All the forms of Ethical Philosophies that we have studied have all carried many truths with them. Utilitarianism always looking to do what is best for the masses, Kant telling us to follow our good wills and act in our moral duties, and virtue ethics taking the view point that its not our consequences that count, but the character we make the choices with. While all of these philosophies are fairly different, they are all made the same in egoism. It is my belief that egoism is the most correct way to make the best judgments that benefit us and that these principles can be applied in all other ethical theories. Egoism is the most basic way that people make decisions, that contrary to popular belief it does not make necessary selfishness or hedonism, and that it can be applied even in dire circumstance. These different above stated points will help to clarify why egoism is the best way to live a happy life.
Everything that we do, every action we take, is made in our own self interest. Ethical egoism tells us how we ought to make our choices, while psychological egoism explains that without knowing we already make those decisions. This is the clear difference between the two forms of egoism. I take the stance that psychological egoism is the correct philosophy. If we take a step backwards and analyze all the decisions we make, we will see a trend; this trend is that all choices are made in our self interest. From small choices like whether to go to class, all the way to following laws and honor codes, we choose based on this indivisible and basic principle of the self. When we choose to go to class, we don’t make the judgment based on what our duty is, or on how it will effect the entire class if my comedic self doesn’t show up. This thought process posses the question, “Is it worth it to skip class and have my grades fall?”. Our judgements always return focus back to ourselves. With something like disobeying the honor code and having sex, for example, the consequences become greater. I can make this choice to have sex which brings me pleasure, or I can abstain, follow the honor code, not get kicked out of school and have a happy temple marriage. While both will bring pleasure, my choice to abstain will cause the best results in the long run. Even though I don’t consciously go through this process with every choice, my mind weighs the pros and cons and makes a decision that will best serve me. In the case of something morally substantial like saving a drowning child, we can have any reason or make any action pertaining to this and that choice we make will always have our best interests behind it. In the background of our minds, we are subconsciously making the choices to further ourselves which simply demonstrates that this principle is a basic foundation for all choices we make.
Words like “self interests” alway hold the connotation of selfishness or pride. Egoism has had to deal with that misrepresentation for as long as it has existed as an established philosophy. While egoism teaches that people always act in their own self interest, this does not necessarily mean that all actions will be of a selfish nature. As a full tithe payer, I give 10% of my income to the Church. While this doesn’t prove selflessness, to me it does show willingness to think outside myself. The trained egoist would say that while the action itself was made to help others, it was still made in my self interest. I gave money, yes, but the reasoning behind it was “I should follow the commandments given to me by my leaders so that I can be temple worthy and have good standing in the eyes of God”. While the action itself was not selfish, the psychology behind it still was based in my favour. This is a simple example of a non selfish act still being in my self interest. It is absolutely possible that every action of sacrifice we make still holds ties to acting in benefit of the self.
Lawhead makes a case against egoism in his evaluation of the philosophy, which I believe is incorrect. He gives the story of how he and I are stranded on a life boat and that he has managed to bring food and water while I have none. He believes that as an egoist it is my responsibility to tell him not to share because that would be what is in his best interest, and that if I wanted any of the food/water I would have to denounce my belief in egoism. My response would be that in no way would I have to denounce egoism to enjoy his resources. As an egoist, you can absolutely share the food and water. While this may not be in the self interest of survival, it absolutely would be in your self-interest to save a man’s life. I believe that Lawhead has given a definition that Egoism can only apply to temporal self fulfillment, in this case food and water to survive. This self interest can be anything that will bring happiness though. Sharing because it is the Godly thing to do, or a hope for reward, or fear of an attack from the other party are all decisions made in self-interest.
Through this exhibition into egoism the idea of self interest has been explained to be a root idea of our minds, has proven to be more than selfishness, and can be used even in circumstances containing rafts. Egoism doesn’t, however, give us satisfaction about whether our actions are right or not. Our choices maybe to our own benefit but that does not make them objective or right. Egoism is a vast philosophy that is capable of covering most ethical dilemmas if we simply look into what is best for ourselves.