EGOISM Focus, represented by a mirror.
Why a Mirror?
A mirror represents a focus on the self. Those with a focus on egoism may ask themselves, represented by the mirror: “How will this benefit me?” Egoism can be seen as a type of Consequences approach that predominantly focuses on results for the self (e.g. someone who chooses to be a “lone wolf” in terms of their focus on themselves).
When deciding what’s right people that tend to focus on an egoism approach are most concerned with how things affect them. They often believe strongly in the importance of doing what will benefit themselves.
Someone with an egoism focus may ask themselves, represented by the mirror: “How will this benefit me?” They believe in the importance of making decisions based on what will benefit them.
Egoism can remind us that we do have some responsibility to look out for ourselves and we may know what will benefit us better than others will. We may need to stand up for ourselves or even protect our own lives sometimes.
Egoism seems to support doing some terrible things (e.g. cheating, stealing) as long as they benefit the self. Also, why is one of us any more important than others of us? Don’t we all have the capacity to experience happiness as well as suffering? Egoism doesn’t provide solutions for conflicts between people so we must look to other lenses for help (e.g. Bear’s Care Focus).
A much criticized philosophy called Ethical Egoism.
EGOISM is NOT a highly respect approach. It can be seen as a type of Consequences approach that only focuses on results for the self. It has some important lessons (see above), but to be ethical we must look beyond ourselves and consider other approaches like Otter’s CHARACTER, Hawk’s CODE, Wolf’s CONSEQUENCES, and Bear’s CARE.
1. Remind yourself of the strengths and challenges of your main focus animal/color. This can help you anticipate benefits and identify potential problems down the road. For example, if you only focus on the Golden Rule (Bear’s Care focus: yellow/gold), you may not hold someone accountable for their behavior because you would not would to be held accountable if you were in their situation.
2. Pick one other focus area (another animal/color) to read more about (see take5.gmu.edu/animals/). This can help you better understand the strengths and challenges of different decision-making strategies and help you see the benefits of uniting the focus areas (“Unite to light the way”) since they can counteract each other’s challenges.
3. We all need reminders. Use the Take5 card (take5.gmu.edu/ethics-card/) to help you make well-balanced decisions (individually or in groups).
To better understand this focus area, see the PDF Handout.
Overall Conclusion about the focus areas of the animals (and mirror):
The Otter, Hawk, Wolf, Bear and Elephant represent very respected views from moral philosophy. We recommend combining the views of these 5 animals to balance out their strengths and weaknesses. For some tips on how to do this, please see the ethicspectrum page.
For George Mason University community members who would like to learn more, the Leadership Education and Development Office (LEAD) offers workshops and other programs on ethics and leadership topics. The workshop that directly addresses the ethics and leadership topics discussed on this website is called: “What Would You Do? Making Tough Ethical Choices.” Please see our general page at lead.gmu.edu or our workshop request page.