James Rachels: Egoism and Moral Sceptism
1. Explain the legend of Gyges. What questions about morality are raised by the story?
Gyges is a shepherd who found a ring in a fissure that was opened after an
earthquake. The ring has a power to make its wearer invisible. Gyges used the power of
the ring to attract the Queen and to kill the King.
The questions about morality that the story raised are what would rogue do it he
has the ring, and the other question is, what a good man would do if he has the ring. I
think Glaucon’s point is all men, whether he is a rogue or a good man, can be tempted to
do what he pleases.
2. Distinguish between psychological and ethical egoism.
Psychological egoism is being totally selfish and not caring on what will be the
effect of the act to others. And Ethical egoism is doing your own interest but considering
the effect on the others.
3. Rachels discusses 2 arguments for psychological egoism. What are these arguments
and how does he reply to them?
The first argument says that a person should not be praised for his “unselfishness”
because it was what he wants to do. The second argument says that the action is not
“unselfish” because the person only did it just to satisfy himself. James Rachels find
these arguments stupid because for him, these arguments don’t make any sense.
4. What three commonplace confusions does Rachels detect in the thesis of psychological
“To say that any action or policy of action is right(or that is ought to be adopted)
entails that it is right for anyone in the same sort of circumstances.” These are the exact
words written in the topic that James Rachels wrote about the argument on ethical
egoism. James Rachels didn’t accept this because he can prove how consistent ethical
5. State the argument for saying that ethical egoism is inconsistent. Why doesn’t Rachels
accept the argument?
James Rachels said that majority care about others and “most people do care
about others; genuine egoists who really do not care about others are rare” were his exact
words about the argument.
6. According to Rachels, why shouldn’t we hurt others, and why should we help others?
According to James Rachels, we should help others because in time, they will
return the favor and help us when we are in need.
1. Has Rachels answered the question raised by Glaucon, namely, “Why be moral?” If so,
what exactly is his answer?
James Rachels was able to answer the question of Glaucon, “Why be moral?”
Rachels said that moral actions are one of the considerations of being a man because he
said that every man is expected to act morally.
2. Are genuine egoists rare, as Rachels claims? Is it a fact that most people care about
others, even people they don’t know?
Yes, it is a fact that most people care about others, even the people they don’t
know because moral actions are one of the considerations of being a man.
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 not?
I believe that this may happen. For me, in some way, in the things we do for
others somehow also have an effect on us, we also benefit on it in one way or another.