Psychological egoism outlines the idea that the only thing anyone is capable of desiring or pursuing is ultimately an end in itself in the pursuit of one's own self-interest. That is to say, even if an action appears to be purely altruistic, it is ultimately driven from the promotion of self-interest. It is in the psychological law of nature that all motivation is derives selfishness.
This theory is supported by the idea that 1) Every action is driven by one’s own selfish motives, desires or principals and not anyone else’s. 2) We seek things out solely with the objective to feel pleasure and our own satisfaction. 3) We deceive ourselves to the true nature of our actions, even those seemingly noble and benevolent. 4) Morals are taught through the sanctions of pleasure and pain; people only behave well if there’s something to be gained or benefitted from.
However, the Paradox of Hedonism suggests that pleasure, happiness, and satisfaction are mental states that stand in close relationship to desire. “An exclusive desire for happiness is the surest way to prevent happiness from coming into being”. The pursuit of happiness is futile; the moment it is deliberately sought after, it vanishes and cannot be acquired. Therefore the only way to achieve the desire is to no longer desire it.
Despite criticisms against the theory, self-regarding motives (no matter what they are reduced to) are always the drive of behavior. Redefining the word selfish to intentioned or motivated might help to differentiate between two kinds of selfish actions— one which disregards other’s interests and one which regard the interests of others. But ultimately, all actions derive from the self.
While I personally agree with varying points of Feinberg’s argument on psychological egoism, I think his argument is ultimately inconclusive. He essentially has an argument with himself, providing various rebuttals and responses yet fails to prove any actual point. He simply finishes his philosophical thought with another which prevents me from fully accepting his complete idea.
The idea of psychological egoism itself is something I resonate with, however. The ego is a fundamental part of who we are as members of the natural kingdom and without it we simply would not have survived or evolved as the human species. Egoism fuels our existence. If we consider the external world as a mirror reflection of our internal state, then we are merely experiencing the world through inner sensation. We naturally seek out that in which feels good and avoid what causes us pain as the two fundamental motivators of all behavior. And even if we commit and act through love and compassion, it is because we are choosing to give that experience to ourselves mirrored by the response of others.