the following definitions taken from gopher://next2.msci.memst.edu/11/webster
ego \'e^--(,)go^- also 'eg-(,)o^-\ n, pl egos [NL, fr. L, I -- more at I] (1789) 1: the self esp. as contrasted with another self or the world 2a: EGOTISM 2b: SELF-ESTEEM 1 3: the one of the three divisions of the psyche in psychoanalytic theory that serves as the organized conscious mediator between the person and reality esp. by functioning both in the perception of and adaptation to reality -- compare 1ID, SUPEREGO -- ego-less adj ego-ism \'e^--ge-,wiz-em also 'eg-e-\ n (1785) 1a: a doctrine that individual self-interest is the actual motive of all conscious action 1b: a doctrine that individual self-interest is the valid end of all actions 2: excessive concern for oneself usu. without exaggerated feelings of self-importance -- compare EGOTISM 2
"My Personal Philosophy", copyright 1996 by David G. McDivitt, all rights reserved
For many, many years I have wondered what to call myself. I gathered bits and pieces of a personal philosophy from the many groups I participated in, which would include religious affiliations. I never had the word or phrase however, saying, "Yes, this is me."
I am an egoist. Upon discovering this word, after seeing its use, and after comparison to egoist authors, I find it fits my view of life pretty well. I already had a self oriented perspective, but upon seeing the word, my philosophy fit the definition hand in glove. How satisfying, to find a definition to match my assumptions, without further consideration of them.
Egoism does imply a cause to be affiliated with, to be described later, but for the most part is merely an explanation of people. Because I denounce any form of spirituality, egoism is a very good and comprehensive model for me.
As people, in our upbringing, we take on values and definitions from society. We are not taught to see self, but membership in our family, school, city, state, and country. Through adolescence and young adulthood, we begin to recognize self. This individualism contrasts with what we have learned about society. Some are considered rebellious, some not, but nevertheless it is a period of personal discovery. For some it never really ends. It is this self I wish to speak of, apart from societal precepts and values.
"Selfish" is a weighted word having value judgements attached, so use of it serves only to confuse the point to be made here. It denotes rudeness and insensitivity. There may be such a thing as healthy selfishness, meaning a person should not devalue self to the point, of being no more than a throw rug for others to walk on. This is a large gray area however. My purpose here is not to define ethics, and whether or not a person is nice, interpreting self with respect to society, friends, and family, but rather, to simply look at self, and what self does. I wish to assign responsibility of behavior and intent to self. "Egoism" therefore offers an alternative to "selfish", allowing concepts about self, without the value judgements often put on self, and how self should be, or what self should do.
A person does what a person wants to do. There is no exception. I say this without categorization of wants, and without extenuating circumstances. To say, "So and so made me do it", is not to give self credit or responsibility. For any action performed, there is but one brain in charge of it. There is but one self connected to any hand or mouth. I fail to see how this can be disputed, though a person may chastise me for being too basic in my reasoning here, but then why would a person, except in an attempt to retain value judgements? When coercion is used against people, they can be made to do things because they want to live, and therefore want to do as asked because they desire to avoid death, pain, or suffering. Let us not therefore remove the connection between wants and behaviors, as though an arm and hand which performs the act has been severed and attached to something else. Again, no value judgement is placed on behavior here, or wants, or even coercion, but a simple observation made pursuant to who is in charge of what. A person might say, "Well, tell me something I didn't know", or, "Of course what you say makes sense." Certainly. Why do you think I said it? This is indeed very simplistic and rudimentary, but I wish to identify self. I do not wish to discuss the disproportionate relationship between a robber and victim. I simply wish to make the connection between self, and what self does. In my opinion, when people fail to recognize this connection, they more easily become confused in other areas of life, and without a true concept of self, they have a more difficult time making decisions in general. It is too easy to attribute my wants and desires to something other than me, and it represents a pattern of avoidance, unreality, and rationalization, extending into social relationships and their sabotage. Not realizing self is responsible for all behavior, for whatever reason, offers to all comers a convenient handle for manipulative purposes. What may have required physical coercion, instead requires merely abstract coercion, and an effective declaration of guilt, or the accusation of nonconformity to whatever value judgement.
