Altruism or egoism

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Whether or not humans have the moral right to treat others with value and not as hurt others is a question of normative ethics. It is practically possible for some people to forgo their needs and interests for the benefit of others. Thus these  individuals are referred to as noble altruists. However, some people view their happiness and pleasure as the ultimate goal of life. They believe they have more value than others and therefore treat others with no value. These people are known as ethical egoists. The foundation of ethics acknowledges the moral consciousness as well as pursues the critical study of ethical theories.

One of the foundations of ethics is egoism. Ethical egoism is based on claims that all humans are intrinsically selfish (Barrett, 2016). Additionally, egoism believes that we should act according to our selfish desires all the time. Therefore, an action is morally right only if it is of the person’s interest. For example, when a person owes a friend money and pays back simply because it is his best interest to pay back the friend so as not to lose the friend. On the contrary altruism is an act of caring for others without concern for oneself (Barrett, 2016).  A person who is altruistic is selfless and sacrifices their needs for the sake of others (Mysterud, 1998). An example of an individual who defines altruism is Mother Teresa who devoted her whole life to serving the poor. Therefore, actions can only be ethical if they are done for the benefit of others rather than yourself thus making the world a better place.

Ethical altruism is more ethical because it is the philosophical doctrine of doing well for others rather than being selfish. It is thought that human has the natural inclination to be selfish therefore learning to put the needs of others rather than being selfish is admirable (Barrett, 2016). In extremes forms, altruism calls for self-destruction for other people’s sake, but most people practice moderate altruism to help others out of generosity rather than being selfish (Mysterud, 1998). However, ethical egoists argue that they do things for their benefit, to feel good about themselves or to go to heaven (Barrett, 2016).  Moreover, an ethical egoist can view his care for others as genuine yet regard it as foolish since he should be looking after his needs and not other people’s needs. Moreover, one does not need to neglect oneself so as to care properly for other people. Egoist also uses the Bible verse where Jesus states that you should love your neighbor as you love yourself therefore indicating a balance between your needs as well as those of others (Barrett, 2016). Furthermore, critics of altruism argue that the ideology behind altruism is fabricated by the weak for the weak as well as masks self-powerlessness. Sacrificing your needs for others is not morally superior to seeking your self-interest.

Nonetheless, ethical altruism is more ethically upright. An action is morally correct if it brings good consequences to others. Again, it is good that you should care and look after yourself; however, you should be able to acknowledge the humanity needs to other people as well as be able to care for them as well (Barrett, 2016). Also, avoid hurting those in need and assist them where possible. The service to others justifies a man’s existence, and self-sacrifice is also a man’s value, virtue and the highest moral duty. Moreover, an action is morally right if its consequences are more favorable to others (Mysterud, 1998). In its form, altruism is inspirational and brings ethical change in the society. In other words, ethical altruism gives hope as well as purpose to life in an environment that is not always fair and generous. Therefore those people who value and practice altruism sacrifice their needs and worldly pleasures to make the world a better place. In a sense, an altruist has a meaningful place on earth and has a purpose to live. In contrast, the actions of egoism have no moral worth in the society (Barrett, 2016). Moreover, ethical egoism is an insufficient moral theory because it lacks the principles of solving conflicts of interest.

In conclusion, ethical egoism is ill-founded because it is only noble to recognize that other people, as well as their needs, are as significant as our needs. Indeed it is okay to look after our happiness, but this does not give grounds for treating others badly with no value because they are not of the same social status.

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  1. Barrett, D. (2016). Ethical Egoism & Altruism. Davesphilosophyethics.blogspot.co.ke. Retrieved 7 December 2016, from http://davesphilosophyethics.blogspot.co.ke/p/ethical-egoism-altruism.html
  2. Mysterud, I. (1998). Egoism and altruism. Trends In Ecology & Evolution, 13(11), 467. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/s0169-5347(98)01467-0
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