We live with other people so how may human nature tie in with that?

Philosophy says there are only two options being selfless or self-centred.

Others like to sub-divide that a bit.

One: selfless which is altruism.

Two: egoism which is selfishness that benefits you and automatically benefits those who encounter you.

Three: egotism which is selfishness that rises from malignant attitudes and spills over into sociopathic actions.


What are we asking here?

We are asking if anybody really can ever help another person without doing it in some way perhaps even a small one for themselves. We are not talking about the ethics of being self-interested but asking if human nature is just simply self-interested.


What are the two forms of self-interest?

Egoism and egotism.

What is egoism?
Egoism is doing good for yourself and others for some self-concerned reason. Basically, it means doing good because you enjoy helping others.

What is egotism?

Egotism is helping others just because you want praise or money or a good reputation or to feel important or to patronise. It is wrong and mercenary simply because it is unnecessary and leads to danger for you.

How can selfishness be good?

It is a matter of terminology. Self-centredness is thinking of yourself but avoiding harming others. Not helping is harming so you have to help others. Selfishness is thinking of yourself even at the expense of the welfare of others. It is possible to be doing that even if no disadvantage to others is done. "If I don't want to help I would not help so you are lucky I want to help you."

What wording will we use?
For this page we can use the term egoism or self-centredness. We will use egoism.

Is egoism the best?
It is kinder and the best. We like people to help us because they enjoy doing so. We want them to be like that too. This is the paradox of egoism, do it the right way and you do what everybody really wants - enjoyment.

But there are objections?

True. The few cases of inevitable harm do not justify throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

What options do we have in relation to altruism, egoism and egotism?
The menu is selflessness or thinking of yourself. There are no in-betweens so it has to be one or the other. With thinking of yourself you have to choose between egoism and egotism. There are no in-betweens.

But we can have a mixture of motives some of which are selfless?
We know but the main and top motives are either one or the other. When calling an act good or bad or selfish or unselfish you do not consider motives that hardly count but the main ones.

What motive, self-interested or selfless, has the most weight?
Self-interested. If you cannot help x unless you find something in it for yourself then self-interest even if it is about the 1% benefit shows you are so taken with yourself that you will not help unless you get even a small benefit. What it says about you is what matters.

What claim do we make about egoism?
We have attained full certainty that altruism is wrong and fictitious and evil so either egoism or egotism which are both interpretations of the principle, "Look out only for number one", is right. We have seen that the egotistic form of self-interest is unnecessary, self-defeating, wrong and irrational. So if we are not born egoists that is how we will end up anyway. We have to live in the real world.

Is looking-after-number-one what we have whether we like it or not?
Animals are egoistic and very often they are egotistic. Animals have wants but don’t make choices. We evolved from animals and many of them behave like they have free will, the power to be altruistic or egoistic, though they do not. We are no different. Thinking of yourself not altruism is natural. We are like that by nature so we cannot become altruists any more than we can go back to being apes.

Telling us to be selfless is an act of violence against our nature.

What is the main proof from consciousness that egoism is true?
I am aware that I am aware and that is the only true certainty. Everything else is called a certainty but is really just a strong probability. Morality says prioritise decisions based on things that are the most certain so I come first.  Practicality is more important than morality for morality says ought implies can.  I am forced to be practically about me first.

Morality says a moral ought only applies if you can do something. You cannot really make another as valuable to you as yourself. It is immoral to be asked to!

Any other proofs?
Choice means you see what is on offer. You only have one thought and one desire at a time and it causes you to act. You are not aware of anything else the moment you choose so you really don’t choose at all. The reasons are pushed into the background at the point where you react which is like forgetting. Choice is an illusion. You do something because you want to and not because you see it as good or altruistic and that is you being out for you rather than them. Nobody denies we want things but some deny that we have choice.

But surely we do choose?
We choose to shoot in the dark more than we realise. That is choice yes but not much of a choice. Choice has a strong undercurrent of irresponsibility so it is inherently self-interested.

But surely when you do good for others you are not thinking of your own pleasure?
Your desire is to see others happy which is the same as wanting to fulfil the desire. You protect yourself by realising that taking all the time is not natural so that is your reward.

Can you answer the objection that a desire being mine does not mean I only have it for I want to feel fulfilled by having it and also by exercising it?
Owning a desire does not mean it is about me. But desire is part of what I am. It is not a faculty but part of my personhood. A person is a kind of desire-haver. So the logic fails.

