Abe Lincoln & Psychological Egoism

~ I want to jot a quick story about Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), the 16th President of the United States. The story comes from pages 504-505 of Joel Feinberg’s book, Reason and Responsibility: Readings in Some Basic Problems of Philosophy, 15th Edition

Mr Lincoln once remarked to a fellow-passenger on an old time mud-coach that all men were prompted by selfishness in doing good. His fellow passenger was antagonizing this position when they were passing over a corduroy bridge that spanned a slough. As they crossed this bridge they espied an old razor-backed sow on the bank making a terrible noise because her pigs had got into the slough and were in danger of drowning. As the old coach began to climb the hill, Mr. Lincoln called out,

“Driver can’t you stop just a moment?”

Then Mr. Lincoln jumped out, ran back and lifted the little pigs out of the mud and water and placed them on the back. When he returned his companion remarked:

“Now Abe, where does selfishness come in on this little episode?”

“Why, bless your soul Ed, that was the very essence of selfishness. I should have had no peace of mind all day had I gone on and left that suffering old sow worrying over those pigs. I did it to get peace of mind, don’t you see?”

Two comments:
~ I believe that as a thesis Psychological Egoism might be irrefutable. However just because we do not know how to refute it, does not mean that it is false.
~ It does seem so very true though…

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