Egoism 1

Posted by Jake on Jan 27, 2017

In Plato's recounting of "The Myth of Gyges" (pp. 78-83), the character Glaucon suggests that people want to seem moral, but they don't actually want to be moral. To many, that suggestion seems obviously true and consistent with many other observations. Consider the following: While driving down the highway, you will slow down when you see a police car. This is because you want to be thought of as the kind of person who obeys the speed limit, but you don't actually want to obey the speed limit (for otherwise you wouldn't have needed to slow down). Many people claim to be generous. Yet, if you asked to see their tax forms, it is unlikely that the people who claimed to be generous actually donated anything to charity. This is because people want to be thought of as generous, but they don't actually want to be generous.

So, the question is this: Is it possible to acknowledge those selfish tendencies without being committed to the kind of psychological egoism described by Glaucon?

[As in the previous forum, I'm not looking for a preferred opinion here. I'm looking for you to demonstrate that you are engaged with the material.]


As Adeimantus put it, people with wit can come to the conclusion that justice will lead to long-term benefits, such as being regarded as virtuous from others in their community. Being able to acknowledge selfish tendencies should not be mutually exclusive with the kind of psychological egoism Glaucon describes. If one is able to believe and admit that they truly desire to be just for whatever reasons they may have, then it would still be possible for them to admit that they are not perfectly just and human nature allows for selfish tendencies. This contradicts the idea that someone can only be aware their own selfish tendencies if they are committed to the level of psychological egoism described.