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Title of the Book:

Contemporary Moral Problems Seventh edition by James E. White

Book Review Chapter:

James Rachel: Egosism and Moral Scepticism

“no one, it is commonly believed, would have such iron strength of mind as to stand fast
in doing right or keep his hands off other’s men’s goods, when he could go to the
marketplace and fearlessly help himself to anything he wanted, enter houses and sleep
with any woman he chose, set prisoners free and kill men at his pleasure, and in a word
go about among men with the powers of a God. He would behave no better than other,
born would take the same course.”

What I expect to learn:

• What is egoism?
• What is moral scepticism?
• What are the laws or rules under these studies?

James Rachels studies Psychological Egoism and Ethical Egoism, views that the attack
the Morality of human being, the difference between Psychological and Ethical Egoism is
that Psychological Egoism says that all human actions are self – interested while the
Ethical Egoism says that all actions ought to be self – interested.

What I Learned:
I’ve learned that the actions of man have different meaning and understanding based on
their culture, beliefs and nationality. Philosophers argue on how do people mean because
of their actions like how people become selfish and unselfish, how unselfish actions
produce a sense of self- satisfaction, how selfishness with self-interest, how the actions of
men affect their emotion and how the emotions of men affect their actions.

Integrative Questions:
• The difference between Psychological Egoism and Ethical Egoism
• What is the legend of Gyges?
• What is selfish to men?
• What is unselfish to men?
• The different actions and emotions of man based on their own self-interest
Review Questions1
1. Explain the legend of Gyges. What questions about morality are raised in the story?
• The legend of Gyges, is a sheperd who was said to have found a magic ring in
fissure opened by an earthquake. Gyges used the power of the ring, which is the
power of invisibility to gain entry to the Royal Palace where he seduced the
Queen and murdered the king, and seized the throne.
• The morality in the story is that if it is given the power of the ring to other people.
Would someone use the power of the ring to do good deeds, instead of doing
ways for self-interest.

2. Distinguish between Psychological and Ethical Egoism.

• Psychological Egoism is that all human actions are selfish in everything they do.
• Ethical Egoism does not think if other people will be affected by his/her actions.

3. Rachels discusses two arguments for Physiological Egosim. What are these arguments,
and how does he reply to them?
• Fist argument says that if we describe one person’s actions as selfish, and another
person’s action as unselfish, we are overlooking the crucial fact that in both case.
• Second argument says that unselfish actions always produce a sense of self-
satisfaction is a pleasant state of consciousness, it follows that the point of the
action is really to achieve a pleasant state of consciousness, rather than to bring
about any good for others.
• He reply to them that the arguments are not true and the arguments has many

4. What three commonplace confusions does Rachels detect in the thesis of psychological
• The first commonplace of confusion is that of selfishness with self-interest.
Rachel says that the two are not the same and often mistaken.
• The second commonplace of confusion is that every action is done either from
self-interest or from other – regarding motives.
• The third commonplace of confusion is that common but false assumption that a
concern for one’s own welfare is incompatible with any genuine concern for the
welfare of others.

5. State the argument for saying that ethical egoism is inconsistent. Why doesn't Rachels
accept that argument?
• There is no way to maintain the doctrine of ethical egoism as a consistent view
about how we ought to act. We will fall into inconsistency whenever we try.

6. According to Rachels, why shouldn't we hurt others, and why should we help other?
How can the egoist reply?

• Because by doing those actions would harm others.

• The egoist obviously will not be happy with this.
Discussion Questions:

1. Has Rachels answered the question raised by Glaucon, namely, “Why be moral?”
If so, what exactly is his answer?
• Yes, he answered stating the reasons why we shouldn’t hurt others and
why we should help others.

2. Are genuine egoists rare, as Rachels claims? Is it a fact that most people care
about others, even people they don't know?

• Based on what I’ve read the genuine egoist are very rare, and Rachel claims
are true
• Yes, because if you care about others and do the right things. You will feel
great after what you’ve done.

3. Suppose we define ethical altruism as the view that one should always act for the
benefit of others and never in one's own self-interest. Is such a view immoral or

• For me it depends on the person likes or self- interest. As long as you do not
harm others by your actions.