Egoism and Altruism.
Definitions and Illustrations from ” Liberty:”
Â Altruists build in the air. Â I have unbounded faith in what is called human selfishness. I know no other foundation to build (upon. When we cease quarrelling with this indestructible instinct of self-preservation and learn to use it as one of the greatest forces of nature, it will be found to work beneficently for all mankind, and “the stone which has been rejected by the builders wilt become the chief corner-stone.”â€”Mrs. E. D. Linton.
The discussion of Egoism v. Altruism in Liberty has been very interesting. To me there is no such thing as altruismâ€”that is, the doing of anything wholly for the good of others. We do things for self-satisfaction. I wonder if there are any altruists who would go to hell (presuming there be a hell) in order that their neighbours should go to heaven (presuming there be a heaven)? There is no hope of reward in hell, and a true altruist must expect no reward for his acts. One who would undergo all the tortures of hell so that his neighbours could enjoy all the pleasures of heaven would be an altruist indeed.â€”J. A. Labadie.
Egoism is not merely an idea. It is a factâ€”the force of a man untrammelled by superstition. It may be more or less generous or ungenerous; thus he may be called selfish or unselfish in the common speech. He may be more or less impulsive, more or less deliberate and reflecting. He may so feel and act as to be called very dutiful, the Egoist relation to all objects is conditioned quite differently from that of the mentally unfree .man. If he cares for others it is not because he is taught that it is his “duty “â€”a teaching which puts a fetter in place of attraction ; but it is because he is built that way, and this he knows.â€” Tak Kak.
George Eliot on the Moral Littleness of Non-Egoists. In proportion as morality is einotionalâ€”i.e., has affinity with artâ€”it will exhibit itself in direct sympathetic feeling and action; and not as the recognition of a rule. Love does not say, ” I ought to love ” ; it loves. Pity does not say, ” It is right to be pitiful ” ; it pities. Justice does not say, ” I am bound to be just ” ; it feels justly. It is only where moral emotion is comparatively weak that the contemplation of a tale or theory mingles with its action, and in accordance with this we think experience, both in literature and- life, has shown that the minds which are preeminently didactic, which insist on a ” lesson,” and despise everything that will convey a moral, are deficient in sympathetic emotion.
“Duty” never would be missed. The genius performs his benefits for mankind
because he is obliged to do so and cannot do otherwise. It is an instinct organically inherent in him which he is obeying. He would suffer if he did not obey its impulse. That the .average masses will benefit by it does not decide the matter for him. Men of genius must find their sole reward in the fact that thinking, acting, originating, they live out their higher qualities and thus become conscious of their originality, to the accompaniment of powerful sensations’ of pleasure. There is no other satisfaction for the most sublime genius, as well as the lowest living being swimming in its nourishing fluid, than the sensation, as intensive as possible, of its own Ego.â€”Nordan.
I use the term Egoism, like Stirner for acts of normal self-possession and self-expression, excluding blind crazes, fanaticism, the influence of fixed ideas, hypnotism dominating the subject and rendering him more of an automaton than an individual, although he goes through the motions. Rewards and punishments, promised and threatened, appeal to the Egoism of ignorant believers, but there is also an anti-individualistic craze or fascination in religion, and love and business, when the idea rides the man. In the last analysis it is a question of sanity or insanity. Egoism is sanity. So we use the term, and as Stirner’s book, “Der Einzige and sein Eigenthum,” has long been before the world, his admirers have a good possessory title to this term.â€”Tak Kak.