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The positivist egoist whose theory is called psychological egoism offers an explanation of human affairs in effect a description of human nature which he or she believes to be wholly self-centred and self-motivated In its strong form the theory asserts that people always act in their own interests even though they may disguise their motivation with references to helping others or doing their duty Opponents exploit counter-factual evidence to criticize the theory-surely they claim there is a host of evidence supporting altruistic or duty-bound actions that cannot be said to engage the self-interest of the agent Psychological egoists may then attempt to question the ultimate motive of acting benevolently towards others they may retort that seemingly altruistic behavior necessarily has a self-interested component that if the individual were not to offer aid to a stranger he or she may feel guilty or may look bad in front of a peer group At this point psychological egoisms validity turns on the question of moral motivation But since motivation is inherently private an agent could be lying to him or herself or to others about the original motive the theory shifts from a theoretical description of human nature one that can be put to observational testing to an assumption about human nature It moves beyond the possibility of empirical verification and the possi bility of empirical negation since motives are private and therefore it becomes a closed theory A closed theory is a theory that rejects competing theories on its own terms and is non-verifiable and non-falsifiable If psychological egoism is reduced to an assumption concerning human nature then it follows that it is just as valid to hold a competing theory of human motivation psychological altruism for example Psychological altruism holds that all human action is necessarily other centred and other motivated A parallel analysis of psychological altruism results in opposing conclusions to psychological egoism and again arguably the theory is just as closed
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