Book: Contemporary Moral Problems
Book Review: Chapter 1- Ethical Theories- James Rachels: Egoism and Moral Scepticism
Library Reference: N/A
Internet Reference: N/A
• I expect to learn the definition of Egoism
• I expect to learn what is Moral skepticism
• Psychological egoism
• Ethical Egoism
“The legend of Gyges is about a shepherd who was said to have found a magic ring in a fissure opened by an earthquake. The ring would make its wearer invisible and thus would enable him to go anywhere and do anything undetected. Gyges use the power of the ring to gain entry to the Royal Palace where he seduced the Queen, murdered the King, and subsequently seized the throne.”
The reading starts with this story, the legend of Gyges. It was about a shepherd who found a ring. The powerful ring would make the wearer invisible. He used this opportunity to enter the Palace. He killed the king and seduced the queen. He grabbed the king’s throne. Glaucon says that no one its commonly believed that would have an iron strength of mind to stand fast in doing right or keep his hands off other men’s good when he could go to a market place and grab anything that he want with the powers of a God. This explains that all of us are believed to have an ability to do wrong things if we are powerful. We will do anything that is pleasurable for us. If we know that we can have anything that we want, surely, we will grab it. Of course it can make us happy and it can make our life pleasurable. Glaucon also explains his skeptical views. These are psychological egoism, which means men are all selfish in everything that they do and the only motive from which anyone ever acts is self interest, and Ethical egoism, which means, a normative view about how men ought to act. I think psychological egoism is more likely practiced in our society today. All men are selfish. For example, we work hard to earn money. The money that we earned is for our own pleasure. Nowadays, there are less people who share their blessing with charities, and the like. It is because; we believe that what we earned is the fruit of our labor. There are also arguments for psychological egoism. First is that people never volunteer themselves unless they want to, and with unselfishness comes self satisfaction. Ethical egoism, for me, means it is like a law on which how mean supposed to act. For example, when we saw some one who’s dying and in pain, we should help him because the society tells us to do so.
1. What is Psychological Egoism?
2. What is Ethical Egoism?
3. The legend of Gyges is all about what?
4. How many arguments does psychological egoism have?
5. Who is Gyges?
What I have learned:
I have learned about psychological egoism and ethical egoism. These two are the skeptical views suggested by Glaucon. I believed that of these two, psychological egoism can best describe most people.
1. Explain the legend of Gyges. What questions about morality and are raised by the story?
The legend of Gyges is about a shepherd who was said to have found a magic ring in a fissure opened by an earthquake. The ring would make its wearer invisible and thus would enable him to go anywhere and do anything undetected. Gyges use the power of the ring to gain entry to the Royal Palace where he seduced the Queen, murdered the King, and subsequently seized the throne.
A question about morality has been raised after the story. Assume that there were two rings. The one who given to a man of virtue and the other one is given to a man of rouge. A man of rouge will take advantage to the rings power. A man of virtue will also do the same. “No one, it is commonly believed, would have such iron strength of mind as to stand fast in doing right or keep his hands off other men’s good, when he could go to the market place and fearlessly help him to anything he wanted with the powers of a god.”
2. Distinguish between psychological and ethical egoism.
Psychological egoism is the view that all men are selfish in everything that they do, that is that the only motive from which anyone ever acts is self interest. Ethical egoism is a normative view about how men ought to act.
3. Rachel discusses two arguments for psychological egoism. What are these arguments, and how does he reply to them?
The first argument rests on the basis that people never voluntarily do anything except what they want to. The second argument says that the unselfish actions always produce a sense of satisfaction.
4. What three common place confusion does Rachels detect in the thesis of psychological egoism?
The first is the confusion of selfishness with self interest. Second, the assumption that every action is done either from self-interest or from other regarding motives. Third, the common but false assumption that a concern for one’s own welfare is a incompatible with any genuine concern for the welfare of others.
5. State the argument for saying that ethical egoism is inconsistent. Why doesn’t Rachels’ accept this argument?
Ethical egoism is a standard way of man obliged to act. According to ethical egoism, the only person I need to think of is myself.
6. According to Rachels, why shouldn’t we hurt others, and why should we help others? How can the egoist reply?
“Why shouldn’t you do actions that will harm others? Because, doing those actions will harm others”. According to Rachels, the welfare of human beings is something that most of us value for its own sake, and not merely for the sake of something else.
The egoist doesn’t care about other people, whether he help or hurt others.
1. Has Rachels answered the questions raised by Glaucon, namely, “Why be moral?” If so, what exactly his answer?
Rachels answered this by explaining psychological and ethical egoism.
2. Are genuine egoist rare, as Rachels claims? Is it a fact that most people care about others, even people they don’t know?
Rachels claim that the genuine egoist is rare. Genuine egoist is the people who care for others before themselves.
3. Suppose we define ethical altruism as the view that one should always act for the benefit of others and never in one’s own self-interest. Is such a view immoral or not?
It is good to also think about others but to think about others before you is not right. It is not immoral but I can say it’s unjustifiable.