Any other proofs to support that?
Altruism says to treat the other as an equal for the alternative is you being condescending. Patronising poses as charity. You want to make other equal to yourself but you cannot. You work up the desire and create it. A desire to help is not the same as a desire to help as an equal. That is why the helping of another as your equal is self-indulgence. It is self-indulgence in the way getting yourself to like cheese and eating it is.

What other proofs are there that wanting to help is not an unselfish thing?
You are egotistic if you want money at somebody's expense though you know it will bring you misery. So egotism can be about wanting something even if it is not pleasure. If so then selfless is not necessarily really selfless. Egotism as in using others for happiness is stronger than egotism that uses them for what you know will make you miserable. In the latter case the only pleasure you have is being doing what you want. That is a pleasure in itself. So merely wanting to fulfil your desire to help is making it about you.

How could it be egotistic to seek money when you know it will only bring misery and would amount to seeking pain rather than money?
It is still about YOUR choice and you. A egotistic choice to suffer is still an egotistic choice. While pleasure is self-centred it is not the only way to be self-centred.

Does the fact that when I "choose" and what happened before to bring me to this point is now out of my mind tell me anything?
That thinking and responding to pleasure stimuli are two separate powers. This not-thinking has to be done to allow us to attain to the goal of the pleasure. It is part of getting the pleasure. You would not be doing the action except for the pleasure. It’s at the back of your mind, in your subconscious if you like, but it is still there and it is motivating and driving you.

But I am not always having pleasure now am I?  Especially when I aim for future pleasure?
Wrong. This subconscious driving force makes it pleasurable to go along with it even when the future pleasure is in your distant future. There is a pleasure in anticipating pleasure. The pleasure is not your main goal but your pleasure at thinking of the goal and reaching out to it is. Every moment you experience pleasure of some degree that is accompanied by a thought that determines what you will do the next moment.

Are we egoistic creatures even when we do good for others?
Being good implies caring about the values of love, compassion, kindness and justice so if altruism is good then that is what we have to care about. We do the good no matter what it is mainly because we want to. The good is a secondary matter and sometimes we don't even care about that. So in helping we are more out for ourselves than we would be doing anything else.

Is there an objection about how motives come from other motives?
Some say that to desire the desire you have to desire the desire that makes you desire and have a desire for the desire that makes you desire the desire the desire and so on to infinity which is ridiculous. But this is wrong. If true it would mean we have an endless list of motives for everything. But it starts somewhere. The foundation desire is the desire for happiness.

What is happiness?
Happiness is not just pleasure it is sensible pleasure for we reject happiness often when it will mean less happiness in the future. Happiness that we snatch knowing it is a mistake is not full happiness or contentment for it is accompanied by at least a little pain and worry. This basic drive for happiness manifests in different forms.

What does our fundamental drive for happiness tell us?
That everything is used as a means to try and open the door to happiness or cause it. I am about my own happiness first and foremost.

Does it make sense to categorise egoism as good and bad and therefore neutral?
In other words, is it good and bad?  Or neither?  Same difference.  Neutral is a choice when something is left out say selflessness which some see as good or egotism which some see as bad. Real neutral then is when the motive is as altruistic as it is egoistic and egotistic. Each one is a third of it. That is too neat and suspect. It would take choice for it to be all three and so precise.


Egoism is never just a neutral matter.

But what about neutrality as in how your work results in what you would expect from something being in one of those categories?

Many believe that self-interest in terms of results is never always bad. Sometimes it is good or for the best and other times it is neither good or bad ie neutral.

What if it is neutral?

Then nobody really can tell if an act is egoistic/egotistic/selfless or what for it can be any combination.

What about the idea that you must look after yourself before you can help others and be well enough to help them?

That can apply either to altruism or egoism. The person who is about everybody else has to look after themselves in order to manage to help others. It is not about self-care but using it as a means to help others.

What about the idea that you must love yourself and then loving others becomes possible?

That is definitely egoism.


If you say you can only love others if you start to love yourself that turns others into afterthoughts.

Does that mean it is wrong?

It means that if it is true then it is the way we are and we have to live with it.

What does altruism say about looking after yourself for the sake of others?

