Psychological egoism is a hypothesis about the intrinsic drive or stimuli, mostly emphasizing human actions and motives that stimulate those actions. One alluring argument for psychological egoism is built on what seems to be theoretical truths about deliberate action. For example, some philosophers, like Hobbes or Butlers say that all of one’s actions are driven by one’s own needs and desires. This might seem to support psychological egoism directly because it demonstrates that people are all out to satisfy their desires, as Bishop Butlers states in his Sermon XI (Butler 1).

Another key to psychological egoism is parsimony. It offers a simple explanation of human motivation and offers a combined description of all actions people tend to make. Actions can definitely vary in content, but the final foundation of them is always self-interest: doing well at something is merely to gain the favor of other people; giving some money to a homeless person is just to avoid the pang of self-blame that would follow seeing a poor man; just mere gratitude for anything is made simply to evade the danger of not being socially accepted.

Needless to say, that psychological egoism also relies on the idea that people often distort the conception of them and others when they are compassionate and benevolent. One should consider the paradigm of seemingly altruistic motivation: care for family, particularly one’s children. Francis Hutcheson, for example, proclaims that people care for their family and children because of the fact they like themselves in them. (Hutcheson 307-8). Some recent social psychology discoveries state that people tend to have more sympathy and empathy for those who seem to be in need, especially if they happen to be rather similar to them (Batson 173).

The next argument for psychological egoism could be moral education. People often have to be taught how to behave and care for others with a simple, yet carrots and sticks method. What seems to be solely altruistic desires are just instrumental to egoistic ones; human beings often have to believe that anyone of us should be bothered with the interests of other people, thus receiving deserved rewards and at the same time avoiding inevitable punishment.

Life experience shows that occasionally it’s necessary to prohibit something for children so that they become nice, kind, and caring to others. It might occur rather frequently, but there is no absolute guarantee it is going to happen every single time. On the one hand, psychologists gathered some pieces of evidence that previously unlearned concern and care for others can emerge at a very young age. For example, children at the age of 12-14-months will impulsively help a person they believe is in need (Warneken & Tomasello 274). It seems quite unlikely that children have learned at such an age that this behavioral pattern will be beneficial to them later on. On the other hand, such results do not show that the ultimate motivation behind these actions is solely altruistic and not caused by any other hidden motives.

Summing up the arguments, it is kind of unclear why anyone should not consider psychological egoism to be true. These arguments settle the view of psychological egoism which defines that people are ego because they are acting solely for their own good.

It is important to remember that the theory makes a rather strong claim that all of our crucial desires are egoistic.

Anton Kurapov

Anton Kurapov

PhD, a professor assistant at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. Fascinated by the role of psychology in lives of people and simply astonished by the complexity of the brain and its functions.

Share this post:

Privacy Policy
Terms of Conditions