On Universal Egoism: With Reference to Brian Medlin and Jesse Kalin (3690 words)

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Question

What is universal egoism and describe one objection made towards universal egoism.
Includes reference to Brian Medlin and Jesse Kalin.

References:

Kalin, Jesse. "In defense of egoism." Morality and Rational Self-Interest (1970):
64-87.

Kalin, Jesse. "Two Kinds of Moral Reasoning: Ethical Egoism as a Moral Theory." Canadian
Journal of Philosophy 5.3 (1975): 323-356.

Medlin, Brian. "Ultimate principles and ethical egoism." Australasian Journal of Philosophy
35.2 (1957): 111-118.

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On Universal Egoism: With Reference to Brian Medlin and Jesse Kalin
(With a Kantian Objection)
Egoists believe that the best way to act is in one’s own interest, which is the opposite of the altruist, who believes that everyone should act for the benefit of others, and disregard their own interests. The interesting thing is that both the altruist and the egoist run into problems when they try to advance a universal moral theory for their claims. By “universal,” I mean a claim that everyone ought to accept, and by “individual,” I mean an attitude that someone has that does not include within the claim that everyone should do the same. Of course, whenever I make a moral claim, I am in some small way also implying that other people ought to do it. So individual egoism, as far as it concerns an ethical theory, does not make sense. No one says I ought to do something, without also considering if someone else were to do it. If I just say that it is right for me, for example, to do what is best for my own interest, but do not think other people should act similarly, then I am only expressing an attitude, which does not stand in for a moral argument.
Philosophers, when they talk about egoism spend a lot of time making distinctions, which is important. For instance, there is a difference between individual and universal egoism. The claim of the individual egoist is an attitude. The individual egoist has the attitude that he will look after himself is going to look after himself and no one else — but, as Medlin points out “if the individual egoist cannot promulgate his doctrine without enlarging it, what he has is no doctrine at all” (p. 112). So, then, we have to try to find a way to rise above the claim of the individual egoist, if we are to justify a position in any real, substantive way....

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