Why are people not as selfish as you might think? Do you think everybody is selfish? If you do, you are thinking in the same line of psychological


Why are people not as selfish as you might think? Do you think everybody is selfish? If you do, you are thinking in the same line of psychological egoism. It is an ethical theory which claims that people are always self-centered and acting only in self-interest. Unlike ethical egoism, which is a normative theory, psychological egoism is a descriptive theory. According to those who support this theory, it describes a universal truth. Is it really a truth?Advocates of psychological egoism often draw on personal accounts to support their argument. One such personal story is about Abraham Lincoln. One day, Lincoln was in a hurry back to D.C. As he was riding on the coach over a bridge, he heard a pig squealing. He looked out and saw several small piglets were drowning in the creek. So Lincoln asked the coachman to stop. He got out of the coach, walked into the creek and rescued the piglets. When later on reporters cited this as an example to praise his unselfishness, Lincoln reportedly responded that he did it not for the sake of the piglets, but because he would have no peace of mind later on when he recalled the incident if he hadn’t stopped and done something about it. This story shows, according to psychological egotists, that even those who are considered as representing high social values often do things out of selfish motivation. Ordinary people would be no exceptions. But is it true with everybody? Can you apply it to every action? When you take a closer look at the theory, you will find it very difficult to explain every human motivation in this way. First, can we just assume that apparently altruistic people do what they do solely for the sake of the selfish satisfaction they receive later on? Will everyone get such feeling every time? Or, can we simply ask them why? It is still uncertain because most people will reply, “I don’t know why I did it.”  Secondly, it is difficult to tell where or how people got their motivations. To put it another way, are you born to be egoistic or altruistic? How can you prove this? Or do your cultural values play a role in it? You may think that it is socialization that contributed to people’s tendency towards egoism or altruism. But culture differs from place to place; so an individual may be socialized in different ways. Therefore, it is a fallacy to say that everybody is selfish. Finally, even though people do get satisfaction or peace of mind from helping other people, this should not be confused with acting for the purpose of getting that satisfaction. Psychological egotists need to prove that achieving satisfaction is the only aim of people being unselfish and helping needy people, instead of just showing that people get satisfaction from what they do. Opponents of psychological egoism raise their own questions. If a volunteer helped a sick person cross the street, did he or she think at the time that it would give him or her personal satisfaction later on, or did he or she just thought it would actually help the sick person? More broadly speaking, do you do everything because you think it will bring you satisfaction and happiness later on? How far will it be in the future? Also, everyone has enough life experience to understand that deliberately aiming at getting satisfaction or happiness may result in unhappiness. You will have a better chance of being satisfied if you do not aim at happiness itself in the first place. Therefore, it is very hard to prove that psychological egoism is an absolutely true theory that can be applied to every individual, even though some people often act for the sake of their interest or satisfaction/ Did you know that selfish people don’t know they are being selfish?  Arts & Humanities Philosophy PHIL 101

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