What is the difference between ethical egoism, psychological egoism, and egoistic hedonism?

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Posted on Aug. 16th, 2008
(Edited on Aug. 16th, 2008)

Ethical egoism is the normative ethical position that moral agents ought to do what is in their self-interest. It differs from psychological egoism, in that psychological egoism is the claim that people can only act in their self-interest, while ethical egoism is a claim that they ought to act this way. Ethical egoism differs from rational egoism, which holds that it is rational to act in one's self-interest, and individualism, neither of which claim that acting in one's self-interest is necessarily right.
Ethical egoism contrasts with ethical altruism, which holds that moral agents have an obligation to help or serve others. Ethical egoism does not, however, require moral agents to disregard the well-being of others, nor does it require that a moral agent refrains from considering the well-being of others in moral deliberation. What is in an agent's self-interest may be incidentally detrimental to, beneficial to, or neutral in its effect on others. It allows for the possibility of either as long as what is chosen is efficacious in satisfying self-interest of the agent, as in individualism in a given system in any era or society.
Ethical egoism is sometimes the philosophical basis for people's support of libertarianism or anarchism (though some libertarians and anarchists believe that people do have a duty to help others, just not by means of government intervention). These are political positions based partly on a belief that individuals should not coercively prevent others from exercising freedom of action.

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