Aristotle and ethical egoism

The more altruism is watered down to make room for the self-interest of the agent, the more naturally the mutant doctrine fits the Nicomachean Ethics. Another strategy is exaggeration: He also took over the Socratic method of conducting philosophy, developing the case for his own positions by exposing errors and confusions in the arguments of his opponents.

It is important to note that the text that commentators point to when pegging Aristotle as an altruist is about how the good man relates to his friends--people who are special to him--and invariably concentrate Aristotle and ethical egoism the good man himself and what he desires.

The task of the Ethics is to show how our rational powers and our thumos can be fulfilled through virtuous activity. You may not be sure yourself which it is! There has been some debate in recent years over whether Aristotle is an egoist or an altruist, and the debate has focused on the Nicomachean Ethics.

It seems pointless to call Aristotle an altruist and this is in fact what Kahn does when so much selfishness has to be smuggled in to make the interpretation plausible. Standard moral theories determine importance at least in part by considering the payoff to those helped.

But of this view it is not at all difficult to vindicate him. As mentioned earlier, Socrates simply denied that this could happen, saying that those who did not choose the good must, appearances notwithstanding, be ignorant of what the good is.

For it Aristotle and ethical egoism presumably be ridiculous to wish good things to wine; the most you wish is its preservation so that you can have it. But fit with motivation is hardly decisive; any normative theory, including ethical egoism, is intended to guide and criticize our choices, rather than simply endorse whatever we do.

Ayn Rand vs. Aristotle – Self Love, Selfishness, and Egoism

But the question then arises, what is it that one knows when one knows this general idea of goodness? It is this sharing which is essential and primary to the constitution of any form of community, whether that of a household or that of the city. However they both face a tantalizing option: His reductio ad absurdum proof of its unintelligibility is dubious, to say the least.

He explained that the concept of justice means nothing more than obedience to the laws of society, and, since these laws are made by the strongest political group in its own interest, justice represents nothing but the interest of the stronger.


Normative—ethical or rational—egoism Normative egoism is not about what humans do, but about what they should do. Aristotle has crafted an ingenious theory, which results in the synthesis of selfishness and altruism. Without 3 and 4there is no argument against rational egoism in particular.

Phronesis or practical wisdom is the ability to see the right thing to do in the circumstances. Since there is apparently no hope of explaining away this and other passages of the same tone, some commentators go another route.

Must we now say that Aristotle just did not know what to think, that the set of principles that he set down are inconsistent and there is nothing else to be said? First, we do not always take preferences to establish non-arbitrary distinctions.

It is for this reason, that in his discussion of friendship he includes the relationship and philia of parents for children, and children for parents, in the category of friendship.

If so, I need not care specially about some of my future selves, since they will not have these connections to me. Although there were a few ancient Chinese thinkers who had egoistic ideas, in general, egoism is much harder to justify in Eastern thought, where the ego the personal self is an illusion that one should try to get over!

Often accused of inconsistency, Spencer was an egoist who also believed that human beings have a natural sense of empathy and should care for each other, although at the same time, he believed that altruism was a relatively recent development in humans.

Natural selection sometimes has my desires caused by affect that is produced by a belief rather than directly by the belief my desire to run away from danger is often caused by my fear, rather than by the mere belief that there is danger. He quickly points out that those who are not good cannot have friendships of the highest type, and for them selfishness is most unacceptable.

We are now back where we started, desiring the good of another for our own sake, and that can hardly be called selfless.

I deny that others ought to maximize my good they should maximize their own goods. In fact, Kraut continues, complex motivation is possible. Plato does not recommend justice for its own sake, independent of any personal gains one might obtain from being a just person.

Ethical egoism

The way to do this is to eliminate all but the simplest wants; these are then easily satisfied even by those who are not wealthy.It is worth delving into Aristotle’s concept of character friendships, which are those friendships of the highest order and those in which selfishness plays a significant role, while concomitantly developing the egoism of Rand, distinguishing the similarities and differences between the two philosophers and addressing the questions raised above.

In this argument for ethical egoism, Herbert Spencer, a 19 th century British philosopher, seems to echo Aristotle’s original justification for some degree of egoism—that a person needs to take care of their own needs and happiness before they can take care of others.

Often accused of inconsistency, Spencer was an egoist who also believed. In the terms of the traditional distinction between ethical egoism and psychological egoism, the egoistic eudaimonist interpretation claims that Aristotle is an ethical egoistic eudaimonist, not a psychological egoistic eudaimonist.

2 I will not distinguish between ethics and morality in the way that some writers on Aristotle think it is. Aristotle's Ethics Abstract: Aristotle's ethics is a common sense ethics built on naturalism and self-realization.

Of all the classical theories considered here, his is the farthest from an ethics of self-interest. Egoism in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics Carolyn Ray, Ph.D., Philosophy Forum: Independent Study on Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, Indiana University, Director: Dr. Michael Morgan, Ancient Philosophy This piece is one of a set of three papers written for an independent study undertaken during the author's second year in graduate school.

Aristotle’s philosophy favors ethical egoism because he believes that everything people do is in order to secure their own happiness in the end. According to Aristotle, human’s have two sides, an animal side and a side of reason.

Aristotle and ethical egoism
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