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Ethical Egoism - Argument Analysis

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Argument Analysis

In the essay Ethical Egoism, James Rachels puts forward an argument in favor of Ethical Egoism in four paragraphs. In his third argument in favor of Ethical Egoism he informs the readers that many people think that Ethical Egoism is a "revisionist" moral theory as it argues against our commonsense moral views. Here Rachels gives reasons for the less radical interpretation of Ethical Egoism.

The reasoning presented in paragraph two of the third argument is an adductive commentary suggesting that Ethical Egoism does not challenge commonsense morality. In its schematized version it reads as follows.

P1. In everyday life we assume that we are obliged to obey certain rules.

P2. We must avoid doing harm to others, speak the truth, keep our promises, and so on.

P3. Perhaps there is some small number of fundamental principles that explain all the rest (like in physics there are basic principles that bring together and explain diverse phenomena).

P4. Best of all would be one fundamental principle, from which all the rest could be derived.

P5. Ethical Egoism then would be the theory that all our duties are ultimately derived from the one fundamental principle of self-interest.

C. Ethical Egoism is the fundamental principle of self interest which explains why we have duties to others.

The main concept that James Rachels links to this argument is the simple "Golden Rule." He believes that it is in our self-interest to "do unto others" because then others will be more likely to "do unto us," which is the conclusion of this main argument. The argument goes into further detail of what we as human beings should naturally do. It takes the form of an extended inductive argument. Rachel's first premise makes the point that we should not be harmful to others. He states that if we make a habit of doing harm to others, then others will not be reluctant to do things that harm us, they will not want to be with us, they will not be our friends, and they will not help us in time of need. Depending on the severity of the harm we could even end up going to jail. So Rachels states that it is in our best interest not to do harm to others. He continues in declaring that we should not lie because if we do we will suffer the effects of a bad reputation, people will not trust us, and we cannot expect people to be honest with us. Therefore, again, it is to our advantage to tell the truth. His third supportive comment states that it is to our advantage to enter into mutually beneficial arrangements with people. To receive a benefit from these relationships we need to rely on others to keep their promises. If we do not keep our promises to them, we cannot expect them to



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