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Answering the Case Against Psychological Egoism
 
Is our only ultimate motive or ultimate chief motive for all that we do based around what we think we can get out of it? If the answer is yes then we are psychologically egoists.
 
Few care for such a suggestion and wish to refute it.
 
Here are attempted refutations.
 
1 If you say that everybody is an egoist all the time, you are saying something that is impossible to test. You can’t see anybody else’s motives. What is to stop you from saying that psychological altruism is true? What is to stop you saying that psychological egoism is true either? Both theories are unverifiable. Somebody could be a recluse for altruistic reasons. It could be because they think they have nothing good to offer anybody. Or they think they could be a recluse because they don't want to offer good to anybody.
 
Reply to 1
 
Even if you look inside yourself you may not see reasons why the altruistic act you did was not really as other-centred as it seems.  Good results of your actions and how good you feel for doing them blind you to the selfish motives.

 

The refutation certainly shows that nobody has the right to tell somebody not to assume psychological egoism!
 
2 "If I help somebody and feel good after it does not follow that I did the act to get that feeling. If I make a nice dinner for somebody to see them happy it does not follow that I was motivated to please myself by seeing this person happy. Just because the motive is my motive does not mean it is a self-interested motive. Here is a parallel to show the point: Just because a thought I have is my thought it does not mean it is a thought about me."

Reply to 2
 
But these thoughts do not fit the mixture thing very well. If we are both selfish and unselfish then it makes no sense to suggest that doing good for others really is all about doing good for them. And it is possible to think you are unselfish when you are more selfish than what you think. Self-discernment is very difficult. In theory if it is true that that helping somebody may not mean you are doing it to fulfil something in yourself it does not follow that anybody actually is unselfish. The theory then is only good as an idea but does nothing to tell us about human nature. The argument is not an argument at all but is like "the man protesteth too much".
 
Unselfishness is only true in theory. Otherwise it cannot happen. For example, when I do a good work I feel some good about doing it. It is one of the reasons I do it if not the only reason. I would not do a good work if I didn't feel good at all about it. So my concern for my feelings is there even if it is at the back of my mind. It is still there. No act is entirely unselfish.

 
It is true that I can do a good work without thinking of how good it will make me feel after. But this has nothing to do with psychological egoism when psychological egoism is correctly understood.
 

 
Psychological egoism when correctly understood does not say you will help your sick mother because of how you will feel about it afterwards. That would be egotism. It would be bad.
 
What it does say is that the act is its own reward – you fulfil yourself in the doing of the act. Whatever comes after the act is irrelevant. It the feeling you want the act to happen that causes you to do the act – some people call this choice is where the egoism is. You can’t act unless you want the act to happen. You must at least want the act for itself. The good results of the act need not be the attraction at all.
 
It would seem true that the motive being my motive does not mean it is a self-interested motive but only if you forget what motive is. The motive being what attracts me does mean it is a self-interested motive. This in a nutshell is the only real refutation of psychological egoism there could be. Refute it and we establish that psychological egoism is fact.
 
Just because the motive is my motive does not mean it is a self-interested motive is wrong. Self-preservation is the strongest need of all. The suicide only dies because he or she wants to kill the pain not themselves. They die to preserve themselves from the pain. The self-preservation need permeates all our decisions. No decision or thought is tolerated that may take away our life and we can lose life by losing freedom as well as by dying. Life is not life unless one can do what one feels one likes to do - within reason.
 
Here is a parallel to show the point: Just because a thought I have is my thought it does not mean it is a thought about me. Interesting! But a thought is not a feeling or a motive. The parallel doesn't work. We agree that just because something is mine that doesn't mean I have it for me. But if you substitute the word something with "motive - why I want to please myself by doing something" you see that motive is an exception. A good parallel would be, "Just because I do something to help another and seem to be after no reward that does not mean I didn't do it for my entire fulfilment." That is true. And its truthfulness shows that their parallel is simply wrong. Their parallel when translated properly really is saying the absurd, "Just because my self-centred act is mine doesn't mean it is for me."
 
The fact that I have a thought doesn't mean that the thought is about me but it does mean that the thought is FOR me. When we go for something or do anything we need thoughts to do it. Therefore everything I do is for me.
 
