Ethical egoism is one of the concepts that remain as the most in the field of philosophy. This concept supports the belief that every person should look after personal interest before anything else. The proponents of this concept hold the belief that each and every human being should give more attention to their own wellbeing and therefore whatever action one takes, as long as it is beneficial to the individual is considered as sanctified.
Ethical egoism in its most basic meaning can also be translated to be an act of selfishness because it only works towards booting a person’s self-interest which in some cases can be done at the expense of other people. For instance one may deny other people opportunities just to benefit him or herself. Ethical egoism therefore can be seen as seeking to undertake actions that give maximum pleasure and minimum pain to an individual without much consideration to the society at large. In this concept the most important player is the individual and the most important action is the benefit by the individual and finally the most important outcome is the pleasure that the individual enjoys in the end. This paper therefore seek to discuss in detail the Concept of Ethical egoism and relate it to other concepts like Ethical altruism and utilitarianism as highlighted by Ayn Rand and other philosophers.
Ethical egoism can be classified into three broad categories namely the individual egoism which only focuses on the individual and therefore champions for a person to do only those things that benefit his or her individually, Secondly is the personal egoism which also focuses on the fact that a person should do whatever it takes to benefit himself or herself but never bother about what other people are doing. This means that one should only be concerned about his or her business and not about the business of others and finally is the Universal egoism which encourages all people to act in ways that benefit them or their self-interest. One factor that comes out clearly is that egoism encourages people to act in ways that or beneficial to their self-interest and nobody really cares about what other people could be doing around them.
Closely related to ethical egoism is ethical altruism which is portrays individuals as moral being who should help one another and should thus be concerned about the welfare of others. In this context therefore, humans as objects of moral concern should not only care about the self-interest but also care about the interest of others. Ethical altruism does not just give individuals the choice of helping others but rather puts this as an obligation that has to be full filled by individuals on the basis of their morality. In ethical altruism an individual can be able to give others to achieve their desires as long as those desires are equivalent to his or her own desires. Altruism also encourages one to sacrifice his or her interest for the sake of others.
Utilitarianism is another concept that is closely linked to the ethical egoism and altruism. According to utilitarianism, the best action is one that yields maximum benefit and minimum pain. More specifically, ethical utilitarianism focuses on equality of all moral agents and the subjects. Ethical utilitarianism is about an agent of moral concern not elevating the self-higher than other, something that egoism does.
Having looked at the argument on ethical egoism, ethical altruism, and how they two relate to ethical utilitarianism, it is important to critically look at the quote that has been made by the author. The quote here gives a picture that the author looks at self-interest as an important virtue that should be embraced by all beings of moral concern. In this context the author is getting at the argument that nothing should come before one is able to full fill their own interest and therefore nothing else matters if self-interest is not the priority. The author gives more credit to ethical egoism as opposed to Ethical altruism which also advocates for the welfare of others. The author links the argument on prioritizing self-interest to human nature, which many regard as self-glorifying. This means that a person cannot pretend that he cares about others more he or she cares about him or herself, and if anyone does that then that kind of assertion is unnatural and untrue.
This regard therefore, the author is clear in her mind that one cannot divorce man from selfishness. This means that it is in means nature and no matter how moral one may want to portray him or herself; there is an inner urge within the individual to make sure that they get the best out of every situation before anyone else does. This belief makes it impossible for people to be totally moral or totally impartial in the way they perform most tasks especially those that are bent on benefitting them.
It thus goes without saying that the author looks at Ethical egoism is as inevitable and in human nature. It is so rooted into the character of the human being that believing something contrary to this seems impossible. At this point ethical altruism is therefore an idealist thought that does not materialize in reality. It can only be imagined. Another point that can be derived from this argument is that man only lives to make himself or herself happy, this means that one does not live to make other happy or to help others achieve their goals but rather only concerns himself or herself with his or her own happiness or achievements. In this same way therefore, if anyone does work to help others, he or she does so because at the end of the day he is bound to benefit from the achievement of others. It is thus clear that man only looks after him or herself and is less concerned about others
A critical analysis at the way Rand looks at human nature, I find it compelling. One of the fundamental features that every human being has is that of greed and self-interest. People only help others because they expect something in return either directly or indirectly. This is why I believe that the point put across by Rand makes perfect sense. Looking at normal situations in life where people appear like they are helping others as a moral obligation, one may still see that at the end of the day there is some expected reward that this person may want to gain in the long term. For instance if a company is involved in Corporate Social Responsibility, it looks like a sign of good will from the company to help the society, however, this kind of outreach activity only serves to sell the company more and thus make it more appealing. In this case the CSR is actually a marketing strategy disguised as a sign of goodwill, which can be likened in this subject matter to ethical egoism disguised as ethical altruism
Human beings as morality agents should work on sticking a balance between the self-interest that looks more pronounced in human nature and seems inevitable and the concern for others. It is true and natural that what should always think about him or herself first, however, it is not right to do this at the detriment of others.