Psychological Egoism According to James Rachels


Egoism can be a normative or expressive location; normative suggests that egoism is all about what one should do with one aim, which is to be comfortable. Expressive egoism is the confidence that all men are egocentric and solely act for their own best benefits. Ethical selfishness believes that people should only act for their own best welfare and that one should only feel bound to act in their own best interests, irrespective of the significance. Both of these concepts appear to be egocentric and inhumane. This paper discusses the various arguments that support or oppose ethical and psychological egoism.

Two Arguments for Psychological Egoism

Rachels’ First Opposition to Argument 1 — People do not Permanently Act Grounded on Their Solidest Longing

  1. Means to an end is the first form of behavior when people avoid doing something but still do. For instance, one might not want to have a physical examination. They might be quite uncomfortable, yet these procedures are necessary for healthy wellbeing. Although one may not need to go to work on Mondays, they must do so in order to keep their job and receive a paycheck. However, an individualist would counter that the ends are pursued, therefore people are still doing what they want.
  2. People may do things out of responsibility since they do not want to accomplish a specific act and have no particular goal in mind as a result of this action, yet they feel compelled to do so. An example of such an instance could be the situation where a friend borrows another friend’s an automobile for the weekend.

Thus, Rachels claims that this will not work, “it is simply untrue to state that people want to keep my pledge if they have promised to do something and do not want to do it” (Modrak, 2021). Therefore, there is a dilemma in such situatios because individuals want to do what they are compelled to do.

Rachels’ Second Objection to Argument 1

Rachels finds that an individual’s desires determine whether or not they are selfish. For example, “Just because someone is taking action on desires does not mean they are behaving selfishly; it all depends on what they want.” “If they only care about themself and don’t care about others, they are self-centered; but if they also care about other people’s well-being and happiness, and they act on desire, they are not selfish,” he claims. “They are not acting selfishly if the target of their desire is the moral of another individual.” Therefore, these people are not doing it solely for their own benefit. This contradicts the argument’s second premise: doing what an individual desires is only acting in one’s self-interest.

Argument 2: All Deeds are Egotistical because they Purpose at the Agent’s Arrogance

The second disagreement asserts that all people want is to attain self-satisfaction or a pleasurable state of consciousness. According to the argument, selfless activities result in a pleasurable state of consciousness known as self-satisfaction. This argument’s response is identical to Rachels’ previous response to Argument 1. “If people were really egotistical, why should it trouble their conscience that suffers—much fewer pigs?” Rachels asks. This weakens the second argument by demonstrating that it is not deductively sound. Even though the evidences are correct, it is not accurate that the goal of the action is to achieve a happy state of mind. Rachels believes have demonstrated that Mental Egoism is a flawed philosophy of why individuals do what they do.

Ethical Egoism

Rachels Major Arguments

Psychological egoism is worse than ethical egoism. “The reason to pursue an individual’s good is the goodness of the object they achieve,” one would have to believe. It is not simply a negative way to look at people’s behavior; it is also a selfish mentality that they are supposed to be compelled to have. To be a true ethical egoist, one must have no care or sympathy for others. There are not many people that can be like this. There are so many natural sensations that come with being human that keeps us from being entirely wrong. People only became that way due to mental illness, a terrible background, or a lifestyle that compelled them to adopt such a mindset to survive or prosper. In an essay titled after the theory’s name, philosopher James Rachels discusses the three most usually cited arguments in its favor.

The first argument has various modifications,” Rachels writes, “all of which convey the same broad idea.” “Each of us is well-versed in our own personal desires and demands. Furthermore, each of us is in a unique position to effectively pursue our desires and requirements. The one fundamental concept of selfishness underpins all of our normally acknowledged moral obligations, from doing no damage to others to always talking the certainty and honoring promises.


Ethical egoists like Rand, who readily admit the restricted value of others to a person and freely embrace compassion for others, have claimed the polar opposite of Rachels that altruism distinguishes: “If the pleasure of eating a banana is a value, why is it a decadent tolerance in your abdominal but an ethical indulgence in your mind?” It is, therefore, self-sacrifice which is an illogical location, conferring to Rand.


Modrak, R. (2021). My work is yours to do what I want. Media-N, 17(1). Web.

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