Egoism Thomas Hobbes


There is no word more generally misinterpreted than the word egoism, in its modern sense. In the first place, it is supposed to
mean devotion to self interest, without regard to the interest of others. It is thus opposed to altruism - devotion to others and
sacrifice of self. This interpretation is due to the use of the word thus antithetically by Herbert Spencer.

Again, it is identified with hedonism or eudaimonism, or epicureanism, philosophies that teach that the attainment of pleasure or
happiness or advantage, whichever you may choose to phrase it, is the rule of life.

Modern egoism, as propounded by Stirner and Nietzsche, and expounded by Ibsen, Shaw and others, is all these; but it is
more. It is the realization by the individual that he is an individual; that, as far as he is concerned, he is the only individual.

For each one of us stands alone in the midst of a universe. He is surrounded by sights and sounds which he interprets as
exterior to himself, although all he knows of them are the impressions on his retina and ear drums and other organs of sense.
The universe for him is measured by these sensations; they are, for him, the universe. Some of them he interprets as denoting
other individuals, whom he conceives as more or less like himself. But none of these is himself. He stands apart. His
consciousness, and the desires and gratifications that enter into it, is a thing unique; no other can enter into it.

However near and dear to you may be your wife, children, friends, they are not you; they are outside of you. You are forever
alone. Your thoughts and emotions are yours alone. There is no other who experiences your thoughts or your feelings.

No doubt it gives you pleasure when others think as you do, and Inform you of it through language; or when others enjoy the
same things that you do. Moreover, quite apart from their enjoying the same things that you enjoy, it gives you pleasure to see
them enjoy themselves in any way. Such gratification to the individual is the pleasure of sympathy, one of the most acute
pleasures possible for most people.

According to your sympathy, you will take pleasure in your own happiness or in the happiness of other people; but it is always
your own happiness you seek. The most profound egoist may be the most complete altruist; but he knows that his altruism is, at
the bottom, nothing but self-indulgence.

But egoism is more than this. It is the realization by the individual that he is above all institutions and all formulas; that they exist
only so far as he chooses to make them his own by accepting them.

When you see clearly that you are the measure of the universe, that everything that exists exists for you only so far as it is
reflected in your own consciousness, you become a new man; you see everything by a new light: you stand on a height and feel
the fresh air blowing on your face; and find new strength and glory in it.

Whatever gods you worship, you realize that they are your gods, the product of your own mind, terrible or amiable, as you may
choose to depict them. You hold them in your hand, and play with them, as a child with its paper dolls; for you have learned not
to fear them, that they are but the "imaginations of your heart."

All the ideals which men generally think are realities, you have learned to see through; you have learned that they are your
ideals. Whether you have originated them, which is unlikely, or have accepted somebody else\'s ideals, makes no difference.
They are your ideals just so far as you accept them. The priest is reverend only so far as you reverence him. If you cease to
reverence him, he is no longer reverend for you. You have power to make and unmake priests as easily as you can make and
unmake gods. You are the one of whom the poet tells, who stands unmoved, though the universe fall in fragments about you.

And all the other ideals by which men are moved, to which men are enslaved, for which men afflict themselves, have no power
over you; you are no longer afraid of them, for you know them to be your own ideals, made in your own mind, for your