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Egoism is a philosophy about people serving their own needs or wants. Some kinds of egoism say that everything people do is egoistic, meaning it is done to serve their own desires. Other kinds of egoism instead say that people should do whatever they want or whatever benefits themselves.[1][2]

Egoism is often seen as the opposite of altruism, meaning the concern for others. "Altruism" is a word created by the French thinker Auguste Comte, who says that people must only serve each other and never be egoistic.[3][4] The German thinker Friedrich Nietzsche instead says that altruism is not the opposite of egoism.[5] He also says that even though people say altruism is good, they do not treat each other well very much at all.[6] Other egoists also often criticise this kind of attitude against people who do what benefits themselves.[2] But Nietzsche says that people should eventually leave both altruism and egoism behind.[5]

The American researcher James Scanlan says that when people do whatever benefits themselves it is only a fake kind of egoism. And that real egoism is when people do whatever they want. Both are often seen as dangerous beliefs.[7] Some egoists such as Max Stirner, Nikolay Chernyshevsky, and Dmitry Pisarev, are also thought of as nihilists.[8][9][10] And the British egoist Aleister Crowley popularised the phrase "Do what thou will".[11]

Theories[change | change source]

There are many different kinds of egoism:

  • Ethical egoism is the belief that it is right for people to do whatever benefits themselves. (See also: Ethics)
  • Default egoism is the belief that people mostly try to benefit themselves.
  • Psychological egoism is the belief that people always try to benefit themselves, even when they don't know it. (See also: Psychology)
  • Rational egoism is the belief that it makes the most sense for people to do whatever benefits themselves. (See also: Rationality)

Moral psychology[change | change source]

Some ideas of egoism can be studied in moral psychology.[12] For example, Friedrich Nietzsche says that many people wrongly think that being "good" is related to being "unegoistic". Instead, this thought only happened since priestly values took over from noble values (see Master and slave philosophy § Nietzsche's explanation).[6][13] Nietzsche says that the concepts of egoistic or altruistic actions are pseudo-psychology. In fact, "there are no such things as egoistic and altruistic actions".[14] Morality, he says, tries to damage psychology with these false ideas.[14] He also says that this kind of morality always serves the needs and wants of some people over others.[6] The British researcher Alexander Moseley instead says egoists reject that psychology can understand people's motivations.[2]

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. Shaver, Robert (2021). "Egoism". In Edward N. Zalta (ed.). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Moseley, Alexander. "Egoism". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  3. Brosnahan, Timothy (1907). "Altruism". The Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved August 19, 2020 – via New Advent.
  4. "Altriusm (ethics)". Encyclopaedia Britannica. October 4, 2013.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Nietzsche, Friedrich. KSA. 9:11[7]
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Brian, Leiter (2021). "Nietzsche's Moral and Political Philosophy". In Edward N. Zalta (ed.). Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  7. Scanlan, James P. (1999). "The Case against Rational Egoism in Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground". Journal of the History of Ideas. University of Pennsylvania Press. 60 (3): 549–567. doi:10.2307/3654018. JSTOR 3654018.
  8. Pratt, Alan. "Nihilism". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Archived from the original on 2010-04-12.
  9. "Pisarev, Dmitry Ivanovich". Encyclopedia of Russian History. Retrieved August 11, 2020 – via
  10. "Chernyshevskii, Nikolai Gavrilovich (1828–1889)". Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved August 11, 2020 – via
  11. Partridge, Christopher Hugh (2017). "Aleister Crowley on Drugs" (PDF). International Journal for the Study of New Religions. Equinox Publishing Ltd. 7 (2): 125–151. doi:10.1558/ijsnr.v7i2.31941. ISSN 2041-9511.
  12. May, Joshua (2012). "Moral psychology, empirical work in". Moral psychology, empirical work in. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Taylor and Francis. doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L147-1. ISBN 9780415250696.
  13. Nietzsche, Friedrich. On the Genealogy of Morals. The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche. Vol. 13. Translated by Samuel, Horace B.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Nietzsche, Friedrich. Ecce Homo. The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche. Vol. 17. Translated by Ludovici, Anthony M.