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MIT OpenCourseWare http://ocw.mit.edu 24.120 Moral Psychology Spring 2009 For information about citing these materials or our Terms of Use, visit: http://ocw.mit.edu/terms .
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24.120 MORAL PSYCHOLOGY RICHARD HOLTON I Egoism Psychological Egoism is the thesis that we always act from selfish motives. It holds that all desires are egoistic desires, or else derived egoistic desires. It is a descriptive thesis (i.e. a thesis about how things are , not about how they ought to be ). It must be distinguished from the normative claim that we ought only to have egoistic desires (Ethical Egoism). Mr Lincoln once remarked to a fellow-passenger on an old time mud-coach that all men were prompted by selfishness in doing good. His fellow passenger was antagonizing this position when they were passing over a corduroy bridge that spanned a slough. As they crossed this bridge they espied an old razor-backed sow on the bank making a terrible noise because her pigs had got into the slough and were in danger of drowning. As the old coach began to climb the hill, Mr. Lincoln called out, “Driver can’t you stop just a moment?” Then Mr. Lincoln jumped out, ran back and lifted the little pigs out of the mud and water and placed them on the bank. When he returned his companion remarked: “Now Abe, where does selfishness come in on this little episode?” “Why, bless your soul Ed, that was the very essence of selfishness. I should have had no peace of mind all day had I gone on and left that suffering old sow worrying over those pigs. I did it to get peace of mind, don’t you see?” Feinberg, ‘Psychological Egoism’ Distinguish further the thesis that psychological egoism is a priori (or necessarily, or analytically) true, from the thesis that it is true a posteriori (or contingently, or synthetically). Some Terminology (i) a sentence is a priori true if and only if (iff) it can be known independently of experience (contrast: a posteriori : can only be known by experience). (ii) a sentence is necessarily true iff it couldn’t be false, i.e. it is true in every possible world (contrast: contingent : false is some possible worlds, true in others) (iii) a sentence is analytically true iff it is true in virtue of its meaning (contrast: synthetic : neither true nor false in virtue of its meaning) Note: these aren’t obviously the same. So, for instance, ‘Bachelors are unmarried’ is analytic, a priori and necessary. Statements of arithmetic like ‘2 + 2 = 4’ are a priori and necessary; but it’s not obvious that they are analytic. (It’s not obvious that it’s part of the meaning of ‘2 + 2’ that it is equal to 4.) Finally consider a sentence like ‘Goldbach’s conjecture is true’. Goldbach’s conjecture is the conjecture that every even number is the sum of two primes. No one has ever found a counter-example; but no one has ever given a proof. Perhaps the conjecture is true but there is no proof. Then ‘Goldbach’s conjecture is true’ will be necessary; but not
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This note was uploaded on 01/25/2012 for the course PHIL 201H1F taught by Professor Derekallen during the Fall '10 term at University of Toronto- Toronto.

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Philosophy 200 - MIT OpenCourseWare http:/ocw.mit.edu...

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