Ethical egoism is the principle that everyone should do what is in their own best interest. One of the justifications given for it is that people’s nature is such that they always act in their own best interest and cannot do otherwise, and that if they seem to be doing something for others, it is because they have calculated that will help themselves the best in the long run. This view is known as psychogical egoism — that people always do act in their own best interest. Since it is a maxim of ethics that an impossible act cannot be the right one and therefore that no one can be obligated to do what is impossible to do, then psychological egoism would justify ethical egoism.

Now one author attributes the following argument to Hobbes, that concludes “Far from being immoral, egoism is the only show in town.” The argument that author gives is:

1) Every living organism obeys laws of individual survival.
Therefore 2) all human acts are motivated by self-interest and the quest for power, and altruism is not just a bad idea but an impossible one to perform. “Far from being immoral, egoism is the only show in town. [Then quoting Hobbes, he says: 3)] ‘Of the voluntary acts of every man, the object is some good to himself.'”

Does statement 2 in fact logically follow from statement 1? Does statement 3 — the statement from Hobbes — follow from statements 1 and/or 2? Why or why not?

Then, is psychological egoism even true? Is altruism impossible?


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