Just because the motive is my motive does not mean it is a self-interested motive. But the believers in altruism say that just because an act is selfless, it does not mean it is unselfish. The woman who murders her lover to get his money to give to her son to save her son's life is considered selfish though she has committed an act of sacrifice. The person who spends thousands on surgery to look beautiful and who neglects their parents is making a big sacrifice and risking their life and we consider this selflessness to be selfish because of the neglected parents. So you can't be sure any selfless act is not selfish. If that is true, then probability alone supports egoism. We should always assume that people are selfish all the time. It does no good to assume any different. The woman who murdered her lover can say she made an error in judgement or has some aberration in her conscience so she was altruistic despite what she did. She can say she did right and that though society may disagree with her that does not mean she was wrong. She can say that differences of opinion are a part of life and just because it was a serious matter doesn't mean she shouldn't have her opinion regardless of what others think. The surgery addict can say that he or she feels they have no hope of being a good person unless the surgery was done. Selfishness is so easily disguised. And if we go along with people who obscure their selfishness and start praising their altruism and selflessness then we have lost the plot. It is best to assume they are selfish and that egoism is true and that religions that try to eradicate egoism such as Christianity and Islam are themselves evil. To fight egoism is to promote the lies of those who claim they have eradicated it from their hearts.
 
Egoism does not say that I always help people because of how I will feel after. It does say we do what we do because of how we feel as we do it.
 
 
3 "If psychological egoism is true, then we do everything we do to make ourselves happy. But if we pursue happiness we won’t get it. If we simply just get on with life and do good for others and forget about it, it is then that happiness comes. Happiness is a by-product."
 
Reply to 3
 
Selfishness cannot be refuted by going wrong!
 
The claim is that because we wreck our happiness and weaken it if we pursue it all the time that psychological egoism must be false. But the mistake in this argument is in thinking that forgetting about happiness is not self-interest. It is self-interest. If you intend to forget about how happy you are in order to feel happiness that is self-interest.
 

 
4 People are interested in other people. They are not just interested in themselves. People love, are grateful to, are friendly to, and show compassion to, others.
 
Reply to 4

To love is to value. To value means to take pleasure in them. Altruistic love is a contradiction. You want your wife not just to enjoy loving you but to love you BECAUSE she enjoys it. The altruistic wife can enjoy loving you but as soon as she starts loving being with you rather than loving you that is when it starts to work. You don’t want her to love you altruistically. Altruism says love is sacrifice. It says the wife who agonisingly helps you from day to day and gets no pleasure from it is the wife who truly loves not the one who enjoys being your partner.
 
Life is full of horrendous dangers. We switch off our perception of that in order to be able to smile. Rationally, we think we want to be loved for ourselves - altruism. But its not that simple. We use self-deception to believe that those who look after us because of the benefits we provide them love us and not the benefits.
 
We know it is in our best interest to be interested in other people. It is egoistic.
 
5 People have very different interests. Different things make them happy so egoism is not true. If psychological egoism were true, the man who saves lives would have the same self-interest motive as a man who does not save them but prefers to sleep in bed. But he does not. The actions prove that.
 
Reply to 5
 
This has no relationship at all to the issue. Does people having different interests, people preferring to nurse rather than to teach children, prove that altruism isn’t true?
 
Suppose you have two men who want to be happy. Does that mean the two of them have to go about it in the same way? People see things differently.
 
6 People do not do everything they to do please themselves and satisfy their own interests for people can want something badly and still be unsatisfied when they get it.
 
Reply to 6
 
That has nothing to do with the issue of whether or not egoism is true. Egoism does not necessarily mean that you will go after what you think has the most pleasure in it or what consequences will provide the best service for your interest. Egoism is about fulfilling the desire to act.
 
7 People don’t always do what they perceive to be in their best interest. People smoke too much for example. People will engage in dangerous sports such as motor racing. And people make mistakes about what is in their best interest. If I were offered a pill to make me wrongly think I had provided for my family forever so that I could feel happy for life would I take it? No so psychological egoism is false.
 
Reply to 7
 
Smoking is addictive. Anything that is addictive makes you imagine that it is going to make you happy.
 
People engage in dangerous sports for a thrill. It is not the kind of thing you will get into unless you will get a great buzz during it and after it. This makes the perception of danger less strong. They feel confident that they will evade any danger so that the danger will not be an issue. Dangerous sports are egotism in the sense that they are engaged in for glory and the thrill. Engaging in dangerous sports is selfish because it risks breaking the hearts of those who love you. If that is an example of altruism, it is not a good one! If its not altruism, it is egoism and so even dying for saving the life of a child isn’t necessarily altruistic to any degree.
 
