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James Rachels: Egoism and Moral Sceptism

Page history last edited by Jerome E. Jose 15 years, 2 months ago

Jerome E. Jose                                                                                     Feb.06,2009

BS-IS                                                                                                   Sir.Paul Pajo

Book: Contemporary Moral Problems

Library Reference: none


Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Contemporary-Moral-Problems-James-White/dp/0495553204/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1233910528&sr=1-1


Quote: 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.


What I expect to learn:


To know the "real" meaning of Egoism and Moral Skeptism



For me, at first, I really have no idea about what Moral Skeptism is. I don't even know who James Rachel’s is. As I read the article, I've got to know the real meaning of egoism. It means that people always act selfishly, to foster their own self-interest or happiness. People always and invariably act to foster their own self-interest. I somehow believe on this because we do things because we have some reasons behind it whether it's for our own good or for the good of others.


There are two kinds of egoism: Moral and Phsychological Egoism. Before, i am confused about these two things because I have no idea about them. Now I know their differences: Both Hobbes and Thrasymachus think that psychological egoism is true: that humans are, at best, indifferent to everything except what directly benefits them.  Thus, we must re-think our views about what’s moral. Hobbes and Thrasymachus urge a “new” normative ethics, which states that it is morally right to pursue self-interest and wrong not to. This view is called ethical egoism.


To sum it up, we do things on our own interest but we cannot generalize everything. We shouldn't do all the things that are for our own interest because it's bad. Ethical egoism teaches us that we should also think about the result of our actions and how will it affect ourselves and others.


What I've learned:


I have now deeply understood the true meaning of Egoism and Moral Skeptism relationship that James Rachel’s is talking about

Integrative Questions:

1.     Who is Gyges?

2.     What is Ethical Egoism?

3.     What is psychological scepticism?

4.     What is the legend of Gyges all about?

5.      What are moral sceptics?

  • Explain the legend of Gyges. What questions about morality are raised from the story?

It is about a fantasy story of a shepherd that has found a magic ring that could make you invisible. The question here is that can you the responsibility if you are given with that kind of power.


  • Distinguish between psychological and ethical egoism.


Psychological egoism means that people are acting based on their self interest. For example: if someone helped somebody, it is because of the personal interest that certain individual will get. Ethical Egoism is a normative view about men ought to act. Meaning it is in their self-interest whether to act upon on their actions.



  • Rachels discusses two arguments for psychological egoism> what are these arguments, and how does he reply to them?


There are 2 arguments that James Rachel’s mentioned: First is that “the agent is merely doing what he most wants to do”. Second is that our actions are based on our self interests. For me, there  people who are selfish and who are unselfish. We're all unique on our own way and it’s just normal. We get satisfaction based on our actions. I believe that not all people do the same thing just to achieve self satisfaction. They do it because it their choice and not just to be "satisfied" because they believe that it is the right thing to do.



  • What three commonplace confusions does Rachels detect in the thesis of psychological egoism?


There are 3 confusions on the psychological egoism. First is about confusion of selfishness with self interest. You just think of yourself in times of trouble or when some people is in need. Seond is that every action is done either from self interest or from other regarding the motives. Third is that concern for one’s own welfare is incompatible with any genuine concern for the welfare of others.



  • State the argument for saying that ethical egoism is inconsistent. Why does Rachels accept the argument?


The argument is: “To say that any action or policy of action is right (or that it ought to be adopted) entails that it is right for anyone in the same sort of circumstances.”  According to Rachels, she think that this argument would be unwarranted; for he think that we can show, contrary to this argument, how ethical egoism can be maintained consistently.

  • According to Rachels, why shouldn’t we hurt others, and why we should help others? How can egoist reply?


The reason that we should help others and not hurt them is that welfare of human beings is something that most of us value for is own sake, and not merely for the sake of something else; we should take into considerations on our community for it all concerns us. We are part of our community.





















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