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Ethical Egoism

5. Challenges to Ethical Egoism

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In this module, we look at two major challenges against the philosophy of ethical egoism, and address Stirner’s responses to these challenges. We focus on (i) the challenge presented by the evidence that not all actions are, in fact, motivated by the pursuit of self-interest (ii) how Stirner responds to this challenge by advocating the compatibility between the motive of self-interest, and the action of helping another (iii) the challenge presented by the theory that ethical egoism promotes anti-social behaviour against society and the rules which it imposes, and (iv) how Stirner responds to this challenge by calling into question the value of a society which does not have the interests of individuals at its heart.


In this course Professor Saul Newman (Goldsmiths University) explores ethical egoism: the normative theory which claims that moral actions ought to be motivated by self-interest. In the first module we introduce ethical egoism, and distinguish egoism from other normative and descriptive theories. Then, we examine the contrast between psychological egoism and ethical egoism, and look at the key proponents of these respective positions. In the third module, we introduce Max Stirner: the 19th century German philosopher, and author of The Ego and Its Own. We then move on to look at Stirner’s philosophy of egoism, and the key themes in his major work The Ego and Its Own. In the fifth module, we raise some challenges to ethical egoism, and explore Stirner’s responses to these challenges. Finally, we turn our attention to the application of ethical egoism, and how egoism might manifest itself both in individual and political life.


Saul Newman is Professor of Political Theory at Goldsmiths, University of London. His research interests include sovereignty, political theology, democracy and post-secularism, autonomy and freedom, human rights and statelessness. He has written widely on the nineteenth century German thinker Max Stirner, and published the first ever edited collection on Stirner’s thought in the English language. His most recent publications include Political Theology: A Critical Introduction (2018) and Postanarchism 2015

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APA style

Newman, S. (2022, February 11). Ethical Egoism - Challenges to Ethical Egoism [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Newman, S. "Ethical Egoism – Challenges to Ethical Egoism." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 11 Feb 2022,

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