People making mistakes only means that they went after what they thought was their best interest. It does not mean that they are not interested in what they see to be their best interest. Egoism is about satisfying the desire to act and this takes over and can make the egoist do and pursue actions that seem to be terribly bad for her or him.
 
If I can’t be happy unless my family is looked after financially then is taking the permanent happiness pill an option? Just imagine you are offered the pill in such circumstances that you know you will never get into trouble by taking it and you will spend your money on yourself and enjoy it no longer being aware that your family will need it. What then?
 
You would take the pill if you are egotistic. But what if you are altruistic? No you wouldn’t take the pill. If you are egoistic would you take the pill? No. You like having reasons for what you do. You are made to do all you do for reasons. These reasons are your reasons and you are being egoistic by following your reasons. Objectors will state that just because they are your reasons and proceed from the self doesn’t make them selfish in any sense or egoistic. In the same way what proceeds from the sun is not the sun but something different. That is true. But it does make them selfish when it is the desire for gratification that is behind the reasons. We cannot be reasonable unless we see delight in being so.
 
Consider the motivation for your egoistic refusal. I refuse the pill because the thought of my loved ones being deprived makes me unhappy. I refuse it because I don’t want it. I refuse it because I value them. This valuing is egoistic because if they were totally hateful I wouldn’t. I am not valuing them because they are my relations but because they are good relations. I value them because it gives me pleasure and happiness to be associated with them. The reason I want them to be financially secure and help them is because they help me make myself happy. I need them to make me happy. Even the biggest egoist or egotist in the world agrees that you need people to be happy and money and wealth and sex and fun mean nothing by themselves. You don’t want money because it is money. You want it because of how you feel about it. It is what it does to your ego that you want. I reject the pill because I am an egoist and because it makes me happier to treat who I value well.
 
If I take the pill I take it for a reason and because of my interests.

If I don’t take it I also take it for a reason and because of my interests.
 
Objectors will say that the reason I take it is out of self-interest and the reason I don’t take it is out of altruism.
 
Let us examine this.
 
If I satisfy my desire to take it I am selfish. If I satisfy my desire not to take it then I am altruistic.
 
That is making the inexcusable mistake of thinking that the results of an action determine if it was selfish or altruistic.
 
An act doesn’t become selfish just because it satisfies my interests. An act doesn’t become altruistic just because others were bettered by it.
 
The same motive, to satisfy my desire to act, caused both actions. Only the results were different. And the results have no relevance to judging the action to be altruistic or selfish.
 
Then they will answer that the desire was different in each case. The desire that I responded to if I took the pill was selfish. The one I responded to if I didn’t was unselfish or altruistic. One desire was for something for myself and the other desire was for something for others.
 
As Friedrich Neitzsche observed in Beyond Good and Evil the desires mean something to us, not what is desired. All the money in the world wouldn’t please you if you didn’t have the desire for it.
 
But back to the altruists answer. In either case I satisfied a desire. The desire to have tea instead of coffee or coffee instead of tea is just a desire. A desire to see others happy and a desire to be happy yourself is a desire for self-fulfilment. A desire is a demand by your heart to be satisfied. Keep the focus on the word satisfied. The consistent altruist will have to pretend there is no satisfaction at all in acting altruistically.
 
What is classed as altruism is totally arbitrary. For that reason alone, altruism is not a viable or believable philosophy.
 
If I drink myself to death but have plenty of charm the altruist will say I am a great person for the only person I hurt was myself. It is as if others matter more than me and it is better to hurt myself than anybody else. The altruist will praise me for injuring myself instead of injuring another. People are not as upset about me hurting myself as they are about me hurting others. How could the altruist’s praise be worth talking about when the altruist thinks of me in myself as worthless and just there to please others? Is the altruist not being egotistic never mind egoistic?
 
Imagine there was a paedophile who kidnapped a child and molested her. He then killed her. He killed her not for his sake but for his family because he knew they couldn’t cope if he went to jail. And the shame would kill his mother. He saw his crime of murder as a necessary evil. Altruists class him as an egotist even when they consider his motive for killing her. If he is an egotist so is everybody else.
 
