Egoism and Selfishness

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Egoism and Selfishness.

To the Editor of Liberty:

Referring to the letter by G. B. Prescott, Jr., in No. 117, I would say that, if he declares that he has no purpose in writing except his own gratification, I shall not contest his statement. The distinction which he regards as irrational is to me as necessary as the words process and aim. If Mr. Prescott fully concentrates his thought upon any work, he is acting out self and gratifying self without thinking of self. This is one phase of Egoism. Mr. Prescott's sentence beginning, "To say that a man need only know -- " is confused, and does not recite correctly. The next sentence beginning, "To reflect before acting---" states a negative truism never controverted by me or anyone that I know of. If Mr. Prescott cannot do better than to infer and state by implication that I had held forth that "to reflect before acting" implies studied benefit to self and harm to others, I am sorry for Mr. Prescott's understanding. Certainly retaliation is as sudden as generosity, or as often sudden. Who said that generosity was the only sudden impulse? Who said that generosity was only sudden, and not also persistent and studied? I defined my term Egoism; Mr. Prescott might define his term "selfish." Egoism, as I use the word, includes generous and ungenerous desires and conduct. It will be admitted that ungenerous is different from generous. The word "selfish" is one which is commonly used as a synonym for "ungenerous." When, therefore, a writer says that "generous impulses are selfish desires," it might be well for him to explain whether or not he means that "generous impulses" are instinctive error, and for him to define what he means by "selfish." That termination ish(?) may imply disparagement. It is worse than useless to substitute selfishness for Egoism, unless "selfishness" is defined by those who use it. As Mr. Tucker said in answer to Mr. Blodgett, "criticism of the Anarchistic idea which does not consider Anarchistic definitions is futile." It is thus that criticisms upon Egoism have been futile. Egoism is not merely an idea. It is a fact,--the force of a man untrammelled by superstition. It may be more of less generous or ungenerous; thus he may be called selfish or unselfish in the common speech. He may be more or less impulsive, more or less deliberate and reflecting. He may so feel and act as to be called very dutiful, but the Egoist relation to all objects is conditioned quite differently from that of the mentally unfree man. If he cares for others, it is not because he is taught that it is his "duty," -- a teaching which puts a fetter in place of attraction; but it is because he is built that way, and this he knows.

Tak Kak.