Hume’s criticism of egoism or altruism as a moral theory

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Hume’s criticism of egoism or altruism as a moral theory

Psychological altruism defines the behaviors that aim at benefiting others, often at the agents’ cost. This is distinct from psychological egoism, which defines the hypothesis that the motivation for all intentional acts of human beings comes from their personal self-interests. Psychological egoism makes normative claims as compared to making mere descriptive claims. Many theorists treat altruism as a motivational condition ultimately inspired by evolutionary theory. Significantly, the motivations are either intrinsic or ultimate. Psychological egoists acknowledge that people desire to assist one another, but they perceive that this is only instrumental to a final desire of their self-interested. Such a presumption is partly essential in ethics because it can likely lead to a challenging moral theory: If it is psychologically impossible to ensure altruism, then it is not the duty of people to be selfless. This research will focus on discussing Hume’s criticism of egoism or altruism as a moral theory.

The criticisms of Hume that he has leveled against psychological egoism or altruism as a moral theory can be divided into three sections. First, Hume claims that psychological egoism or altruism as a moral theory is not a genuine theory in any way. He argues that psychological egoism is obviously false.  Hume rhetorically questions the interest of a mother when she decides to lose her health, and later languish in grief and poverty by attentively attending to her sick child.

According to Brink (861) death freed her from slavery of attending to the sick child. Based on that observation, Hume objects to psychological egoism. He states that it is contradictory to unprejudiced notions and common feeling that requires philosophy to establish virtues in life. In life people expect to observe dispositions such as generosity, benevolence and affections like friendship, love, compassion and gratitude. In life, it is obvious, that unless there is discover of hypotheses by going deeper into human nature, may attest the former affections to be modifications of human life.

Hume and other theorists attempted to show that pity, benevolence and sympathy are natural the same way self-love is. Hume argues against psychological egoism or altruism that the common understanding of moral principles can motivate people and rise above self-love. Possibly, the most dominant critique of psychological egoism or altruism by Hume is that when he argued that by nature self-love is not the only element of people’s motivational repertoire.

He also drew attention to the fact that even if human beings feel gratification by satisfying their desires; it is difficult to infer that such fulfillment originates from those desires. The collective force of such attacks can leave psychological egoism or altruism with very few thoughtful defenders. Till people understand what they know about unselfish behavior, they will not recognize what they exactly know as regards voluntary selfish behavior. At this position, it could be suspected that Hume meant that some people hold this theory in a confidential position that gives immunity to allow evidence that would make conceivable human behaviors be used as evidence against the same theory. If what they articulate is true, then it should be accurate in virtue of the manner they redefine and label the word “selfish.”

At this instant, Hume shows that the major challenge to psychological egoism or altruism is showing personal self interests. At all circumstances, qualities and history of some people considerably differ from others in moral ways. Those differences may validate one in seeking his good interests, as opposed to those of another person. Just focusing on self interest and not paying attention to the interests of a different person does not make it a moral issue between us. Hume states the fact that one’s interests good remains his does not give an explanation as to why it should ultimately concern people. Thus, if my interests give me a good reason to do specific actions, the interests of someone else should also provide him with a reason to do something else that is.

Secondly, he alleges that psychological egoism or altruism is a moral theory refuted by what people observe in the behaviors of human beings. Here, Hume offers a burden-shifting argument.  He claims that psychological egoism or altruism theory is implausible. It offers strained explanations of apparently altruistic acts. Therefore, the trouble of giving a proof lies in the egoist to illustrate why people should trust the views of the theory a.............


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