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Related: narcissism - individualism - egoism - self

Contrast: other - altruism

The Ego and its Own (1844) - Max Stirner [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]


Selfishness is a primary or sole concern with one's own welfare, while ignoring or harming the welfare of others; the term usually connotes self-concern that is excessive or improper rather than self-interest itself. It is considered by many to be a negative character trait. In particular, it is traditionally proscribed by most religions, and many non-religious philosophies see it as either evil in itself or a source of evil.

Nevertheless, there are some non-religious philosophies that hold a positive view of selfishness. The best known example is probably the Objectivist philosophy of Ayn Rand, which focuses on what it calls "rational selfishness" or "rational self-interest." The philosophy holds that individuals should not act on momentary self-interested whims but on what is in their long-term self-interest, which is claimed requires respecting the individual liberty of others by refraining from initiating coercion against them.

Naturally, selfishness usually refers to the self - that is, to the individual. However, in common speech, a group of people can be accused of "selfishness" in the sense that members of that group are not concerned with the welfare of anyone outside their group. For example, a nation that has abundant food yet allows other nations with inadequate food to face famine, may be called a "selfish nation".

In philosophy, the term egoism is usually related to "self-interest" rather than "selfishness."

For the opposite of selfishness, see altruism. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selfishness [Sept 2005]

In his excellent Misfits, Colin Wilson states that Marquis de Sade's philosophy was one of extreme selfishness, mentioning Sade's denial of the existence of benevolence and altruism. Wilson's portrait of Sade is the first well-balanced I encountered, neither villifying (as it was customary during the 19th century) nor exalting him as it was done in the 20th century (see De Beauvoir and Apollinaire). [Sept 2005]

The Ego and its Own (1844) - Max Stirner

In search of the roots of anarchism.

Stirner's The Ego and its Own (1844) is striking in both style and content, attacking Feuerbach, Moses Hess and others to sound the death-knell of Left Hegelianism. The work also constitutes an enduring critique of liberalism and socialism from the perspective of an extreme eccentric individualism. Stirner has latterly been portrayed variously as a precursor of Nietzsche, a forerunner of existentialism, an individualist anarchist, and as manifestly insane. This edition includes an Introduction placing Stirner in his historical context.

Johann Kaspar Schmidt (October 25, 1806 June 26, 1856), better known as Max Stirner (the nom de plume he adopted from a schoolyard nickname he had acquired as a child because of his high brow [Stirn]), German philosopher, who ranks as one of the literary grandfathers of nihilism, existentialism and anarchism, especially of individualist anarchism. Stirner himself explicitly denied holding any absolute position in his philosophy, further stating that if he must be identified with some "-ism" let it be egoism the antithesis of all ideologies and social causes, as he conceived of it.

Stirner's main work is The Ego and Its Own, also known as The Ego and His Own (Der Einzige und sein Eigentum in German), which was first published in Leipzig, 1844, and has since appeared in numerous editions and translations. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Stirner [Jun 2006]

Influence on Duchamp
Politically, Marcel Duchamp opposed World War I and identified with Individualist Anarchism, in particular with Max Stirner's philosophical tract The Ego and Its Own, the study of which Duchamp considered the turning point in his artistic and intellectual development. [Jun 2006]

See also: 1844 - 1840s - ego - German philosophy - anarchism

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