Stich Leverhulme Lectures on Moral Psychology, May 2009
Lecture 4: Egoism vs Altruism: Deconstructing the Debate


Lecture Abstract: Psychological egoism maintains that all human motivation is ultimately selfish. Philosophers from Hobbes to the present have worried that if egoism is true, moral behavior may be threatened, and drastic steps have been proposed to counter this threat. Recently both psychologists and evolutionary biologists lavished a great deal of attention on the egoism vs. altruism debate. However, neither the psychologists nor the biologists have taken adequate account of the range of cognitive states and processes invoked in contemporary cognitive science. In this talk, I’ll argue that when these options are made explicit, they undermine the best psychological and evolutionary arguments for altruism. But they also undermine most of the reasons philosophers have offered for thinking that egoism would be morally problematic.

This is the last of four Leverhulme Lectures on Moral Psychology by Professor Stephen Stich (Philosophy, Rutgers University), who was Leverhulme Visiting Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield from March to May 2009.

Lecture recorded on 27 May 2009

Lecture 4: Egoism vs Altruism: Deconstructing the Debate

Leverhulme Trust: Stich Lectures These lectures are made possible through the generous support of the Leverhulme Trust.