A man beats up the little girl next door. Her parents come to him and say they are not going to press charges for it would be hard on his elderly mother if they did. Altruists say they are terrific altruists for doing so. But are they not putting others before the protection of their child? It is the son who has hurt the mother if charges are pressed.
 
The heart can deceive you. You can be convinced you have done something for an altruistic or caring reason or other-centred reason and be wrong. A person who does not believe in an afterlife but who serves others will be less likely to be prone to such deception than a person who does the same but believes that it is no big deal to mess up this life for there is a better one beyond the grave. Yet Mother Teresa is regarded as the zenith of altruism.
 
Altruism calls on people to be instruments not people to everybody else. For example, if I must be altruistic then I am not allowed to look for anything for myself – I am not allowed to expect thanks or look for it. Therefore I am an instrument that consents to being used by other people.
 
Altruism is impossible because it does the very thing it accuses egotism of doing. Therefore altruists don’t exist – what we have got is egoists or egotists. Altruism is a form of masochistic egotism made to look good and noble.
 
If I do something I hate doing but do it for another person I am an altruist according to the altruists.
 
If I do something I hate doing for myself that MAY benefit me four decades away in the future such as a pension fund that is egoism. That is no different from doing it for a person who doesn’t exist yet. I don’t know if I will be able to enjoy the pension or even if I will be alive. And that is egoism according to the altruists.
 
If helping others makes me altruistic then why doesn’t helping my future self not make me altruistic as well? All the elements are the same.
 
Clearly altruists are really egoists.
 
8 People often have a mixture of motives for what they do. Some of the motives may be altruistic, some egoistic and some may even be egotistic. Psychological egoism denies this so it is false. If a person is altruistic and is rewarded for it, that reinforces and encourages the altruistic behaviour in future. So even though the person is not motivated by looking for the reward, the reward increases the tendency to be altruistic. Self-interest and caring about the welfare of others are not necessarily incompatible. For example, a doctor can be nice to his patients though he just cares about himself. He is nice because he knows that the patients will find another doctor if he is not.
 
Reply to 8
 
Motive or intention is defined as the reason you want to do something or cause something to happen. Motive or intention is equal to the desire that causes you to act. If desires cause all that we do, then it follows that we only have the motives we like. We have them not because they are good or bad but because we like them. We are not altruists then but egoists.
 
It is known as fact that I cannot act without a motive (page 115, Dictionary of Philosophy, Simon Blackburn, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1996). Psychological egoism is said to reason that because I need my motive, anything I do is for me and I am really what it is all about (ibid). Critics of psychological egoism say it would be as irrational as saying that because a thought is mine it is all about me and I can think only of me. But a thought hasn’t anything to do with feeling and motive has. The analogy fails. A thought isn’t a feeling or an attraction like motive is. Motive means, “I want to get some satisfaction by doing this thing or getting this thing.” So it is selfish. Though even egoists want things like cars and friends, they are at the mercy of their feelings that they must gratify as best they can. I cannot stop myself wanting to live. I cannot change feelings at will. What if I am happy and I think of my girlfriend’s death to make myself sad and it happens? I didn’t make it happen. I could have felt differently. I just happened to get lucky! If nature wasn’t making me feel I want money, I wouldn’t want it and would probably be helping the sick somewhere instead of looking for it. Sometimes our feelings make us choose what is the least pleasurable for us. That is because the desire to turn it down is the one that takes over and demands to be fulfilled. We are still fulfilling a desire and doing it for the desire.
 
Another mistake critics of psychological egoism make, is thinking that because we desire things outside of ourselves, cars, money and friends etc that it cannot be true. We want these things because of the emotional response and satisfaction they give. We don’t want them in themselves. Nobody ever wanted a car just because a car was a car. They want the car because it makes life easier, because they like driving and because it is cool to have a car. The critics don't believe in their own argument. How do we know? Because they say a person who does good for praise is an egoist despite looking outside himself for this praise. The dishonesty of altruists is distressing.
 
Are you either altruistic or egoistic?
 
If the answer is yes then the mixture of motives idea isn’t true. Also, we can only have one motive at a time. We cannot think of more than one thing at a time. We might have an altruistic motive for doing something first, then we might have an egotistic one and then finally we will have an egoistic one. That is three motives but we don’t have them at the one time. All motives are different manifestations of one motive, the motive to satisfy myself by doing what I want. The ascetic who inflicts pain on himself wants to satisfy his desire to inflict the pain so he is still pleasing himself. He is pleasing himself as much as a rich man who sits down to a feast of lamb and ale. It is just the manner of the pleasing that is different.
 
