Ethical Egoism in the Criminal Justice Field


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Ethical theories are built on ethical principles and bear many characteristics in one’s decision-making process. Each ethical theory tries to follow the principles of ethics, and separately highlight different aspects of the moral dilemma. Each theory attempts to follow the ethical principles that will lead one to make the right decision. When trying to understand each theory, we must look at its weaknesses and strengths to see how one can make an informed ethical decision to an unethical problem. So; that why it is important to remember that each situation will have a different ethical theory behind it. One ethical theory that is covered in this chapter was ethical egoism which as defined by Banks (2017) as a theory about how we ought to behave and how one must do what is best for oneself. Though, ethical egoism has certain pros, it can also have its cons that society cannot be ignored.

Ethical Egoism in the Criminal Justice Field

An ethical egoist with an extreme regard for themselves can lead them to act unethically and have no disregard for others. Also, it can also motivate those in the criminal justice profession to abuse their authority. Ethical egoism has its pros and cons because some ethical egoist may look at their good or self-interest purely as terms of pleasure such as logical views. But it should not be confused with psychological egoism which is defined as the view that motive for the actions are of self-interest.

Pros and Cons of Ethical Egoism

There are several pros of ethical egoism. One pro that Lombardo (2016) noted is can help ensure that a person’s personal needs are met by using their concept of morality. In, other words a person that practices ethical egoism will always ensure their basic needs are meet before another person’s. Another pro that her article talks about is how it can help establish a greater sense of identity, personal identity that is. 

She states that when a person practices ethical egoism it will help them identify themselves in a hasty manner and will concentrate on the differences on their own self-interest because they see it as a way to further themselves. Lastly, she talks about how ethical egoism promotes a sustainable household because it reflects a person’s self-identity and can define themselves and their household which in turn means that this household will be more effective because their needs are placed above the outside world’s needs. 

All, these pros offer an egoist a self-sacrifice which they believe is not a moral decision, and it offers them short term satisfaction. Looking out for oneself sounds selfish and most people would feel uncomfortable with the of actions that surround ethical egoism. Therefore; let’s look at the cons that surround ethical egoism. Lombardo lists the three cons of ethical egoism as, one it can destroy relationships she explains as if one had a friend that only spent time with you after all their needs had been met. 

This action may make some feel as they are only friends at one’s convenience. Second, she states it would eliminate the opinions of what other thought of you. So, basically the opinions of others would not matter to the egoist because they are only looking out for themselves. And lastly, she argues that it would require everyone to practice its philosophy which not everyone agrees with the action of an ethical egoist (Lombardo, 2016). Role of Ethical Egoism in the Criminal Justice System

While all the pros and cons are weighed in ethical egoism and how it plays a role in society let’s look at how it plays a role in the criminal justice system. Ethical egoism will bring up many questions and opinions as to what ethical behavior is and what is not in the criminal justice field. Some ethical problems may arise when judicial judges, officers, or even prosecutors are muddled about the correct thing to do because from time to time the right thing to do may carry a substantial price (Neyround, P. and Beckley A., 2001) 

Yet, there are some efforts to those in the criminal justice system behave with standers in the code of ethics and conduct. Primarily those in the criminal justice system will always have their choices made as the focus of their ethical behavior when performing their duties. Mostly, because in this profession you are to exercise your ability to use discretion because it comes with that responsibility and those that act unethical are held accountable for their actions, at times. 

However; when we hear of corrupt agents or officers in the criminal justice system, it makes the system look bad. The past actions of many corrupt officials will reveal a pattern of unethical activity, and it is also noted that their behavior is acted on by their ethical egoism. Corruption, excessive force, discrimination, negligence, violation one’s rights, violation of policies and procedures, or the abuse of the code of ethics, are just a few examples of possible ethical problems that are faced in the criminal justice system. Many of these problems only will create an immoral perspective of the system and its ethical egoism (Miller, 2017).

Characteristics of Ethical Egoism

Ethical egoism also occurs in the criminal justice system because there are many personalities throughout the profession. Some imagine being considered a hero in society, and they develop a great pleasure from this role. But there that same pleasure may carry out decisions that are motivated by one’s own personal gain which is characterized as self-interest or egoism. For example, an officer may feel compelled to rid the world of crime and could use any means they deem necessary to get rid of the criminals in society (Cohen 1991). Yes, an officer should have a mentally to try and rid the world of crime, but that should not be their only interest in their profession. This behavior shows the inappropriate and disregard of the value of ethics and impacts the public’s image of police officers, or any professional in the criminal justice system.


Thus, taking the pros and cons into account as mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the concept of ethical egoism is the view in some way leads with contradiction. It persuades one’s action to be one that promotes their own self-interest, and typically, egoists advocate the pursuance of the good things in life regardless of the feelings or concerns of others (Banks, 2017). Ethical egoism no less is looked like a personal interest and may sometimes require one to sacrifice their own interest to create balance.


  1. Banks, C. (2017). Criminal Justice Ethics: Theory and Practice, 4th Edition.
  2. Cohen H., Feldberg M., (1993). Power and Restraint: The Moral Dimension of Police Work, Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
  3. Miller, S., & Blackler, J. (2017). Ethical issues in policing. Routledge.
  4. Neyround, P. and Beckley A., Straw, M. P, R. (2001). Policing, Ethics, and Human Rights. London: Willan.
  5. Lombardo, C. (2016). Pros and Cons of Ethical Egoism retrieved from:
  7. Broad, C. D. (2014). Five types of ethical theory. Routledge. 
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Ethical Egoism in the Criminal Justice Field. (2021, Nov 29). Retrieved January 30, 2023 , from

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