Review Of "Why Be Moral?: The Egoistic Challenge" By J. Van Ingen

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Contemporary critics of egoism theories take on easy targets when they show (a) that they are not really ethical theories or (b) they fall into theoretical or practical inconsistency. Playing devil's advocate for personal (as opposed to universal or individual) egoism, Van Ingen shows that these criticisms do not touch the kind of person envisaged by Glaucon, who challenged Socrates to show that justice does not pay. Personal egoism is not a position within morality but an alternative to it, for a personal egoist regards others solely as resources to be used as a means to one's self-interested ends. This position requires deceit, double-talk, and extraordinary secretiveness (much like a double agent). Is the payoff worth the game? Van Ingen thinks not: the costs are too heavy. So while personal egoism escapes charges of inconsistency and provides a genuine alternative to living morally, even those tempted will find it unappealing. In making the best possible case for personal egoism, Van Ingen provides a useful analysis of the arguments of leading proponents and opponents of egoism, including Kurt Baier (The Moral Point of View, 1965), Kai Nielsen (Why Be Moral?, 1989), and Bernard Williams (Morality: An Introduction to Ethics, 1972). Upper-division undergraduate and above.


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