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Psychological egoism claims that whatever we do, we do out of self-interest. Give an...

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henslee | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted May 18, 2012 at 5:14 PM via web

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Psychological egoism claims that whatever we do, we do out of self-interest. Give an example of an act that does not seem to be done out of self-interest and explain how the psychological egoist might try to interpret that act as selfish.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 18, 2012 at 5:38 PM (Answer #1)

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As an example of an action that does not seem selfish, let us imagine that I go to pick up my kids from school every day.  We play on the playground for a while after school and I swing one of my daughters in a certain way that she enjoys.  Other kids (who are not even friends with my daughter) ask me to swing them in the same way and I do so.  This seems to be something that I am doing that is not in my self interest.

But a person who believes in egoism could easily claim that I am acting in my own self interest.  For example, they could say I am doing this because I want the kids to think that I am a nice person.  They could say that I am doing it because I want to teach my kids to be generous, thus making my kids more likable.  They could say that I am doing it because I believe God wants me to and that I hope to gain a place in Heaven by acting well here on Earth.  Any of these would be selfish motives that I might have for doing this seemingly selfless act.

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