6 Aug 2022


Egoism vs. Altruism: What's the Difference?

Format: APA

Academic level: College

Paper type: Essay (Any Type)

Words: 674

Pages: 5

Downloads: 0


Egoism and altruism have been conceived as ethical parallel theories. The egoist believes that a person’s ultimate aim is her own self-interest. This self-interest is the basis of morality. Proponents of altruism believe the complete opposite. Altruistic behavior is driven by a desire to benefit another person other than self for that person’s sake. The Egoist does not necessarily disapprove actions that benefit others, but argues that the motivation behind such actions is first to benefit self. The egoist dismisses cooperative relationships that are motivated in benefiting the other for the other’s sake. This paper looks at the raging debate between these two ethical approaches. 

Egoism versus Altruism 


The contemporary moral discourse informs the debate on the distinction between egoistic and altruistic motivation. Ethical egoism claims that a person morally executes some act if and only if, and because, executing that action enhances that person’s welfare or self-interest. All approaches to egoism involve the explication of self-interest. Desire accounts ascertain self-interest with the fulfillment of a person’s desires (Levit, 2014). A person’s wish for own preference is self-regarding a desire for the wellbeing of others is not. Every person has one ultimate goal: self-welfare. 

It’s time to jumpstart your paper!

Delegate your assignment to our experts and they will do the rest.

Get custom essay

A popular objection to egotistic behavior is that a person must wish for things other than her own welfare in order to achieve welfare. For instance, if a person derives welfare from playing tennis. Unless that person desired, for its own sake, to play tennis, she would not derive welfare from playing. An individual’s welfare may simply consist of the fulfillment of self-regarding desires. An issue of concern is how much egoism contrasts in content from other moral theories (Levit, 2014). It differs a lot. Moral theories such as utilitarianism, Kantianism, and reasonable morality need that a person gives cognizance to the interests of others. Other theories at times require sacrifices that are not compensated for, especially when the loss to a person is minor and the gain to others is significant. Opponents present the following argument; that all people require the cooperation of others to obtain their welfare such as friendship or defense (Shaver, 2019). If an individual behaves as if she gives no concern to others, others will not cooperate with her. For instance, if she breaks the other person’s promises to meet her welfare, others will refuse her promises. It is therefore only rational that she minds the concern of others. 

Egoism is not a popular moral concept. The reason being that it goes against certain basic assumptions that the majority of the people have concerning what ethics involves. It offers little solution when conflicts of interest problems arise. It also goes against the principle of impartiality. Ethical egoism says that we should not even make an effort to be impartial. It holds that we should differentiate between ourselves and others, and give ourselves favored treatment. 


The term altruism is contrary to egoistic and self-interested. It does not imply behavior motivated solely by self-welfare but the opposite. Egoism could even to an extent be deemed malicious when one harms simply for the sake of harming them. Altruism is an action taken deliberately to benefit another person other than the agent for that other person’s sake ( Kraut, 2016). There is a common assumption that people ought to be altruistic even if it is to an extent. The common question is if people genuinely act out of altruism or is the behavior ultimately motivated by meeting their own welfare. 

Altruism takes two approaches. Acts considered altruistic do not only involve those intended to do good to others but also those undertaken to avoid harm to others. Altruism need not comprise self-sacrifice, and it is still altruism even when done from a combination of motives, some of which are self-interested. Pure altruism is when a person does an act entirely from altruistic reasons. In this case, self-interested motives are completely absent. There is no reason to be uncertain that people can and should be altruistic to some extent. Utilitarians and consequentialists argue that one is to give equal weight to the good of every human being. This is the extent to which people should be altruistic. 


The notion that humans might only act to promote their own self-interest appears to alienate morality though egoists argue that self-interest is the foundation of morality. Egoism remains an unpopular moral principle because it contravenes impartiality and exhorts selfishness. Altruism, on the other hand, is a “brother’s keeper” approach. The main question about the nature of human motivation will continue to linger. 


Kraut, R. (2016). Altruism. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy


Levit L. Z. (2014). Egoism and Altruism: the “Antagonists” or the “Brothers”? Journal of 

Studies in Social Sciences. file:///C:/Users/user/Downloads/713-1603-1-PB.pdf 

Shaver, R. (2019). Egoism. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy


Cite this page

Select style:


StudyBounty. (2023, September 16). Egoism vs. Altruism: What's the Difference?.


Related essays

We post free essay examples for college on a regular basis. Stay in the know!

17 Sep 2023

The Relationship Between Compensation and Employee Satisfaction

In line with the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), work-related illness or injury derive from incidents or contact with the workplace hazards ( Singhvi, Dhage & Sharma, 2018). As far...

Words: 363

Pages: 1

Views: 97

17 Sep 2023

The Tylenol Murders: What Happened in Chicago in 1982

The Chicago Tylenol Murders of 1982 were tragedies that occurred in a metropolitan region of Chicago and involved an alarming amount of recorded deaths. It was suspected to that the deaths were caused by drug...

Words: 557

Pages: 2

Views: 129

17 Sep 2023

Ethical and Legal Analysis: What You Need to Know

Part 1 School Counselors (ASCA) | Teachers (NEA) | School Nurses (NASN) |---|--- The ASCA is responsible for protecting students’ information from the public. They always keep them confidential,...

Words: 531

Pages: 2

Views: 90

17 Sep 2023

Naomi Klein: The Battle for Paradise

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) refers to self-driven motives by an organization or a state government to ensure the well-being of its people is safeguarded. Corporate Social Responsibility creates a strong...

Words: 1369

Pages: 6

Views: 392

17 Sep 2023

What is Utilitarianism?

It is a normative theory that defines the morality of an action on whether it is right or wrong, based on the result (Mulgan, 2014) . This theory has three principles that serve as the motto for utilitarianism. One...

Words: 833

Pages: 3

Views: 155

17 Sep 2023

Argument Mapping: Traffic Fatality

The first part of the paper critically analyzes the claim that "The US should return to the 55-mph speed limit to save lives and conserve fuel." According to Lord and Washington (2018), one of the verified methods of...

Words: 1111

Pages: 4

Views: 91


Running out of time?

Entrust your assignment to proficient writers and receive TOP-quality paper before the deadline is over.