Let us now consider altruism and social service. In what ways are these of interest to self? Do we do things for others because of love that burns within us, because spiritually we have nonphysical motive, or because of some true or hidden nature that contrasts selfish pursuit? Is there really a war within us between good and evil - the good, being to help other people? No. I do not think so. The only war within us is between conflicting values, and an inability to quickly make a decision, because relative benefit to self cannot be easily determined. What makes self happy, pleased, or satisfied? If it makes self happy to help other people, then self will want to do that. If it makes self happy to see other people happy, then self will want to do that. There is no need to go into all the emotions and sensitivities involved. Helping others does not happen because goodness finds manifestation through me, but because I want to. Maybe doing for others makes you feel good. If so, you do for others because of the way it makes you feel, directly. How that other person feels, accepts, uses, or says "thank you", is up to that person's self. An example is a gift given. What if the other person doesn't need it, but says nothing, and thereby doesn't hurt your feelings? As a result, you are happy, and that other person is happy because you are happy. The point here, is the original behavior did not cause happiness in the other. The original behavior was done for the sake of self, so happiness could be seen in the other, and self thereby enjoy the observance of it.
Good and bad are general categorizations of various behaviors. If good finds residence in me, it is because self finds it appealing, and therefore desires to do good. The same goes for bad. The point here is not to define good or bad, but simply to recognize self. With their intense curiosity, over the ages people have sought explanation why some do good things, and others bad. Also, because it was impossible for people to control weather, crops, gender of children, plague, injury, and armies from the North, it was assumed these things were controlled by some greater power. To live is to inhabit or control. Are not considerations of spirit modeled after considerations of self? This is the point. Self is control, whether much, whether little, but at the very least over feelings. Spirit is a projection of self - this desire to control, into the open expanse of space, where it is believed all things are ultimately caused to happen. How? It doesn't make any difference. It is a rather infantile and utterly simplistic perspective actually, "If I can live, and I can control, therefore all things are controlled." There is unfortunately a catch. If nature, the earth, and everything seen are controlled, then this would include people too. So, according to the spiritual model, behavior is not attributable to self, but to a greater sense of control beyond self, however it happens to find representation in each person. But visions of absolute control are not enough. There is still the issue of good and bad, which is actually no more than those things liked and disliked, but with a spiritual twist. So, personal choice is elevated to a spiritual level, where there is said to be the essence of ultimate good and evil. To complete the circle, good and evil are believed to inhabit people, and if not these, then at least some spirit. Why is it nobody can ever define what "spirit" really is? Spirit is you, and me, and represents to each of us the order we wish the universe to have. It represents all the control we are unable to have. Spirit is a disgruntled self, not willing to enjoy what life actually exists, choosing instead to enjoy the fantasy of some control, and order, that will never come to pass. Spirit is to deny self, withholding credit for any behavior, whether good or bad. Randomness in the universe contradicts this ideal of control. Therefore people often times resemble children, crying, not desiring to accept the limits of environment. We are mortal beings. To believe anything else is conceit. Why should a person consider self to be more than it is?
An egoist then, is a person who seeks to avoid the hypocrisy of spirit. An egoist speaks in terms of self, whether yourself or mine. An egoist acknowledges people for who and what they are. An egoist understands, to perpetuate fantasy is to do no one any good, and it is not the desire of the egoist's self to do so. My personal decision is to avoid those things which emulate religion or spirituality. I speak of self on the one hand, and values on the other. I share with all people the sensation of self, and the acknowledgement of self, but values are mine to choose. I avoid those things which place previously defined value over self, not allowing self to determine its own value and sense of worth. I invite anyone who understands my words here to be an egoist with me.
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