preserve himself and to do what he must in order to satisfy his own interests. His fundamental assumption regarding the nature of man is that man is an agent of self-interest who is prepared to harm others in order to obtain what he believes is best for him. Furthermore, Hobbes states that man is governed by his own reason and that every man has the right to everything. Such statement is what Hobbes calls the fundamental law of nature.
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However, Hobbes believes that if it is in the self-interest and preservation of one’s life to enter into a covenant with another, man is bound to abide by such covenant. Contracts are reached when both parties feel that it is in their best interests to enter and agree to the terms. Breaking a covenant or a contract is considered unjust in Hobbes’ view. Hobbes’ idea is that man must submit to certain moral rules out of fear of conflict which is to his best interests. Basically, Hobbes suggested that a human being acts morally because it is in his self-interest to do so.
There have been various philosophers who have raised arguments and objections against Hobbes’ views. One of such philosophers is H. A. Prichard. In Prichard’s point of view, there is no need to whether self-interest and morality run in parallel with each other. Instead, he suggests that human beings have reasons other than self-interest to act morally. One such reason is the innate desire in humans to do the right thing. Prichard suggests that having motives other than self-interest allows us to determine whether an individual who has done something moral deserves praise or not.
Without the presence of other motives, self-interest will be the only driving factor and thus, will remove any possible distinction between two persons committing the same moral act. Brody’s argument with regards to the basis of morality on self-interest is that human beings can have other motives for being moral. Admitting that all actions are based on the satisfaction of a certain desire, Brody states that humans may have desires for something else other than his own well-being. Brody believes that selfish motives are indeed a possible source of moral actions.
However, he asserts that this does not mean that all moral actions stem from selfish motives alone. In other words, egoism is not clearly established as the sole source of morality. My belief that ethical egoism is not the correct moral theory agrees with Brody’s assertions. Aside from the points that Brody has raised, I believe that ethical egoism fails to consider the possibility that men act not for their own interests alone. The interests of another person may drive the man to act morally especially if such a person is deeply valued. For instance a parent may act morally not for her own interests but for that of her children.
Ethical egoism fails to consider that human nature includes certain emotions that are driving factors of one’s actions. Emotions or feelings such as love, care, and affection are also possible motives for actions. These have not been taken into account by ethical egoism. Thus, it is my personal belief that ethical egoism is not the correct moral theory. Reference: Arthur, John. 2005. “Morality, Religion, and Conscience. ” In Arthur, J. (Ed. ) Morality and Moral Controversies: Readings in Moral, Social, and Political Philosophy. Upper Saddle River, N. J. : Pearson Prentice Hall.
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