That it is either neutral or a necessary evil. If it is just a way of getting yourself to do good for others then it is self-manipulation. If you did not trick yourself you would not help so in reality despite your behaviour you do not really value them or care about them. It is manipulative to manipulate yourself to help them for that leads them to feel cared for when they are not. None of that is good and the good you do is only sort of good so it is not neutral morally to look after yourself or to help others. No it is a necessary evil.

What does egoism say about looking after yourself so that you will fit in with others?

That involves manipulation too. It is just a way of manipulating others so you can fit in and avoid suffering. But it has the potential to be more honest - something altruism cannot have.

What is conditional love and unconditional love?

Conditional love is not love at all. It is like, “I love you if you keep making my tea in the morning”. It’s really the tea-making you care about and not the person. It is an imitation and often a good one of real love – I love you just because I love you which is what unconditional love means. Unconditional love denotes love that does not care what you do for it will still be there for you. It values the person and not their qualities.

What is the proof from conditional and unconditional love that egoism is true?

A mother says she loves her son unconditionally. In truth she loves him because he was born from her body. She does not love him for being a person because there are loads of persons she does not love that way. The top example of unconditional love – motherly love - is a lie so all forms must be the same. Everything we do is for something selfish’s sake.

If motherly love is either for her sake or the son’s. Why can't it be both?

If you love your son for your own sake then that is conditional love. So the love has to be for the other person's sake only.

What components has unconditional or real love got?

To love is to value a person for being a person and for that person’s sake – if it is for your own then you are not loving that person unconditionally but loving yourself - and to value their happiness next.

How does valuing their happiness relate to unconditional love?

If persons should be happy then it follows that a person is an absolute value and is more important than happiness itself. You cannot start saying a happy person has more value than one who is not.

Is that a problem?

Yes for we would rather our happiness was valued than us so this love cannot satisfy and is really useless. Useless or unwanted love is not love at all. Nobody wants to hear when they are in extremes of terminal agony that they cannot be put to sleep or even want to die because they are valuable.

What do all those considerations about unconditional love tell us?

That only conditional love is possible and therefore that we have no free will to choose between conditional love and unconditional love. Free will is no good to a God when it cannot make either of these possible.

Does anybody really value another person absolutely?

No because if say your mother could live forever provided you took on permanent and extreme mental and physical torture you wouldn't do it. Nobody would urge the ones they love to go for it and put life first. This tells us that unconditional love is a romantic illusion.

Is unconditional love as much a delusion as the grace of God?

The terrifying thing about it is that if God loves us unconditionally we are in trouble for he is boss and his love cannot warm our hearts but scare us to death. If he proves that unconditional love is possible then we are bad for not being like him. He has made us for suffering because we cannot love unconditionally though religion claims that free will was granted to us to be able to love that way. Free will for that reason is just a cover for abuse and belittling.

Why might unconditional love be impossible?

To love another unconditionally for their own sake is not easy or achievable for you are not as sure that they exist as you are that you exist so you must be doing it for your own sake. This may be the reason we are naturally produced as egoists for we can’t be anything else. Any motive that is about you and not the other no matter how slight means your love is not truly unconditional. 99% unconditional love is an oxymoron.

Does forgiveness not count as an act of selfless and unconditional love?

Were we so unselfish or capable of selflessness we would not find it so hard to forgive even when what is done wrong is not the worst. We know we have faults ourselves that all add up to serious harm. We know that we have often willed terrible things to happen and would have carried them out if we had the power to do them psychically or just by willing.

Why do we find it so hard to forgive somebody who has hurt and degraded themselves by doing wrong?

Because we are not naturally unselfish. It shows us how little compassion we have.

Why are we so reluctant to take our punishment when we do wrong?

We don’t mind as much when somebody else is punished so it is a sign that we should at least be considered self-centred until proven otherwise

Why are we so anxious to condemn people when there is no proof that we would be any better if we were in their shoes and in their precise situation?

We like to pretend to be good. Altruists pretend to be self-sacrificing and they have no right to expect us to believe them and their performances.

Why are we so keen to superciliously tell other people what to do?

Even when we don’t, we would if we thought we could manipulate them while not making many sacrifices ourselves. An obvious example is the pope. It is okay for him to make trouble for people needing birth-control for he is celibate. The only preaching should be in action. It is also selfish for people who don’t do much for others praise others for doing what they wouldn’t do.


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