Suppose I feed my dying father.
 
I feed him for his sake. Altruism.
 
And I feed him because I like feeding him. Egoism.
 
And I feed him because I don’t want people to talk about me if I don’t. Egotism.
 
I can feed him for any one of these motives. I don’t need a mixture. If I refuse to turn off the other motives and feed him for the sake of altruism alone then is my altruism really altruism? Is it really love to give a child a smarty instead of a bar of chocolate when you can? Is it really altruism?
 
If we have a mixture, then how do you know which motive is the strongest one? Is it the altruistic, egoistic or egotistic one? If it is the egoistic one then practically speaking and for psychologists, it doesn’t matter if we believe that we are primarily psychological egoists or fully psychological egoists. It is alarmingly easy to deceive oneself.
 
Suppose it is egoistic (it is actually egotistic) to look after the sick for money or some benefit.  Suppose a woman attends a counsellor for she is guilty that she only tended her dying father to please her family and not as much for his sake. Is it any help to remind her that she didn’t do it all for her own sake but partly for him? Of course not. We might as well believe then that psychological egoism is true.
 
We cannot seriously think that we don’t matter while other people do. So it follows that altruism is impossible. The altruist claims to be getting nothing from his serving others but he is. He is fulfilling his desire to act. This desire is stronger than any other desire he may have. It can make a man choose to wreck his life by marrying an evil woman.
 
An old person can reason, “I can’t do much good now so I will be as demanding of others as I can be. It will be spiritually good for them. It will make them more altruistic”. Is this a case of being altruistic while behaving egoistically or even egotistically?
 
What if God appeared to you and told you that you had to be totally selfish for it would set things in motion so that his purpose which is best for others would be fulfilled? So you have to be selfish for others. And yet you are being altruistic according to some. But which are you? You are not both for you cannot be selfless and totally selfish at the one time. You cannot see only blue and see pink as well at the one time. You are selfish.
 
It is easy to be egoistic or egotistic and believe you are not being like that. The old person and yourself are being egotistic or egotistic. There is no mixture possible here so there is never any mixture possible. Altruism and egoism or egotism cannot be intermingled or mixed.
 
We can only be either egoistic or egotistic.
 
The doctor example reinforces this. He is only nice to the patients not because he really values them as persons but only because he values them as a means of keeping himself in a job. He is not altruistic in any sense.
 
How could it be altruistic to say to somebody, “Don’t lie to your mother about going to visit your father instead of going to the meeting. You will only feel bad.” Altruists say that it is altruistic but it is not.
 
I like to feel free above all things. Everything I do is done to gratify that feeling. It’s done for gratification therefore no matter how altruistic I appear to be I am not. I am only gratifying myself. When I do something I dislike because somebody else orders it to be done, I did it to gratify the feeling that can obey it despite my repulsion.
 
It will be answered that I did it to obey not to gratify. This objection is based on a mistake. The mistake assumes that to obey is not the same as to gratify myself. It is. I want to obey under the circumstances.
 
It will be answered that just because the act was free doesn’t mean I did it to gratify the feeling of freedom. But freedom is about doing what you want under the circumstances. It is a want. It is not an emotionless power that is independent of every influence. It is a feeling itself.
 
Let’s look at two statements.
 
“I like to help John to see him happy”. This is supposed to be altruism. The statement looks like a mixture of altruism, “Help John”, and egoism, “I like”. You like doing this which is egoism so it is not altruism after all. John is helped as a result of your egoism.
 
“I like to help John to see him happy for I am better off if I help people”. This statement has no altruism in it because the reason you are helping John is not for John but for you.
 
But translate the second statement. Its two points are, 1 “I like to help John” for 2 “I like to get good things from helping him”.
 
Focus on the “I like”. I like is about pleasing me. “I like to help John,” is as much egoism as, “I like to get good things from helping him”. One is as much I like as the other. No matter what the intention is for my, “I like”, I only have the intention because I like the intention.
 
