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Weak Universal Egoism as a Non-ethical System

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2020

George R. Carlson*
University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg


In his “Two Kinds of Moral Reasoning; Ethical Egoism as a Moral Theory”, Jesse Kalin defines ethical egoism as “the position that a person ought, all things considered, to do an action if and only if that action is in his overall self-interest”, by which he means that each person is ‘rationally justified in’ or ‘has conclusive reasons for’ acting thus, and not that ‘it is good', or that ‘it is desirable', or that ‘it conduces to any intrinsically desirable state of affairs', for each to act only self-interestedly.

In this way, Kalin seeks to formulate an egoism which he takes to be rational, insofar as, in the interests of consistency, the egoist holds a principle applicable to all, and yet is not committed, ex hypothesi, to valuing collective goods or states of affairs which would tend to compromise his own interests (e.g. everyone's actually acting egoistically).

Research Article
Copyright © The Authors 1978

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1 Canadian Journal of Philosophy 5 (1975), pp. 323–56.

2 Ibid., p. 323.

3 Although my own earlier critique of WUE, included in “Ethical Egoism Reconsidered”, American Philosophical Quarterly 10 (1973), pp. 25–33, does, I now think, fail to conclusively show its irrationality, I try a somewhat different approach in my “Beliefs, Wants and Ethical Egoism”, Philosophia, in press.

4 Kalin, p. 342, and elsewhere.

5 Ibid., pp. 341–44.

6 Ibid., p. 347.

7 Ibid., section 8, pp. 352–54.

8 Ibid., pp. 352–53.

9 Ibid., p. 342.

10 Ibid., pp. 328–32.

11 Ibid., pp. 331–32.

12 Ibid., p. 329.

13 Cf. the statement of Gauthier's, D.P.thesis” in “Morality and Advantage”, Philosophical Review 76, (1967), pp. 461-62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

14 Journal of Philosophy 71 (1974), pp. 439–56.

15 In connection with a three-person situation. Cf. Gauthier's spy story, pp. 439–40, and section VIII, pp. 453–54.

16 Ibid., pp. 455–56.

17 Ibid., p. 455.

18 Ibid., p. 456.

19 Cf. Luce, and Raiffa, Games and Decisions (New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1957), pp. 8485,Google Scholar and also Gauthier's “Morality and Advantage”, pp. 466–67.

20 D. P. Gauthier, “The Impossibility of Rational Egoism,” p. 442.

21 “Two Kinds of Moral Reasoning”, p. 355.

22 Ibid., p. 354.

23 Ibid., p. 336 (italics mine).