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Ethical egoism states that the only duty or obligation that individuals or persons have is to themselves. That the only valid standard of right conducts is self-interest. This doctrine that advocates for persons promoting their own interests has been in existence from the start of moral philosophy. In ethical egoism, persons do not make claims about the nature of human beings; they only make claims on how humans ought to behave. It tells people that they should always act in their own self interest no matter what happens. Ethical egoism claims that instead of persons saying that they have duties for others, they should say that they only have one duty, and that is to themselves. It is an individualistic theory which emphasizes the individual's importance, rights and freedoms. It backs the idea that morally right actions are only those which maximize a person's best interest, even if that interest collides with the interests of others. It does not say that people should promote their own interest as well as those of others. However it does not discourage one from performing actions that help others. There may be situations where an individual's interests may coincide with those of others, so that in helping himself, he will be unwillingly helping others. Or better still, there may be instances in which by helping others, an individual benefits himself. These actions are not at all forbidden by the ethical egoism, it in fact recommends them. What it insists on is that in such situations the good that others get is not what makes the act right, but the fact that it is to a person's own advantage. Lastly ethical egoism does not mean that pursuant to one's own interests, one must always do what he or she wants, or what gives one the most pleasure in the short while. It says that an individual should do what is really in his self interest, over the long run. It therefore calls for selfishness but not foolishness (Osterberg, 1988).
What ethical egoism advocates for is very right more especially because the idea of looking out for others is self defeating. It is morally right for each person to pursue his or her self interest that he or she deems rational. Every other moral principle gains justification from this responsibility including that of an individual's natural rights. These rights can be identified if one understands that human nature has a moral dimension to it. As it has been seen from the definition of ethical egoism, human beings, being moral agents, should live to attain their prosperity and felicity, this entails succeeding as a unique and rational human being. An individual should therefore live rationally within the confines of his own circumstances and potentials. Each individual should be responsible for working towards living his or her own life. Each one is intimately familiar about his or her own, individual needs and wants and every individual is uniquely placed to effectively pursue these needs and wants. It is also hard for an individual to perfectly no another person's needs and desires and therefore no one is better placed to pursue another person's needs than himself. It is therefore justifiable for one to believe that if one sets out to look for other people's welfare, he or she would often botch up the job and end up doing a lot of harm than good (Fieser & Pojman, 2008).
This policy of looking out for others or being your brother's keeper may be seen as an intrusion that is nothing but offensive, one that props other people's privacy. It is just a policy of minding other people's business instead of your own. Also the idea of making others be the object of one's charity is something that degrades, robs them of their self-respect and their individual dignity. What the charities imply is that the end receivers are not competent in taking care of themselves. Moreover these individuals will cease to be productive and self-reliant and transform into passively dependent individuals. This can explain why mostly the recipients of charities are always resentful rather than grateful. What this implies therefore is that the policy of looking out for others defeats logic. If one wants to do what he or she sees as being best for others, he or she should then refrain from adopting the behavior of altruistic policies. If each person looks after his or her own personal interests, there are high chances that everyone will be better off. According to Robert, "an individual stands a higher chance of contributing to the social betterment if he or she pursues his own interest rationally" (Rachels P. 1). This is subject to debate; of course no one likes screwing up, or deprives others of their dignity and self respect (Rachels, 1961).
This does not in any way imply that the idea of looking out for others is bad; neither does it mean that being good is wrong. For instance feeding children who are hungry is not wrong. A starving kid is not in any way harmed when an individual intrudes into her life by supplying food. This obviously does not go as per an egoist's views. Certain behavior policies should therefore be adopted although the decision to adopt them in itself is unegoistic. By adopting such policies one will promote the betterment of the society at large. The argument here is that individuals should do whatever will promote the interests of all, and the best way to do this is for each one to pursue the policy that calls for everyone to exclusively pursue his or her own interests. A person adopting this reasoning will be seen as not being an ethical egoist, even if he or she ends up acting like one. The aim will remain that of helping others but not oneself. This turns one into an altruist peculiarly promoting others' welfare. But an egoist sees an altruist as an individual who is not concerned about living his life to the fullest, but one who sacrifices it for the sake of others. By sacrificing one's life does not literally mean killing oneself, but can include among other things, abandoning one's projects to help someone else, this is just but an effort to sacrifice one's life (Parks & Ingram, 2002).
Therefore egoistic ethics are the only ones that consider seriously the essence of an individual person. Other ethics such as altruism erodes a person's capacity to fully grasp the worth of his or her life. But if the issue of the hungry kid is revisited, ethical egoism can be seen as a mind in which the reality of a human being has been eroded. It disregards the human being who is starving; this therefore poses a question, what should happen to someone in need? The answer is simple, if anyone is in a position to help others, then he or she is free to do so. This may appear confusing, but can be clarified by the following: that an individual has to live only one life, if the individual is valued, or his life is seen to have moral worth, then his life is supremely vital; that altruism ethics regard an individual's life as something he should be ready to sacrifice to help others, implying that it does not see the value of an individual; that ethical egoism is the only principle that takes an individual's life seriously and therefore is the only that should be followed. This argument still has flaws, it is assumes that there are only to options to be taken, ethical egoism or altruism. This is not true because there is the common sense point of view that stands between them. This claims that one's interests and those of others are all important and therefore must be balanced against each other. Therefore no single extreme should be taken against the other (Rachels, 1961).
All said, ethical egoism accommodates a lot of the moral values that are needed in a society. If interpreted in a less radical way, it accepts issues of the commonsense morality. This consists in the obedience of certain set rules. That people must avoid harming others, should always speak the truth, keep promises and many others. That might seem to have nothing or too little in common, but from a theoretical view point, they carry some heavy hidden meaning. It is commonly said that it is better to have a smaller number of basic principles. The best thing is to have one fundamental principle that all others are based on, and ethical egoism theory in this case, is the one that all principles are derived the all important principle of self interest. It does not challenge the morality of commonsense, what it does is to explain and place it into the system. This principle of ethical egoism therefore leads to the all time golden rule that says that we should do unto others because in doing so, others will more likely do unto us.
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