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(ē`gōĭzəm), in ethics, the doctrine that the ends and motives of human conduct are, or should be, the good of the individual agent. It is opposed to altruismaltruism
, concept in philosophy and psychology that holds that the interests of others, rather than of the self, can motivate an individual. The term was invented in the 19th cent. by the French philosopher Auguste Comte, who devised it as the opposite of egoism.
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, which holds the criterion of morality to be the welfare of others. The term has been variously used, from the benevolent self-interest of the utilitarians to the belief, articulated by Friedrich Nietzsche, that all altruistic sentiment is cowardice. Egoism is frequently associated with the ethics of the early Greek hedonists. Some modern philosophers attempt to reconcile egoism and altruism by adducing the concept of the growing self who invests his interests in an ever-widening field.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



an ethical stance in which private interests are viewed as the basic motive for all action and as the chief criterion of value applied to society and to an individual’s immediate milieu.

Egoism arose with the decay of the primitive communal system and the appearance of private property. It reflected the atomiza-tion of social associations and the separation from them of self-sufficient individuals, closed groups, and later, classes, for all of which socially useful activity was, and was regarded as, only a means of consolidating and maintaining their social position.

With the development of the commodity, and especially the capitalist, mode of production, private interests, objectively turned into the goal of action, and the principle of egoism became the universal measure of human enterprise. The principle of egoism underlay the philosophical, political-economic, and moral doctrines of such representatives of the Enlightenment as T. Hobbes, B. Mandeville, A. Smith, D. Ricardo, C. Helvétius, P. Holbach, and J. Bentham, the last of whom advocated the ethic of utilitarianism. With later thinkers, such as M. Stirner, adherence to the principle of egoism frequently took the form of extreme individualism and amorality.

Completely unlimited egoism has always been condemned by ordinary moral consciousness. The principle of altruism was advanced as an alternative to it. Only with the elimination of private property under socialism, however, did egoism cease to be the basic means of motivating social activity; it was supplanted by the principle of collectivism. The final elimination of egoism from human relations will take place in the age of mature communism.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Iris Murdoch, Dame of the British Empire, is perhaps the greatest novelist of the British fiction at the close of the 20th century, mirroring both the English and the American societies, worlds that echo Dostoevsky's famous saying "All is permitted." Readers have been used to meeting egoistical celebrities and can be taken by surprise in front of her humility because her freedom in writing demands a moral philosophy.
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In such a case, we cannot regard Jesus as merely saving us from an evolutionary drive to be solely egoistical. It would be more appropriate and positive in evolutionary terms to view Jesus as inserted into the human species for the purpose of building upon the human image of God's altruism that has been created in all men and women.
Even though it may sound slightly egoistical, as a Bulgarian tourist, I think we can well benefit from the Greek crisis, because this year the holiday in our southern neighbor will be even more financially attractive than last year.
"Yvette decided to become very egoistical, over the top and bigheaded and our friendship and everything soured," he said.
In Barry Levinson's 1999 spoof, Wag the Dog, a slick-talking Washington spin-doctor (Robert DeNiro) backs a famous Hollywood mogul (Dustin Hoffman) into an egoistical corner claiming the filmmaker's talent can resolve a dicey situation looming on the horizon.
I am not sure I can quite go along with the idea of Adolphe as a sensible crushed by an uncomprehending society (373-74)--Vincent himself points out elsewhere that Adolphe is also excessively vain, egoistical, and self-critical (374, 378)--but the overall argument is extremely compelling.
If the family manager behaves as a steward (Davis, Schoorman, & Donaldson, 1997) or is reciprocally altruistic rather than egoistical, the relative performance of family and nonfamily firms is more difficult to predict, hinging as it does on the trade-offs between hiring committed family managers and hiring opportunistic nonfamily managers who may be, on average, more qualified.
"Mechanisms must be created to block mistaken, egoistical and sometimes simply dangerous decisions of certain members of the international community,'' he said shortly after starting the 85-minute speech in the Kremlin.
However, these last authors point out, precedents for intersubjectivity include egoistical intersubjectivity, in which mode an individual tends to regard the other "as a mental representation--as a personality type, a social-category member, or a role-occupant," as contrasted with radical intersubjectivity, during which "we no longer relate merely to our image or mental construction of each other, but instead experience each other's subjectivity more directly through our intersubjective exchange" (359).