A. Psychological egoism
1. Difference between psychological egoism and ethical egoism. Strong psychological egoism is the view that all of our actions are really selfish. Weak psychological egoism is the view that we often, but not always, act out of self interest. Neither doctrine support ethical egoism, the doctrine that we ought to act in our own self interest.
2. Psychological egoism is a descriptive, not a normative theory. It talks about what we actually do, not what we ought to do. Jeremy Bentham, the founder of utilitarian (thoroughly anti-egoist theory) was a psychological egoist.
3. Psychological egoism seems on its face to be false. Perhaps the easiest way to see this is to notices the sacrifices that parents make for the sake of their children.
4. Typically, however, the egoist has a response. The egoist says that all actions are really selfish because they are aimed at some state of, say, the child, the real goal is to satisfy oneself.
5. The 18th century philosopher and clergyman Joseph Butler argued that this defense of psychological egoism is based on a confusion. Invariably when we succeed achieving a goal, we receive some satisfaction. However, it doesn’t follow that the action is aimed at achieving that satisfaction. Rather, the act is aimed at a state of the child, and if it genuinely helps the child, then quite naturally some satisfaction will arise as a byproduct.
6. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of apparently altruistic actions that are in fact selfish. Take, my favorite example, Oprah Winfrey giving cars away. At least some of us might be inclined to suppose that the real purpose of her giving away cars is not the interests of the recipients, but, maybe, ratings???