2013 Abstracts Stage 2

Are We Naturally Egoistic or Altruistic?

Zoe Dixon, 2013, Stage 2

THOMAS HOBBES – ‘Leviathan’

Man is selfish in the state of nature; we achieve peace through a sovereign which we obey for selfpreservation.

BERNARD MANDEVILLE – ‘The Fable of the Bees’

Altruistic behaviour is a myth and the motivation for everything we do is egoistic. Our ultimate goal is always to increase our own welfare and we help others only to the extent that helping them can benefit ourselves.

AYN RAND – ‘The Virtue of Selfishness’

Rand believes that since selfishness is serious, rational and concerned with one’s own wellbeing, then it is therefore a requirement to achieve ultimate moral value. Rand therefore states that this is the reason that selfishness is in fact a virtue.

DAVID HUME – ‘Treatise and second Enquiry’.

Hume puts forward that not only do we experience in ourselves a feeling for humanity but we also observe it in others. He argues that this sympathy and benevolence disproves the selfish hypothesis and is “contrary both to common feeling and to our most unprejudiced notions”.


The theory of utilitarianism somewhat contrasts with both egoism and altruism.


Rousseau argues that human nature on the whole is good. He argues that it is the influence of society that corrupts and changes the ‘natural man’ into an egoistic being.

Calculated altruism, underlying self-interest?
Doing good for the sake of reward?
Selfishness in disguise?
Survival of the fittest?

Natural interest in the good of others?
Doing good for the sake of good?
Developed and evolved throughout humanity?
Must we be taught altruism due to natural selfishness?

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