2017 Abstracts Stage 2

The Lust for Power in Shakespeare’s Rome: Altruism vs. Egoism

Julius Caesar can be seen as both a tragic hero, or a deservedly vanquished tyrant; or perhaps even somewhere in between the two. The purpose of this title is to discover, using the theories of egoism and altruism from Hobbes and Smith respectively, where the characters of the Shakespeare production lie. The play is notorious for having ambiguous characters in terms of their actions: however, by using these philosophical theories, it becomes possible to clear the muddy waters and find some truth to the play. Does Caesar act like the power-crazed egoist tyrant he was murdered for being? Or was he simply rising in power as a result of the people’s adoration for his altruistic actions?

Not only Caesar’s intentions were ambiguous, the likes of Cassius, Antony and Brutus all show evidence of being both selfish and selfless – so who, if anyone, can be considered a hero in this play, and who is or are, the true villains? Throughout this essay I will be trying to deduce these answers, to work out whether Caesar was killed righteously, or as a result of clever deception and envy of his power, whether the senators of Rome acted for the good of their people, or to try and increase their own power to ensure their happiness and quality of life is never threatened.

2017 Abstracts Stage 2

An Attempt at Altruism? An Evaluation of Consumer Boycott’s Motivations and Outcomes.

This project aims to evaluate whether consumer boycotts are truly altruistic or an egoistic attempt to save reputations and adhere to social pressure out of self-interest. Do consumers and corporations really care about the impact of their actions or just want to look like decent caring people?

2013 Abstracts Stage 2

Are We Naturally Egoistic or Altruistic?

THOMAS HOBBES – ‘Leviathan’

Man is selfish in the state of nature; we achieve peace through a sovereign which we obey for selfpreservation.

BERNARD MANDEVILLE – ‘The Fable of the Bees’

Altruistic behaviour is a myth and the motivation for everything we do is egoistic. Our ultimate goal is always to increase our own welfare and we help others only to the extent that helping them can benefit ourselves.

AYN RAND – ‘The Virtue of Selfishness’

Rand believes that since selfishness is serious, rational and concerned with one’s own wellbeing, then it is therefore a requirement to achieve ultimate moral value. Rand therefore states that this is the reason that selfishness is in fact a virtue.

DAVID HUME – ‘Treatise and second Enquiry’.

Hume puts forward that not only do we experience in ourselves a feeling for humanity but we also observe it in others. He argues that this sympathy and benevolence disproves the selfish hypothesis and is “contrary both to common feeling and to our most unprejudiced notions”.


The theory of utilitarianism somewhat contrasts with both egoism and altruism.


Rousseau argues that human nature on the whole is good. He argues that it is the influence of society that corrupts and changes the ‘natural man’ into an egoistic being.

Calculated altruism, underlying self-interest?
Doing good for the sake of reward?
Selfishness in disguise?
Survival of the fittest?

Natural interest in the good of others?
Doing good for the sake of good?
Developed and evolved throughout humanity?
Must we be taught altruism due to natural selfishness?

2012 Abstracts Stage 3

Altruism vs. Egoism: a Debate through the Life of Simone Weil

Described by Albert Camus in 1951 as the only great spirit of our time‘, Simone Weil was a philosopher, writer, teacher and social activist who dedicated the majority of her life to helping others. However, her altruistic nature progressed into an incessant need to share the suffering of others. As a result, Weil neglected her own health and died in 1943, aged just 34.

Weil was a hugely admirable person, but in this project, I am going to put forward an argument in favour of the need for an egoistic moral structure to ensure the progression of society.

After providing an account of Weil‘s life, highlighting her troubles and endeavours along the way, I will use Mill‘s Utilitarianism to demonstrate an altruistic account of morality. However, I will go on show the flaws in Mill‘s theory in order to illustrate why an altruistic structure to society is implausible.

I will then assess Barbara Oakley‘s study, Pathological Altruism, to address her idea that altruistic acts can become harmful when taken to an unhealthy extreme. Many of Weil‘s characteristics match up to Oakley‘s studies, providing an understanding behind her eating and mental disorders.

So next I will turn to Hobbes‘s account of morality, Rational Egoism, to see if that could provide a more comprehensive ethical structure. His recognition of individual‘s self-interest ensures the basis of a productive society, where people would look to employ their strengths in order to further themselves, which is something I feel Weil didn‘t fully achieve.

However, there are also flaws to Hobbes‘s account, and so I will conclude by asserting that currently no entirely adequate moral-political exists. I will then look at Williams‘s interpretation of morality, as he suggests that comprehensive moral philosophy is empty and boring‘.