It's All About Me. (And that's ok.) A Defense of Psychological Egoism

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It's All About Me. (And that's ok.)

A Defense of Psychological Egoism


Long before I ventured into my first philosophy class, I often engaged in friendly, yet passionate debates with friends and colleagues, holding fast to my assertion that altruism simply does not exist. All actions, I argued, originate from some self-interest. Now, of course, I recognize this theory as psychological egoism.

Perhaps, it could be argued, that my insistence in denying altruism and defending egoism was the result of my naivety, my child-like ignorance of the deeper aspects of the subject which can only be known through a careful study of philosophy. Perhaps my arguments posed back then might have seemed superficial, clearly an oversimplification of a complex topic. Perhaps the same can be said about my current thinking. After all, I've only dabbled so far in the study of philosophy.

And yet, after reviewing the writings of philosophers such as Joel Feinberg, Joseph Butler, Jeremy Bentham and Elliott Sober who wrote directly about psychological egoism, and also reviewing more indirect writings on the topic from authors such as J.D.

Ross, John Stuart Mill, and Immanuel Kant, I remain as convinced as ever that every person's primary motivation in any act is self-interest. Moreover, I believe that the self-interest that one pursues is pleasure, or avoidance of pain, which makes me, then, a hedonist.

The purpose of my paper is to examine the question of psychological egoism and hedonism, and to address the objections raised by Feinberg. In doing so, I have several objectives. First, I will briefly define psychological egoism, altruism and hedonism. Next, I will discuss my personal theory of psychological egoism, detailing my three-level approach. Finally, I will talk about the objections raised by Feinberg. (While Sober had much to say in defense of...