Mother Theresa: The Role of Psychological Egoism – Term Paper Example

The paper "Mother Theresa: The Role of Psychological Egoism" is a wonderful example of a psychology term paper. 
It is a question that has troubled billions of people since the dawn of time: how should a person lead a good, meaningful life? There are as many theories as there are grains of sand on the beach, but some ideas over the years have been more popular than others. Some people are born into religions where these questions are largely answered for them. They know from an early age what their god tells them is the right thing to do and what is the wrong thing. Others question their faith and try to revise their morality, bringing in parts of other religions or philosophies. Still, others have no real faith and try to build a moral foundation out of their personal experience adding rules and content to it as the years go by. Mother Theresa was a famous caregiver and proselytizer, but it is not always so easy to tell where she fits into an ethical scheme. For example, is she an altruist, nothing more than a servant of God, or is she a victim of psychological egotism?

I was brought up in a religious family and was baptized in the church. Not all of my family was very religious, but my mother and my brother and sister were. I was instructed in the Sunday school with the typical Christian moral precepts: the Golden Rule, love they neighbor, the Ten Commandments. But these ideas seemed to me to be much more like common sense than in any idea that needed to be divinely revealed. I didn’t really understand why a god was required to supervise or implement these rules as it seemed to me that most people basically followed them anyway. I reflected on my personal experience when I watched this video of Mother Theresa and considered her motivations.

While it is clear the Mother Theresa ministered to the poor and did help people, she also in the video says the poverty is a wonderful thing. She is a believer that the meek will inherit the earth. Some people criticize this approach. Instead of acting out of selflessness, it is suggested that people like Mother Theresa act in a way so as to maximize their benefit in the afterlife. They think that this life is meaningless and is only a dress rehearsal for the next life (Krebs). As such they make no effort to improve their lives and instead choose squalor, hoping to gain things for themselves from God later on. I think this is a convincing argument.

Mother Theresa did not instruct people to get rich, start businesses, and employee people. Or to eat well and have a good family and friends. Instead, she instructed people to give away everything and live like a beggar. Or better yet, give all of their money to her. This does not seem like altruism. It seems much more like selfishness dressed up in altruism. The truth is that people are almost always motivated by self-interest (Gert). They will use in a number of subterfuges in order to conceal this fact. Indeed, they may be able to maximize their self-interest by appearing especially charitable.

Mother Theresa may have helped people in Calcutta, but that doesn't mean she was an altruist. She may well have been motivated by psychological egoism. As George Orwell once wrote, “A saint should be considered guilty until proven innocent.”