Altruists would say that you shouldn’t do anything because you feel it is best for you and you should do everything for everybody else, not yourself. Which is best then? “I like to help John” or “I like to help John to see him happy for I am better off if I help people”. It is the first. The first helps John and takes enjoyment in helping him. The second thinks of the future and could be disappointed for John could die and people might not appreciate you.  The first is honouring yourself better than the second. The first is true egoism. Altruism then is incoherent for it mistakes egoism for altruism. If altruism is to be coherent then it should advocate the second! Why? Because the second is more sacrificial and it puts sacrifice first. It cares about sacrifice not people because it tells each and every person to put everybody else first.
 
Some psychologists who oppose psychological egoism, do so because they accept the following reasoning, “I like to do everything I do, at least under the circumstances. This is fact. But it is the intention, to help others for their sake and not mine or the intention to help them for my sake and not theirs makes the difference between altruism and egoism.”
 
Refuting this argument is the conclusive proof that psychological egoism is true.
 
Here is the refutation.
 
Intention is desire itself. When you spend money to buy a car you intend to buy a car which is the same as to say you desire the car.
 
My intention, no matter what it is for, is not accurately defined as the reason I do what I do. It is what I desire to happen if I give into my desire to do something. It is then about pleasing myself. I intend to please myself no matter if I intend to give my right arm to save lives.
 
Some who forget that the desire to do something includes the intention, or strictly speaking IS the intention, would contend, “It is the liking to do it that makes it egoistic not the intention. The intention is totally irrelevant in relation to the altruism/egoism question. It is outside the discussion. It is possible to imagine a being that does what it likes without having any intentions. It is possible to imagine a being doing what it intends but not liking it at all.” Even with their bad logic, at least they still affirm that psychological egoism is true. In what way? If intention has nothing to do with altruism then it follows that there is no altruism. Altruism is basically the intention to sacrifice yourself and embrace suffering for others. You can be egoistic without having intentions. So it would follow that we are all either egoistic or egotistic.
 
Even if we could be altruistic it does not follow that any of our actions are altruistic. Pretend that altruism is possible. Perhaps there is a bit of altruism in all our actions but the main reason we do anything is for ourselves. In other words, an egoistic action that has no trace of altruism in it is still egoistic and still as egoistic as an egoistic action that is mainly egoistic though there are altruistic elements there. It is easier to assume that people are egoistic in tendency and not altruistic than to assume that they are altruistic.
 
9 Self-interest and caring about the self-interests of others are compatible. You can do both at the one time. You can care about others and yourself at the one time.
 
Reply to 9
 
The argument says that you can look out for yourself (egoism) and others (altruism) at the one time.
 
If you are in a football team you will be interested and playing football not only for yourself but for the team. You work as one.
 
This seems to prove the point made in 9.
 
Let us take a closer look.
 
Caring for others means you want to please yourself by seeing them happy. It is about you not them. They benefit from your selfishness. Caring for others is self-interest in this sense. It is not altruism at all.
 
The argument actually has nothing at all to do with refuting psychological egoism. This failure of the argument to refute psychological egoism proves that psychological egoism is true. How do we know? Because what else could opponents of psychological egoism say in order to try and refute it?
 
The irrelevance of the argument is proven by the fact that even egotism and caring about the self-interests of others is compatible. The egotist will rob an old lady to feed his child. And yet we know that the caring is bad and totally selfish. It couldn't be further from altruism. The caring is done in such a way that it is bad caring.
 
We all know that if we encourage others to be happy and this is so that we will selfishly benefit from being around happier people - unhappy people make you unhappy - that there is nothing wrong with that. It is what we all do. The argument that encouraging people to be selfish is self-destructive overlooks that we are not talking about the absurdity of a dictator encouraging other people to become dictators too which will only lead to him being toppled off his perch. We are talking about people getting along and not about rivalry. The attractiveness and wisdom of egoism show that we should assume everybody is an egoist.
 
10 You only feel good about having done good deeds because you value such deeds. You don’t value them just because you feel good after them. Egoism is untrue for it says you only do what makes you feel good.
 
Reply to 10
 
Yet these are the people who say you can value deeds without feeling good about them. If you have to turn off your child’s life support to prevent her suffering you will not feel good though you value this action.
 
11 A child and a man are in the sea after a shipwreck. The man lets go of a log to let the child hold on to it instead. A man agrees to be tortured to death by kidnappers so that a woman they are holding may go free. These are examples of totally unselfish behaviour.
 
