Tuesday, February 26, 2008

More on psychological egoism

In order to affirm that all actions are really selfish, (and that is what you have to say if you're a p-egoist) we have to define a set of actions that would be unselfish if we were to perform them, and then argue that no, we never are unselfish in that sense. It is not enough to say that the desire in question is a desire that we have, and that we satisfy it by performing the action. Obviously that's the case. But it's can't be enough to say that Mother Teresa wants to comfort the dying, and therefore she does, so her action is selfish. What action of ours doesn't satisfy a desire, for crying out loud? This would be to define the word selfish in such a way as to trivialize it. What action could fail to satisfy a desire. What we have to argue is that the object of our actions is always some state of self and not some state of others. And once we define selfishness in that way, it seems that the evidence against psychological egoism just becomes overwhelming.

Consider someone who falls on a grenade to save his fellow soldiers. Do we have good reason to suppose that the soldier has no real interest in the safety of his fellow soldiers, and is really aiming at some good feeling he might have for falling on the grenade (for the few more seconds he's still alive?) Give me a break.

4 comments:

Nacisse said...

Victor Reppert : What we have to argue is that the object of our actions is always some state of self and not some state of others. And once we define selfishness in that way

Even that would not seem to define selfishness properly. there are many actions that have as there object some state of self (looking both ways before crossing the street) but aren't selfish surely. so I think we'd have to argue that the object of our action is always some state of self that harms or disadvantages others - if it is going to be selfish.. of course, falling on a grenade is not selfish but it could be in ones own interest - If say courage or honor or something like that were good and praise worthy ..

Hans said...

Somebody falling on a grenade to save his friends is very like Jesus dying on the cross.

We are all in some way guilty of the death of Jesus, which is why he died in the first place - to offer atonment for our guilt.

However, we must not forget that the soldier has committed a sin by committing suicide. He does not have the right to terminate his life early, even if it results in less suffering.

Kyle said...

In supporting psychological egoism, you must agree that you can not value anything but yourself. By this I mean that as psychological egoist you're saying that nothing has intrinsic value but yourself. This seems absurd.

I disagree with what nacisse said about Victor's def. of a selfish action; I think his definition was sufficient. Looking both ways before crossing a street seems like nothing more than self preservation... Falling on a grenade for honor is exactly what is being outlined here as being selfish.

Jacob said...

..."He does not have the right to terminate his life early, even if it results in less suffering."

What? Doesn't have the right to kill himself? What the fuck does that mean? Since when did rights have anything to do with one's ability to stab themselves? What is your idea of "rights" anyways? To me it's things you can do and not get carded by the police (usually), or things you "ought" to be allowed to do because people would like to live that way. So where does this idea of rights play in terms of suicide? Surely you won't get arrested if you've killed yourself, nor is it even worth saying that "people shouldn't be allowed to do this". Jesus fuck.