In Praise of Egoism

Author: Raju Thomas

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People behave in all kinds of ways, and all behaviour is basically self directed as well as driven by self motivation , whether one is conscious of it or not. Egoistic behaviour is no different , and in some respects it is similar to intuitive behavior. Actions taken intuitively are often found to be the right choice when faced with difficult decisions. Though the source of our intuitions is not quite clear to us and the phenomena is not well understood, there is no denying that such sudden insights coming to us always works in our self interest.

There can be two types of egoistic behaviour whenever it is the result of conscious thoughts and actions taken based on them. In one case, the actions will either not have any negative impact on the interest of others, or even be beneficial to them. In the second case, such a behaviour could have an adverse impact on others’ interests. These could be termed as positive and negative types of egoistic behaviours. It is the positive type of egoism which is very much justifiable and praise worthy. If each and every individual upholds and practices egoism in this manner, it can only benefit the society at large. Such an approach is also line with the theory propounded by Adam Smith, who is considered as the father of modern economics, in his classical treatise “Wealth of Nations“. According to him, if every business enterprise concentrated on improving their own profitability in a free market environment, the economy as a whole stands to benefit.

Egoism as a personality trait could have its roots both from genetic factors, as well as from nurturing experiences during early childhood. Whether such egoistic tendencies develop into a positive or negative type of behaviour could again be due to certain major life experiences faced by the individual, actions taken and the resulting outcomes. Further experiences in life will only tend to strengthen the chosen path.

What then are the characteristics of an egoist ? He is no doubt self centered, but is also deeply in touch with his inner self ( masculine pronoun used only for convenience, egoism has no gender bias ). He is fully conscious of his strengths, weaknesses, feelings and emotions, and takes pride in all that makes him a unique individual. He certainly looks after himself as best as possible. But that doesn’t and need not prevent him from extending help to all those who deserve it , since only by loving himself, he is in a better position to understand the emotions of love, compassion and empathy towards others.

With self acceptance and knowing the truth about oneself, an egoist will be able to lead his life with authenticity - his thoughts, speech, facial expressions and actions always being a reflection of his true inner self. In conclusion, a true egoist, according to me, is a person who takes pride in himself and his capabilities, is assertive in his views, and faces life with self esteem , self confidence and with a steadfast conviction and commitment to all that he believes in. Such are the attributes of a true egoist which are worthy of appreciation and, yes, even emulation.

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