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After reading the Tale of Gyges, it is easy to see an extreme version of psychological egoism. Meaning that the one thing that motivates humans to do something, is their own self-interest. However, there is also an argument that altruism exists. Altruism means that one can have the desire to benefit others without an ulterior motive. After reading this definition I posed the question of, can altruism exist when psychological egoism is present?
The simple answer, is that altruism cannot exist when psychological egoism does. The reason for this can be found in the Implications of Egoism Argument. This argument states we cannot be altruistic if psychological egoism exists. With that being said, it cannot be our duty to be altruistic. This is because morality does not demand the impossible. When I first thought about this statement, I truly believed that both altruism and psychological egoism could exist simultaneously. However, the more I read and became informed about these concepts, the more I realized that everything has some sort of benefit to an individual, therefor disproving altruism. Even though you can do something without doing it specifically for a personal gain, one is always present. Whether it be through fulfilment, or self-satisfaction, a personal gain always exists. This does not mean however, that that is the main goal of a particular action or deed.
Another thing I found very interesting while reading was one of the two egoistic strategies. Although both did spark an interest, the one that really stood out to me was ‘appealing to a guilty conscience’. A lot of people do the ethical thing not because it is right, rather because they fear what will happen when they do something wrong. For example, many people speak of the terrible guilt they would feel if they did nothing to fight against an injustice act. To be more clear, they fear the guilt they would feel for not acting. Although this may be a subconscious thought during the time of an unjust act, the fact of the matter is, that that fear is still present and often times the reason people act. Appealing to the guilty conscious only further proves that altruism cannot exist when psychological egoism does. In this case, having a clean conscious and avoiding the guilt would be considered the personal gain.
In conclusion, though often not realized, everything individuals do in life has a personal benefit. However, to be fair, not every action is done solely with the intention of a personal gain. There are some people in this world who believe that they are truly doing selfless acts that cannot benefit them. After careful consideration, I do agree that in this world, altruism cannot exist when psychological egoism does. Though not always the goal, every action comes with some sort of reward, however big or small that may be.
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