Paper Example on Right and Wrong of Ethical Egoism

Published: 2021-07-07
1020 words
4 pages
9 min to read
George Washington University
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Ethical egoism is one of the moral decision-making frameworks that formed part of normative ethics. However, the model differs in that it suggests or recommends an ethical behavior to be subject to principles of self-interest. In this regard, the framework suggests that an individual should only consider a course of action if it provides higher or greater benefits (Burgess-Jackson 529). However, such type of reasoning limits the society to focus too much on individualism of which people are always fighting each other. Hence, this exploration suggests that ethical egoism is strong in ethical decision making because it provides more strength to the individual and regards it as being purposeful but falls short since it only encourages self-interest motives without considering the plight of others thereby developing a self-fish society.

One of the pros of the egoism ethics is that when one focuses on their self-interest, it leads to the establishment of a greater essence of personal or individual identity within the community (Osterberg 21). The implication of the philosophy or moral argument is that when a person focuses on ethical egoism concept to define or inform their ethical practice, he or she understands essence and identity within the community in the most profound manner. In this case, the opportunity of looking at ones'self allows a person to focus on the differences in other people as a practical way of furthering his or herself interest. In principle, the ethical egoism tends to encourage the necessity of developing self-concept as a present construct embedded in the lives of people (Gantt and Judson 439). The strength of the theory stems from the fact that it tries or sets to advice against altruistic behaviors since such destroys the society as well denying individual components of the society (Burgess-Jackson 529). In this regard, it is against the general perception of viewing life merely as something that should be sacrificed.

In retrospect, ethical egoism considers individual existence as being purposeful (Gantt and Judson 441). In this case, it supports the notion that for an individual, he or she cannot purpose to live for others but would rather primarily live for themselves. As such, the strength of the philosophical underpinning is that for most of the morally accepted duties, like doing no harm to others and speaking the obvious truth, they are elements or considerations deeply rooted within the self-interest concept. Ethical egoism of self-interest is undoubtedly the primary driving force of which human actions are defined and motivated and equally represents the behaviors as well as the moral values to be upheld (Machan 12). On the other hand, the theory is accurate in describing human nature because in most cases, self-interest takes precedence of which the moral views and behaviors are developed from the inner self or self-centered.

Nonetheless, common sense also presents an argument for the EE. In this regard, the strength of the philosophy or ethics is that it urges people or individuals towards embracing common sense rules like cases or instances of not harming others, keeping promises, and being truthful (Osterberg 21). The moral principle, since it focuses on self-interest implies that people are more concerned about the repercussions of their behaviors of which when people harm others, they are afraid of the possible damage or bad treatment that can be reciprocated (Machan 12). Therefore, ethical egoism is concerned with how others would treat people and being that people focus on their self-interest, they are afraid to be treated badly hence a plausible approach to ethics and moral reasoning.

However, various problems exist with the ethical egoism. For one, the concept is a normative approach to philosophy that does not explain how people should behave but rather suggests how individuals "ought" to act (Osterberg 21). According to the normative views, there are certain or particular types of behavior or correct actions that people should ever or always adhere to irrespective of the situations. In this case, the ethical egoists are at a disadvantage since they are holding or recommending ethical behaviors which are contrary to other philosophers. From the normative ethics, anything viewed or regarded as good must be again universally seen as good. On the other hand, egoists are suggesting that something can be viewed as only good when the person or individual is in its possession (Machan 15). From this, the problem with the theory is that it suggests that the goodness of something is rather regarded from its precise nature and not its universality. Hence, the challenge or the problem with the ethical egoism is that it goes against the normative description of good behavior that individuals should engage in despite the situation (Osterberg 21). In the same sense, it argues that something good should be based on the circumstance and subject to ownership by an individual and not as the normative ethicists argue that something good should be universally good.

On the other hand, the focus on self-interest makes ethical egoism such limited and as such, should not inform ethical or moral decision-making. In the same manner, it focuses on using self-interest in helping individuals to escape universal responsibilities because a course of action is only believed to be beneficial when it presents some tangible benefits (Machan 14). The advantage of self-interest is short-term oriented because, in a society whereby individuals are consistently focused on their self-interest, there are fears of being attacked.

Therefore, ethical egoism provides more meaning to self but creates a society promoting ethical egoism will lead to serious downfall since it encourages anarchy and a condition in the society whereby things fall apart, and no one can be benefitted. When a society embraces this type of ethical decision, then a situation is created whereby none can live, nothing ever gets accomplished while at the same time, people are more concerned with working against one another.


Burgess-Jackson, Keith. "Taking egoism seriously." Ethical Theory & Moral Practice, 16.3 (2013): 529-542.

Gantt, Edwin E. and Judson Burton. "Egoism, altruism, and the ethical foundations of personhood." Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 53. 4(2013): 438-460

Jan Osterberg, Jan. Self and others: A study of ethical egoism. Springer Science & Business Media, 2012.

Machan, Tibor R. "The ethics of benign selfishness." Contemporary Readings in Law & Social Justice, 5. 2(2013): 11-38.

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