Reply to 11
 
A man challenging his love rival to a duel though he knows the rival will win can hardly be described as an altruist. So he must be an egoist or an egotist. Since he is doing wrong, he must be an egotist. Egoism does not deny that the mind can make the person think in such a way that the best interests for the person are misperceived. The man thinks he is doing the best thing by challenging the rival to a duel. The risk to his life hasn’t sunk in and he won’t let it sink in.
 
The man who lets the child use the log and the man who is tortured to save the woman have done the same thing. Their behaviour does not prove that they are altruistic. They may know that death and suffering are real but may not feel it enough and if they don’t feel it enough they will prefer to let the other person live. I said prefer.  It is what they desire. They fulfil a desire by doing so. They are not doing it to feel good after. They are doing it because the pleasure they see in doing the act attracts them. They value it. It attracts them – in other word it says to them, “Do me and as you do me you will be fulfilled for as long as you do me.”
 
Intelligent people can do stupid things. Some people do smart things while thinking they are stupid and want or mean to be stupid in doing them. If you can be stupid, you can calculate 15+15=30. Just because it is right, does not prove that your faculty of intelligence did it, not the stupidity. Can a soldier wilfully getting blown to bits to save his comrades be doing it because he is stupid? If he is, then he is doing it to not be altruistic but to be stupid. After all, the risk of stupidity increases when there is great stress and earth-shattering choices have to be made.
 
The soldier certainly is seeing life at its worst - that is his experience. It would not be hard to jump on the grenade then. Its like an opportunity to escape life.
 
Those who say they don't believe in psychological egoism often have to come up with extreme examples such as that of soldier to justify their belief in altruism. They never say that if we look inside we will see how unselfish we can be. Telling!
 
And besides, the examples even if they worked, do not refute psychological egoism completely. What they would do at best is just show there are exceptions - possibly rare. But it is not clear that they really are exceptions.
 
Religious people are offended by psychological egoism for they advocate altruism and a love for God free from all self-interest. But they keep members in the religion and get converts by dwelling on the issue of, "The meaning of life? What is it all about?" But when we do good things for others and find that happiness just appears in us it follows that the question is really irrelevant. The emphasis put on the question shows they are not the disciples of altruism and selflessness they pretend to be. At best they are religious manipulators. They distract us from the most important principle of all and rob it of its supremacy. That is bad in itself.
 
We judge something as stupid because of the crazy results. But it is really a faculty in the person that causes stupidity. Thus a stupid person can succeed tremendously in life not thought skill but through luck. If we judge them by the results we will see them as geniuses but they are far from that.
 
Even intelligent persons are stupid in some areas. The potential for stupidity differs from person to person.
 
12 The other idea that animals act altruistically so we can do it too is related to this one.
 
Reply to 12
 
Animals don’t think of the future or understand that they can suffer and die if they take such and such an action. We can. A dog attacking a bigger dog that attacks his adored mother is not behaving altruistically but ignorantly.
 
13 Some people want fame though fame is tormenting and means you have no privacy. Some people risk their lives and wellbeing needlessly to take revenge.
 
Reply to 13
 
Such behaviour is seen as extreme egoism or egotism. How it can be thought that people suffering to gain and keep fame and risking their lives for revenge is supposed to prove the falsity of psychological egoism is a mystery! If people risk their lives for revenge and are extreme egoists then why can’t they risk their lives in a good way as well and still be egoists, though not extreme ones?
 
14 If psychological egoism is true then the moral theory of ethical egoism is true. Though it is true that ethical egoism does not require belief in psychological egoism it is true that psychological egoism demands belief in ethical egoism. If we can’t be other than self-interested then it follows that we ought to be self-interested for we cannot do anything different. But even if altruism is possible, the ethical egoist says that egoism is right, it is what ought to be done. Ethical egoism is bad. It says that Hitler didn’t do wrong by hurting the Jews but by degrading himself to do such things. Had he been a man with good self-esteem and self-respect he wouldn’t have carried out such actions. He didn’t have a strong and noble ego. He didn’t see that to love himself properly he had to love other people.
 
Reply to 14
 
Even if ethical egoism is indeed bad, that does not give anybody the right to condemn psychological egoism. Just because a truth has bad results doesn’t mean it is not a truth. The logic in the argument is otherwise correct.
 
There is nothing wrong with saying Hitler should have used his ego or self-esteem to appreciate other people when he couldn’t help it.
 
If we are naturally egoists, it seems stupid to say we should be ethical egoists for we have no choice but to be egoists. Unless you believe that free will is an illusion, we do have a choice. The choice is between egoism and egotism.
 
