In my Independent Study, I ask the following questions: Is ethical egoism a virtue? Is ethical altruism a virtue? I argue that neither is. I examine and critically analyze philosophical arguments that strongly support and refute both moral views. Ethical egoism can be defined as the normative ethical position that moral agents ought to do only what is in their self-interest. I also aim to investigate examples and arguments of ethical egoism that demonstrate why such a lifestyle would be harmful individually and socially. In addition, I analyze extreme altruistic views that strongly oppose ethical egoism. Altruism can be defined as the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or the devotion to the welfare of others. An obvious example of altruism would be laying down one’s life for another, but there are other forms that are less extreme. I will contend that an appropriate answer to the general question of which of these virtues is best suited for living the good life, altruism or ethical egoism, is that it is neither. I will take clues from Aristotle’s account of living the good life to help further my argument against both extremes. A society must not embrace either of these extreme views and it is possible to find a mean state that shares overlapping ideas from both extremes. After critiquing arguments and examples that deal with altruism and ethical egoism, I will argue that altruism and ethical egoism are both too extreme for a society to thrive. I will discuss the problems and benefits with embracing an altruistic or egotistical lifestyle. The key to understanding how to form a society that falls within an intermediate state is getting a clear account of the nature of human happiness and its importance in human life. The general objection I form against altruism and egoism is that a community of egoists nor altruists can exist. I conclude that living with a mean state between extreme EA and EE is the only way for humans to be able to practice the virtues in excellence and reason.


Riley, Evan




Ethics and Political Philosophy

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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