You can think of any charitable action as a selfish deed. Look at Mother Teresa. According to the psychological egoist, the only reason that she helped all those people was to make herself feel better. But is this an accurate picture? Many people have sacrificed their lives for their country, or to save a loved one. But does that mean that they did it for self-glory?
As of yet, there hasn't been one counter-example found to this theory. But that doesn't necessarily make it correct. In this case, it makes it suspicious. It seems like every situation has some selfshiness in it, and the Psychological Egoist says 'aha!' - this must have been the prime motive of the action. Not only is this pessimistic, it's unjustified. If we only cared about our self-gratification, then the following situation would be true: Bob is only interested in feeling happy. He doesn't care about art, music, other people, and anything that you can imagine being worthy of value. He only cares about his own happiness. So selfish Bob does whatever he can to make himself happy. But he doesn't care about anything else, so making someone laugh wouldn't make him happy. Saving the lives of a hundred people wouldn't make him feel happy. In short, caring only about happiness is the fastest way of losing it.
So the idea that Mother Teresa cared only about herself when she helped others makes no sense. She must have cared about the people in order to have felt any sense of satisfaction.
Feeling good about helping others makes it clear that we can't be that selfish.
- Feinberg, J., 1995, "Psychological Egoism", Ethical Theory, Belmont, Wadsworth, pp. 62 - 72