Front Page Titles (by Subject) Is Egoism a Valid Ethic? - Literature of Liberty, April/June 1979, vol. 2, No. 2
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Is Egoism a Valid Ethic? - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, April/June 1979, vol. 2, No. 2 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Is Egoism a Valid Ethic?
“Recent Work in Ethical Egoism.” American Philosophical Quarterly 16 (January 1979): 1–15.
This bibliographical essay listing 65 works reviews selected philosophical treatments of ethical egoism published since 1950, and sketches a plausible version of ethical egoism.
Taken broadly, ethical egoism holds that basic principles of conduct must be ‘related’ to some benefit for the agent. Machan distinguishes subjective egoism (the view that “a code is applicable to the unique individual one happens to be”) and classical ethical egoism (the view that treats the ego or the self “as an individual of a kind,” namely, a human being). The egoism the author defends answers the question “How should I conduct myself?” with: “One should conduct one's life so as to achieve, in one's particular case, excellence as the kind of being one is.”
Machan considers both proponents and opponents of egoism, developing in some detail the views of the former. His concern is the answers philosophers have given to two related questions: (1) Can egoism be a bona fide ethical theory? (2) Is ethical egoism a (the) correct ethical theory?
Philosophers concerned with the first question have considered issues such as whether the egoist principle is universalizable or satisfies other putative requirements of a moral principle. Machan gives no account of the troublesome principle of universalization, or of its role in moral theory. Discussing a critic's suggestion that a theory which embodies a preference for the good of the agent is no less acceptable from a formal point of view than a theory that embodies a preference for the good of others, Machan replies that “any practically viable morality must admit to some biases. . . . To ask of a moral position that it be completely unbiased, impartial, and universalizable is to ask the improbable, perhaps even impossible, of human beings.”
Machan discusses the egoistic theories of Eric Mack, Jesse Kalin, and Ayn Rand. He mentions briefly the criticisms advanced by Robert Nozick, Hazel Barnes, and James Rachels, and laments the paucity of philosophical response to Kalin's works and to Mack's defense of a neo-Aristotelian, functionalist and essentialist version of egoism. A recurring criticism of opponents of egoism is that they fail to aim their objections at specific views advanced by particular ethical theorists, that they rely instead on their own ‘renditions’ of ethical egoism.
Machan claims that classical egoism satisfies the requirement of universalization; that following egoistic principles need not engender social disharmony; and that in developing an egoist theory one can give the proper role and significance to ordinary intuitions about morality. He further contends that as an answer to the question “How should I conduct myself?” ethical egoism “appears to be as right as answers in the domain of ethics can reasonably be expected to be.” He points out in closing that the ethical egoism he defends includes consequentialist and deontological elements.