Ethical egoism when correctly understood, tells you that you find your happiness in helping others. Virtue is its own reward. The egoist wants others to be selfish all the time but in the wisest way for that benefits all.
 
Ethical egoism does not say that there is necessarily a conflict between my happiness and that of others. If you are truly well-balanced you will make others happier which in turn makes you feel safer and makes you happier. If altruism were true, it would tell you to welcome suffering to help others. That can only make you fear goodness and others. It takes away your sense of safety.
 
Does the egoist assume that her or his interests come before everybody else’s?  Is that not her or him claiming to matter more than other people even if he or she treats others in an excellent way all the time? This would be the case if the egoist only helped the sick in order to feel good afterwards. But if the egoist finds joy and fulfilment in simply doing the act regardless of what may come after be it happiness or disappointment the egoist in practice is treating others as equals. He might not be able to think it but who cares? The person who refuses to take what is best in life to let others have it is still putting his or her own interests first in her or his own way. It depends on what he or she wants out of life.
 
The advice problem. Egoist John wants you to give him a loan. You are an egoist too and don’t want to give the loan. He can’t advise you to not give the loan for it is best for him if you do. He does therefore psychological egoism is untrue.
 
The solution to the problem is that John will feel he demeans himself if he gets the loan against your will. He wants to honour himself by doing the right thing. It is egoistic to honour yourself.  
 
15 The egoists who say that egoism is simply doing what you want to do only imagine they are espousing egoism. That is not egoism. You can want to do things for reasons that have nothing to do with your interests. If you do things because of your interests that is egoism. If you do things for reasons, that could be altruism. For example, “I want to get John’s medicine for him because I want him to get well though it won’t do me any good”, that is altruism.

Reply to 15
 
If John is a good person John will want me to get something out of what I do for him. He will want me to feel good about it. He will not want me to be doing anything for him for the sake of being selfless. So it only looks like I am honouring John when I behave altruistically towards him. My altruism is really a refusal to honour him. The girlfriend doesn’t want a boyfriend who doesn’t care about the good feelings and the benefits he gets out of being with her and loving her.
 
Reasons are only reasons because you fulfil yourself by having them. The writer who has no interest in authoring children’s books and who hands in a romantic novel to the publisher will never have the desire to write children’s books as a reason for having become a writer. Your desires cause your reasons. If you want to be rational you listen to reason and you think. If you want to be deluded you will be deluded.
 
You might say that that you want to be a pilot for its exciting. Desire makes it seem exciting to you. The desire gives you the reason.
 
Desire is behind it all. The existence of reasons has nothing whatsoever to do with supporting the idea that we can be other than egoistic or egotistic. And that is because acceptance of the reasons by us is based on how attractive and pleasing we find that acceptance.

Last of all
 
Psychological egoism is incapable of any refutation. Not only that, but the nature of desire proves that it is true and that altruism and egotism are to be rejected.
 
Not only that if psychological egoism were refuted that would not be much of a consolation. We would still have the idea that that we never are really free from selfish motives to contend with.
 
"Love seeks nothing back." But this does not make love selfless. In fact it is putting freedom into action for always doing things for returns feels like bondage. So not seeking anything back is necessary for getting the real reward - the sense of freedom.
 
 If altruism is good and you do it, then you would have others being altruistic too. But that means telling them, "Okay be selfless and forget about yourself. If hypothetically this means that nobody benefits that is fine." Altruism is really passive aggressive selfishness. Altruism is about rules not people. It is about people's qualities not them. It is conditional - if you knew your good deed would make a person selfish obviously you couldn't do it even if it left them exposed to grave harm. A cold philosophy like altruism only makes those you help far more selfish. It makes no sense to say altruism is good and then to destroy it in others.
 
BOOKS CONSULTED

PSYCHOLOGY, George A Miller, Penguin, London, 1991
AWARENESS, Anthony de Mello, Fount, London, 1997
ETHICS, AC Ewing, English Universities Press Ltd, 102 Newgate Street, London, 1964
AN INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHICAL ANALYSIS, John Hospers, Routledge, London, 1992
OXFORD DICTIONARY OF PHILOSOPHY, Simon Blackburn, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1996
RUNAWAY WORLD, Michael Green, IVP, London, 1974
THE SATANIC BIBLE, Anton Szandor LaVey, Avon Books, New York, 1969