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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.



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.


References in periodicals archive ?
After more than three decades of the cheap thrills of the unprincipled, outcome-driven, egoistically subjective, (revived) substantive due process, the integrity and modest moderation of Cardozo's principled, rule-of-law approach to deciding cases seems especially appealing today.
Managers may act egoistically, concealing their self interest with claims that they are acting in furtherance of the public good or as compelled by business ethics.
The question is whether people behave egoistically often enough to justify economic theory.
As a result, Jim suffers from an egoistically romanticized vision of himself fueled by his reading of light adventure novels.
So the question arises: If we are all always egoistically motivated, what meaning can there be in saying that we have an obligation to act altruistically?
Despite free and fair elections, a written constitution, $1.9 billion spent on UNTAC, and millions more in foreign aid, Cambodia is now back in a state of violent turmoil after a partial coup in July 1997 where Hun Sen, one of Cambodia's co-prime ministers, ousted Prince Ranhariddh, the other co-prime minister, and began a purge of Ranhariddh's supporters.(229) Even before the coup, Cambodia was making little progress toward improving its human rights record or enforcing the rights guaranteed by the new constitution.(230) Even after the July 1998 elections, the country continues in a state of unrest "as members of the political elite egoistically bicker over the results, while the 11 million peasants endure staggering hardships."(231)
Seventeenth-century France saw the first systematic arguments that all motives could be reduced to self-interest and that society would not be destroyed, but might actually flourish, if people acted egoistically. Contemporaries found the claims of La Rochefoucauld and Pierre Nicole striking because those claims were polemical.
The higher the salary paid to MPs, the more egoistically do they cling to their benefits, and you get the wrong people seeking election.' This populist proposal, ironically recalling the arguments of 19th century elitists, had no chance of being accepted, but the debate showed how painful the issue is to the majority.
Other than that, these voices are as egoistically voluntaristic as Parker seems to make himself in this text; or they exist merely as typified, or have their choices constrained in the same way as the fictive intellectual `other voices' do.
As Heidegger makes clear, we are speaking of the concern for oneself as a human being, that is, as a being-in-the-world-with-others: "To be free is to understand oneself from out of one's own capacity-to-be; but 'oneself' and 'one's own' are not understood individually or egoistically. .
Integrity for Benjamin has a communal point only in the sense that we ought not to live egoistically. He makes this point by discussing Tolstoy's "Death of Ivan Illych." But surely there is a difference between the egoistic disregard of others that Illych displays and a philosophy of self-interest mitigated by charity and occasional altruism.
When Holly presses him for information about Anna, Kurtz is even more evasive, only telling Holly that she works at the Josefstadt theater, and advises Holly that "You'd better to think of yourself'--an egoistic criminal recommending that Holly think egoistically, perhaps, but also a covert threat to get Holly to back off.